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McCarty Bench: Escalante Canyon to Palmer Gulch

The Edge of the Uncompahgre Plateau: Dominguez Canyon Wilderness
Friday – Saturday, March 25-26, 2022

This weekend I needed to stay close to home since Diane and I had tickets to a pair of concerts in town, so I decided to do a little exploring in the Dominguez Canyon Wilderness at the edge of the Uncompahgre Plateau on Saturday morning. Since I wasn’t going to be travelling far, I stopped home for a little bit after work on Friday and then made my way over to Escalante Canyon to spend the night. After fording Escalante Creek I drove up the Escalante Rim Road and found a nice campsite right along the rim of the canyon. I arrived about an hour before sunset and was treated to a 360 degree view of the Grand Mesa, West Elks and Sneffels Range. Unfortunately, it is currently open burn season in the area, so there was a lot of smoke and haze in the air this evening. I took a couple of photos before sunset and then read for a while until I went to bed early.

My view towards the Grand Mesa from the Escalante Rim. The desert was really starting to warm up this weekend as it was already 70 degrees out.

Escalante Rim View

Escalante Rim Sunset

Escalante Rim

I woke up before sunrise on Saturday morning and drove back down to the McCarty Bench Trailhead in Escalante Canyon. I started hiking just as the sun was coming up and spent the rest of the morning exploring the McCarty Bench and Palmer Gulch before returning to my Jeep and heading back home to catch the concert in the evening. Here are a couple photos from my morning…

Hiking up the McCarty Trail at sunrise.

McCarty Morning

Early morning light on Camp Ridge.

Camp Ridge Light

Following the trail across the McCarty Bench.

McCarty Bench Morning

It was still pretty hazy out this morning. In the upper right corner of this photo you can just make out the Devil’s Thumb in the Adobe Badlands across the valley.

Hazy Morning

While hiking across the bench was mostly easy, there were a few drainages that needed to be crossed and avoided.


Looking across to the highpoint of the Dominguez Rim on the other side of the Gunnison River.

Dominguez Rim

Walking up the wash in Palmer Gulch.

Palmer Gulch Wash

There was a nice short section of narrows through the sandstone.

Palmer Gulch Narrows

Canyon Wall

Narrows Wall

Exploring Palmer Gulch

Palmer Gulch View

Palmer Gulch

Here’s a look over Palmer Gulch and up Gunnison Gulch as I climbed back up to the McCarty Bench.

Dominguez Canyon Wilderness

Lower Palmer Gulch

Lower Palmer Gulch

It was starting to get a bit warm out as I made my way back. It was just under 80 degrees when I returned to my Jeep at the trailhead. That’s a little bit warm for this time of the year!

Stinking Desert National Monument

I came across a couple of large boulders on the McCarty Bench that had large holes weathered through them.

Boulder Arch

Camp Ridge

Camp Ridge

Following the McCarty Trail back down into Escalante Canyon.

McCarty Bench Trail


Petroglyphs of the Dominguez Canyon Wilderness

These are photos of a couple petroglyph panels I came across this weekend.

Chalked Petroglyphs

Big Bear Paw

Petroglyph Panels

Circles Panel

Right Side Petroglyphs

Small Petroglyph Panel

>> Escalante Canyon to Palmer Gulch Photo Gallery

One Comment

  1. Scott
    Scott April 30, 2023

    Hello! I’ve been following your blog for a couple of years and have used them as inspiration for visiting places in both Utah and Colo! I’m considering taking a trip to Dominguez/Escalante to see petroglyphs and was wondering if there were other sites you saw besides the ones in Big Dominguez/ Escalante Canyons and the Ute petroglyph panel. Thanks for any help and for sharing your adventures!

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