Los Dominguez

Making a loop out of these canyons has been on my to-do for at least a couple years.  I’ve spent a decent amount of time in the area, but never backpacking.  DSCF1460Saturday morning was pleasant walking in splendid early March weather.

DSCF1463 The area has some great cottonwood forests.

DSCF1478 …and quite a few beaver dams….

DSCF1516 The geology is pretty diverse, and the overall character of the canyons changes drastically as the canyon climbs up towards the Uncompahgre Plateau.

DSCF1494 Hoodoos…

DSCF1519 The plan was to try to find an old stock trail that follows the rim of the canyon.  The exit was easy to find.  Looking downcanyon with Grand Mesa in the background…

DSCF1529 I was able to follow the trail intermittently as I gradually continued to climb.  On top, rotten snow and clay mud made the going quite a bit less fun than the canyon floor.  I laughed out loud when I stepped onto the soils of this short section; it was like hiking through Crisco.


DSCF1526 I didn’t mind the mud as much as I minded the fact that the upper bench was completely decimated by cattle.  Adding soggy cowpies and the fields of dense prickly pear that are often a consequence of heavy disturbance made the afternoon increasingly not fun. After about eight miles of of this, with probably another eight to go to the top of the other canyon (and a big chunk of that on old jeep roads), I decided I’d had enough.  I took my time walking towards the sandstone rim of the  inner canyon and made camp.

DSCF1531 In the morning I walked the rim until I found a break in the cliffs that looked like it would go to the bottom.  The canyon floor, which I expected to be a thrash (the main reason I had taken the rim route), had enough game trails to make brush a non-issue.  I was somewhat disappointed I hadn’t just taken the floor all the way up the canyon, or done the route the opposite direction.  My camera battery died (with no backup) the previous afternoon, so I only was able to squeeze out one last pic on the way back.  Out of focus because I fired the shutter as soon as it powered up, but above are Sclerocactus glaucus, endemic to western Colorado.

On Saturday afternoon I felt somewhat bitterly satisfied; I had spent enough time in the area that I didn’t really care that I didn’t finish the route, and the new parts I had seen were ugly and disappointing.  After a couple days of more level-headed reflection, though, I’m sure I’ll be back.  Canyon floors all the way this time, though.




2 thoughts on “Los Dominguez

  1. Great trip report and wonderful blog. Had a question: gonna do the Big Dominguez hike from the upper trailhead/campground to the Bridgeport trailhead 1st week in April. Was the upper trailhead accessible or snowed in when you went? I ask because I’m from out-of-state and have no idea what the conditions on the ground are like….

    • Hey Ravi, I didn’t go to the upper TH but I think it’d probably be okay by now. Mud would be the only worry. If I were you I’d give the BLM a call and see if they have any updated info on condidtions.

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