Take A Hike: Big Dominguez Canyon

All photos:  Devon Balet

All photos: Devon Balet

Big Dominguez Canyon is the perfect day hike to satisfy your canyon wilderness wanderlust without having to travel a great distance. This easy-to-moderate remote trail is located in the Dominguez-Escalante National Conservation Area south of Grand Junction. It is family, dog, and horse friendly.

As long as valley snowfall is light during the winter, Big Dominguez Canyon is a four-season hike of majestic proportions. Take frequent breaks to look all around, or chance missing bighorn sheep, archaic shelters, and a plethora of petroglyphs.

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Getting There

To reach the trailhead, drive about 20 miles south of Grand Junction on Highway 50 toward Delta. Just past mile marker 52, turn right (west) on graveled Bridgeport Road for just over three miles to a parking lot on the left. Begin your hike here, or drive a speck farther to where Bridgeport Road dead-ends into a lower parking area built for both hikers and rafters. Four-wheel drive is not required.

The Hike

From the lower parking area, go through the green gate. Follow the trail parallel to the railroad tracks, then across the tracks to a footbridge that crosses the Gunnison River. After crossing the bridge, the trail continues along the west side of the river to the mouth of Dominguez Canyon, two miles from the trailhead. 

The trail takes you into the vast Dominguez Canyon Wilderness Area and follows Dominguez Creek, which babbles year-round and is a fun place to play in the water. Enjoy several waterfalls, especially during spring runoff or following rainstorms.

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The gentle slope of the trail toward the Uncompahgre Plateau brings you to a large boulder on the left side of the trail at mile four with an impressive panel of petroglyphs. Hike just another hundred yards and you’ll be rewarded with more petroglyphs on the right, both on boulders and canyon walls.

At this point, the trail continues but gets more rugged. Most people turn around here for a hike of about eight miles total. Enjoy the mostly downhill return to the trailhead.