Backpack along the Gunnison River in the Dominguez-Escalante NCA

Rate this Adventure Bridgeport Road, Mesa County, Colorado, United States

  • Activities:

    Chillin, Camping, Photography, Rafting, Backpacking, Hiking

  • Skill Level:

    Intermediate

  • Season:

    Spring, Summer, Autumn

  • Trail Type:

    Out-and-Back

  • RT Distance:

    3.4 Miles

Dog Friendly
Family Friendly
River
Scenic
Waterfall
Wildflowers

Down in the canyon along the Gunnison river, looking up to the high cliffs above, the Dominguez-Escalante National Conservation Area is one of the most amazing hidden gems in Colorado.

If you're looking to take your first backpacking adventure, but want something that is manageable yet thrilling, this is what you're looking for. Located along the Gunnison River in Western Colorado, the Dominguez-Escalante National Conservation area is easy to access yet full of adventure and beauty.

From Grand Junction, take a drive south down Highway 50 for about 30 miles, until you come to Bridgeport Road. Pull off the highway and take this gravel road down into the canyon. After a few miles, you'll come to the Bridgeport Trailhead. You can park here and take the trail down to the train tracks, or continue another quarter mile down to the parking lot that lines the river.

From here, grab your gear, head under the car barrier, and follow along the train tracks for about a mile and a half or so. You'll first come upon an old, wooden bridge that is no longer in use. Continue past this until you see the red steel bridge that will take you across the Gunnison River.

Once across, follow the sand trail along the river to pick out your camping spot. There are several markers along the way that point out designated wilderness camping areas, but don't feel that you need to stick to these markers. One thing to note: you must be 100 yards away from the trail if not in a designated wilderness camping spot.

When you find your spot, set-up camp and get ready to head out to see more of the canyon. You can continue along the river, or head into the canyon area and see more of the terrain. There is a small waterfall to the right of the first fork that you should definitely check out.

During the night, get your camera out and capture the beauty of the night sky. You're in a very good area with zero light pollution. The stars simply pop and shine incredibly bright. The canyons tower over you and the moon and stars light your night. It's absolutely amazing to see and one of my favorite experiences that I've ever had. 

Pack List

Camping Supplies:

  • Tent
  • Stakes
  • Fire starter
    • FYI: This is a wilderness area so follow the leave-no-trace policy and bring along a aluminum turkey tray for the fire; burn all wood to ash, then bury under sand
  • Grovel for catholes
  • 50L backpack
  • ~ +25F sleeping bag
  • Propane cooker (JetBoil MiniMo)
  • Pot/Pan
  • Utensils
  • Freeze-dried food
  • Fold-able, compact chairs for relaxing

Hiking Supplies:

  • Durable hiking boots
  • Bug spray
  • PLENTY of water
  • Flashlight
  • Warm clothes for the night
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Please respect the places you find on The Outbound.

Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures. Be aware of local regulations and don't damage these amazing places for the sake of a photograph. Learn More

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Jon Mattrisch Explorer

Outdoor enthusiast and photographer from Milwaukee, WI. Camping, hiking, exploring, biking and more. I love it all and I try to capture as much of it as possible. Exploring my home state and exhausting all there is to see, which might take me my whole life. Worth it!

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