From US-50, the Dominguez Canyon Wilderness is a seemingly uninteresting place, but closer inspection reveals a land worthy of all adjectives ‘outdoors people’ can pull from their lexicon. For all who enter and experience Dominguez Canyon undergo a metamorphosis of the soul. The peaceful sublimity of the region alters all preconceived notions of the natural world. In it is found an almost more perfect union, one that represents the true harmonious spirit of existence.
Rock Formations in Dominguez Canyon.
Named after the missionary and 18th century explorer Francisco Dominguez. The Dominguez Canyon Wilderness encompasses over 66,000 acres and consists of two main canyons (Little Dominguez and Big Dominguez) that drain from the Uncompahgre Plateau into the Gunnison River. Most stunning is Big Dominguez Canyon, its aesthetics rival that of the canyons found in nearby Utah. Big Dominguez Canyon is home to an array of ecological diversity resulting from its low starting elevation at the Gunnison River (4,800 ft.) to the canyon head on the Uncompahgre Plateau (9,000 ft.). The elevation change coupled with a 16.6 mile one-way trip through the canyon would make for a formidable day hike or an enjoyable multi-day backpack trip.
In addition to its abundant beauty, Dominguez Canyon Wilderness has a lot to offer other enthusiasts. Petroglyphs and fossils found throughout the area continue to allure those interested in more than a hike while adding spice for those interested in an adventurous endeavor.
Three points of entrance allow access to Big Dominguez Canyon.
1. Bridgeport-This access point is located between Grand Junction and Delta south off of US-50 on Bridgeport road. Bridgeport road is a maintained gravel road that is passable by any vehicle. Bridgeport trailhead will put you in close proximity to the more visited lower Big Dominguez Canyon trail.
2. Cactus Park-Is accessed by departing 141 to the east on Cactus Park Road between US-50 and Gateway. Cactus Park Road is approximately four miles of gravel road. I managed my way to the trailhead using a low clearance two-wheel drive vehicle, there were however some difficult sections to navigate. I’d imagine this road is difficult to pass during wet conditions. This less frequented access point allows entrance into the center of Big Dominguez Canyon by hiking a rough four wheel drive road for a few miles.
3. Dominguez Campground-Is accessed by heading east from 141 between US-50 and Gateway via the Divide Road. Divide Road is a maintained gravel road that winds up the Uncompahgre Plateau for approximately 11 miles. The trailhead can be accessed by two-wheel drive vehicles but the last mile before the trailhead can become perilous during wet conditions. Dominguez Campground affords users the chance to experience the south end of Big Dominguez canyon.
Petroglyph's of Dominguez Canyon.
No camping near the confluence of Little and Big Dominguez Canyons....Please avoid any temptations to draw or disturb the petroglyphs found throughout the canyon.
Numerous camping opportunities exist throughout the wilderness with exception to the area encompassing the confluence of Big and Little Dominguez canyons. Primitive campsites exist along the Gunnison River approximately a mile in from the Bridgeport trailhead. Established campsites also exist at Dominguez Campground which is located at the canyon's southern trailhead.
When is a good time to visit?
Big Dominguez is excellent throughout most of the year, the spring and fall are especially nice times to visit. I wouldn't recommend experiencing the canyon during the months of June, July and August...temperatures easily average highs in the 90's and clouds are hard to come by.