Delta County, Colorado

Page Type Page Type: Area/Range
Location Lat/Lon: 38.74980°N / 107.57812°W
Activities Activities: Hiking, Mountaineering, Trad Climbing, Scrambling
Seasons Season: Spring, Winter
Additional Information Elevation: 6000 ft / 1829 m
Sign the Climber's Log


Delta County is the 17th most populous of Colorado's 64 counties, with a still relatively small population with just under 27,000 people. With 1,149 square miles, it sits on the smaller side of the county list.  
UN 5684, Delta County Ranked Peak
Desert hiking
Mostly agricultural, the county is also a large producer of coal.  
Coal mine destruction on 8343
Mesa edge and fall colors.
The county also has several good and USA renowned wineries. Apples, peaches, cherries, and several other fruits and veggies are produced locally, both traditional and organically grown.
Organic Produce
Organic produce abounds.

Two State Parks sit within the county boundaries (Crawford Lake S.P., and Sweitzer Lake State Park), as well as one very close to the county, along with a reservoir for boating (Paonia S.P.) Also nearby, the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park
The Black
The Black.

borders the south side of the county, although it sits just to the south, it is easily accessible (the north side) for hiking, climbing, fishing on the North Fork of the Gunnison, and camping. For the more driving inclined, there is also the Grand Mesa Scenic Byway.

The area sits on the west side of the West Elk Wilderness, and is part of 2 separate mountain ranges - the West Elks, and the peaks of the Grand Mesa. Additionally, the western edge of the county is primarily a desert region, with a bunch of smaller desert peak hikes, and the Dominguez and Escalante canyons, a recently designated Wilderness area. Also, just a scant 20 miles SE of the Dominguez Canyon Wilderness Area, the Gunnison Gorge Wilderness Area also beckons, with access down to the Gunnison River, and Gold Metal fishing waters. The elevations of the peaks rank from the low 5000' to more than 11,000', giving it more than a vertical mile in relief. The area comprised of the West Elks that lays within Delta County has some serious topographical relief, rising abruptly from the North Fork Valley. These are the peaks more people are familiar with. The peaks on the Grand Mesa are also somewhat frequented, but much isolation is still to be found anywhere away from the several hundred lakes on the mesa.

Alfred Eames Cellars
Black Bridge Winery
Terror Creek Winery
Stone Cottage Winery
Local Produce
Get local!

The newest show in town, Revolution Brewery in Paonia.

(Local Lodging information by city, including B&Bs, Homestays, and more)
Delta County Home Page
New local webpage for the county, including local activities and attractions.

While you're there, I highly recommend finding time to visit the Hotchkiss-Crawford Historical Museum in downtown Hotchkiss. Hours and directions can be found at their website.

There are 4 smaller towns, and several other small townships, all with populations less than 2,000 people, excluding the County Seat, Delta. Crawford, Hotchkiss, Paonia, and Cedaredge round out the top 5. Some other small townships include Orchard City, and Lazear.

On the "I didn't know that" front, Delta County only touches 3 other counties, the fewest in the state (Gunnison, Mesa, and Montrose).

Not that I think it will hold a lot of appeal for most of the folks who are on this forum, but if you're in the area and you enjoy motorsports, there is Thunder Mountain Raceway, just past the county line in Olathe.

Getting There

From Denver, head west on I-70 to Glenwood Springs. Here, you have 2 choices, one shorter in length with about 2 hours of drive time, and one longer in length with the same amount of drive time.

1) Head south from Glenwood Springs on CO-82 to Carbondale (about 14 miles). Head west on Hwy 133 until you get to Delta County. Boom. About 55 miles to the county line. (east access).

2) Drive west to Grand Junction (about an hour), then follow signs south to Montrose on US 550. Drive south to the county line, about 45 minutes. (North and west access).

Weather, seasons, and other considerations.

There is plenty of private land - both owned by private individuals and by (coal) companies. Best to review the Gunnison N.F. maps and the Grand Mesa N.F. Map. Both maps give a good reference to the public/private areas of Delta County, but may not accurately reflect leased holdings. 
Devils Thumb
Likely only climbable by destroying it and driving in snow stakes.

UN 5870
Mancos shale desert
The mud during the wet season in the desert and upper peaks is unbelievably sticky and can be un-navigable, by foot and vehicle. Winter can bring cold temperatures, summer can be hot, the snow up on the higher peaks (pretty much anything above 6k') can be measured in feet. Lots of feet. The mosquito season on the Grand Mesa is usually late May through mid-August. Long sleeves and pants recommended, as well as your choice of mosquito repellant.

Camping & other Lodging options

Grand Mesa winter sunset
Camping, skiing, mountain biking, hiking, fishing, boating, and more await on the Grand Mesa.

Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park.

Crawford Lake State Park.

Sweitzer Lake State Park.

Grand Mesa National Forest.

Paonia Lake State Park.

First, I'm going to plug my parent's Bed and Breakfast in Hotchkiss. The Hanson Mesa B&B sleeps 7 max, and yes, breakfast is included.

A fine laundromat is located in Hotchkiss - North Fork Ultramat is 1 block south of City Market (you can't miss City Market in Hotchkiss, believe me). More importantly, they offer hot showers, wash, dry, and fold service, as well as coffee while you wait, and internet access. 970-872-2000. Open 7 days a week from 8AM-7PM.

Another good place for coffee and internet is the Coal Train Coffee House, right on Main St (Bridge St.), "downtown" Hotchkiss. Check out The Creamery Arts Center while you're across the street, featuring local artist art, sculpture, and ceramics.

Bed & Breakfasts, Homestays, and other info can be found here.

The downlow on the peaks and the geography

UN 5916
The cliffed out peak, UN 5916.
The peaks listed below are the USGS peaks and ranked or soft ranked peaks. USGS named peaks with 0' of interpreted prominence are not listed. Delta county holds 6 peaks with more than 1,000' of prominence.

They range in geology from Mancos shale dirt piles to sandstone cliff faces to huge igneous rock piles. 
"Dinnerplate" talus is commonplace above 9,000'.

Needle Rock, Delta County, Colorado
Needle Rock. Delta County's technically hardest climbable summit.

Brutal Gambel Oak
Get ready for oak-bashing!

Temps range wildly during the seasons, but summers are hot everywhere, even above 10,000'. The Gambel Oak makes several of the peaks significantly more brutal than they would be otherwise. It gets worse the farther east you go.

Wildlife ranges from reptiles, lots of birds, including sandhill cranes, antelope, mule deer, elk, bear, bison (farmed/ranched), moose (transplants to Grand Mesa), and mountain lion, as well as numerous small mammals.

Peaks and ascents range from trails and walk-ups, to off-trail difficult bushwacking to scrambling and technical ascents.

Grand Mesa Info on Wikipedia

The Black Canyon of the Gunnison - CLIMBING - Some of the most intense climbing in Colorado if not the entire USA is in the Black Canyon.  MountainProject has a good page on the routes in the Black.

Here is a direct link to the routes.  

The peaks on and Known access (Public or Private)

This list by no means is "official" or endorsed by anyone or organization. This simply reflects my best knowledge. If anything appears incorrect, please let me know.

PeakElevationLand Agency/Access
Lamborn, Mount11,396'NF
Crater Peak11,327'NF
Hatten, Mount11,310'NF
Darline, Mount11,306'NF
Crag Crest11,189'NF
Chalk Mountain11,146'NF
UN 11,10611,106'NF
UN 11,01011,010'NF
Priest Mountain10,982'NF
UN 10,98010,980'NF
Terror Benchmark10,935'NF
UN 10,85510,855'NF
Spruce Mountain10,833'NF
Landsend Peak10,806'NF
Green Mountain10,802'NF
UN 10,62310,623'NF
UN 10,42010,420'NF
Electric Mountain10,304'NF
UN 10,24510,245'NF
Doughty Mountain10,111'NF
Oil Well Mountain10,085'NF
South Saddle Peak10,005'NF
North Saddle Peak9,728'NF
UN 9,5229,522'NF
Chimney Rocks9,380'NF
Oak Mesa9,295'PRIV
UN 9,0709,070'NF
Durkee Ridge8,860'UNK
UN 8,7878,787'BLM
Spaulding Peak8,583'UNK
UN 8,3438,343'NF
Jumbo Mountain8,275'BLM/NF/PRIV
Wilbanks Mesa8,174'UNK
McDonald Mesa8,139'UNK
Iron Point8,100'NF
Needle Rock7,874'BLM
Fry Mesa7,500'NF
Black Ridge7,470'BLM
Youngs Peak7,420'BLM
Redlands Mesa7,420'UNK
Cedar Mesa7,380'UNK
Wakefield Mesa7,165'UNK
Elephant Hill7,056'BLM
UN 6,9916,991'BLM
UN 6,8696,869'BLM
Lennox Mesa6,850'UNK
Beebe Mesa6,710'UNK
Crawford Mesa6,609'UNK
UN 6,5806,580'NF
Grand View Mesa6,518'BLM?
UN 6,5106,510'BLM
Petrie Mesa6,441'BLM
UN 6,4306,430'NF
January Mesa6,430'UNK
Redtop Peak6,380'BLM/PRIV
Bluenose Mesa6,340'UNK
Stucker Mesa6,340'UNK
Negro Mesa6,326'UNK
Scenic Mesa6,307'UNK
Cedar Hill6,180'CITY
Lamborn Mesa6,100'UNK
Cottonwood Mesa6,050'UNK
Rogers Mesa6,030'UNK
Barrow Mesa6,010'PRIV
Doctor Mesa5,934'UNK
UN 5,8705,870'BLM
Antelope Hill5,850'PRIV
Powell Mesa5,850'UNK
Bone Mesa5,850'BLM
Stewart Mesa5,810'UNK
Devils Thumb5,810'BLM
Spurlin Mesa5,810'UNK
UN 5,7935,793'BLM
Escalante Rim5,780'BLM/WILDERNESS AREA
UN 5,7105,710'BLM
UN 5,6845,684'BLM
Adobe Buttes 5,630'UNK
Smiths Mountain5,628'BLM
Dominguez Rim5,627'BLM/WILDERNESS AREA
Hanson Mesa5,590'PRIV
UN 5,5515,551'BLM
UN 5,4505,450'BLM
McCarty Bench5,380'UNK
Garnet Mesa5,230'Road ROW