Gooseberry Trail is famous for its very steep grade. The trail is located in the southeastern portion of the Island in the Sky Mesa. It starts on the Mesa top at an elevation of 6250 ft. In only 0.7 miles (per my GPS), it drops down 1200 ft to reach the bottom of a dry wash. The trail then follows the dry wash and ends at the junction of the White Rim Jeep Road on the edge of the Gooseberry Canyon (at an elevation of 4750 ft).
From Island in the Sky Visitor Center, drive 11 miles south to the picnic area on the left (east) side of the road. The trailhead is common to Gooseberry Trail and White Rim Overlook Trail (On the road, you will not see any signs for the trails, only a sign for the Picnic Area. Once in the parking area, you will see signs for the trails).
Trailhead Elevation: 6250 ft
Elevation at the end of the Trail: 4750 ft
Vertical Drop: 1500 ft
One Way Distance: 2.1 miles (per my GPS, the sign at the trailhead said 2.7 miles)
1) Views From the top of the Mesa:
At the parking lot, follow the sign for Gooseberry Trail. You will almost immediately reach the edge of the mesa. You will have great views of the walls that create the eastern boundary of the Island in the Sky Mesa. Countless canyons, including the white rimmed ones that cut into the plateau 1500 ft below you will also be in good view. On a clear day, especially in the afternoon hours, the La Sal Mountains will be seen to the northeast.
2) The Big Drop Off:
On the edge of the mesa, you will see the incredibly steep slope that you will have to descend. Don’t worry, the trail is well-established
Big Drop Off
3) View of the Steep Portion of the Trail (from below):
Immediately after leaving the edge of the mesa, the trail zigzags down a very steep boulder/debris-filled slope that sits between two shear walls.
Upper Trail Zigzags Between The Two Walls
4) The Upper Switchbacks Go Down Very Steep Slopes:
a) View of the Steep Slopes:
b) Pictures of the Trail in the Upper Steep Slopes:
Although you will not need any technical skills to go down this trail, please be ware that in many places the trail is covered by loose rock/slippery debris. At times it can become narrow with steep drop offs on the side.
c) Views From the Upper Switchbacks:
From the upper switchbacks, you will continue to have great views of the walls that surround the Island in the Sky Mesa and the canyonlands below.
Gooseberry Canyon as seen from the upper slopes
5) The Lower Switchbacks Go Down Gentler Slopes:
6) Descent into the Dry Wash:
After only 0.7 miles, the trail has already descended 1200 ft. Here it leaves the slopes and goes to follow the bottom of a dry wash.
7) Looking Back Up the Slopes:
Just before entering the dry wash, you can look back up at the incredible slopes that you descended. The upper switchback between the two walls will be well-visible.
8) Upper Dry Wash:
The upper portions of the dry wash form a beautiful mini canyon.
9) Lower Dry Wash:
In its lower portions, the dry wash becomes very open.
10) Gooseberry Canyon/End of the Trail:
At the end of the trail, you will reach the edge of the white-rimmed Gooseberry Canyon. The walls of this incredible canyon suddenly drop 200 ft below. Watching the muddy waters of the dry wash pouring over the edge of the gooseberry Canyon after a hard rainfall, will surely be spectacular.
Good hiking boots.
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