One of the best places in America for a desert hike is in Colorado’s Gunnison Gorge National Conservation Area, which sits to the east of the town of Austin. The area features a Juniper tree-filled canyon, wonderful wildlife, and some amazing rock formations. The Park’s Cool Rock Trail is ideal for those looking for a pretty moderate hike.
You’ll be able to hike the trail and come back, but if you would prefer to go just one way there is a shuttle service which lets you achieve this. It takes you through some exciting desert landscape close to the Gunnison River.
(photo by markbyzewski)
You will begin the hike by climbing up to the top of a small hill. When you reach the top, the beautiful canyon will be to the left of you. Here, you will find an information sign along with a trail register.
The trail then takes you through the canyon until you reach the end of it. You will come across a few sections of the trail where it could be blocked by boulders and rocks. When you reach these areas you’ll have to climb to the top of the slopes on either side of you. In other sections of the trail you’ll be passing between walls of rock as well as forested and open areas.
The total length of the hike through the canyon is about three miles and there is about a 600 foot gain in elevation along the way. You’ll find the Smith Mountain Road on the way and this is where you can catch the shuttle vehicle if you like. Most of the rock formations in the canyon consist of coal, sandstone, and shale. You’ll come across Dakota Formations as well as Burro Canyon Formations.
Both of these types of rock formations made their way to this area millions of years ago in the Lower Cretaceous Period. There is a great variety of animals in the area. These include Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep, black bears, mule deer, bobcats, mountain lions, foxes, coyotes, rabbits, and squirrels.
You may also come across several types of snakes and lizards along the hike since they live in Cool Rock canyon. One of the species that makes its home here is the pygmy rattlesnake, which is now endangered.
Along with the selection of animals you’ll also see quite a few different species of birds of prey, with many of them being birds of prey. These include creatures such as kestrels, falcons, red-tailed-hawks, bald eagles, and golden eagles. The different types of plants you’ll be able to view are scrub oak, juniper trees, Mormon tea, and a selection of grasses and cactus.
It’s a splendid hike, but this part of America can get pretty hot once the sun gets high in the sky. The most comfortable time of the year to try it is during the spring and/or autumn time. At this time of the year it’s usually not too cold or hot. It’s not a good idea to make the hike during thunderstorms or rainstorms since there are several areas along the way that can hold the water. This will make it difficult to escape the rising water in the steep terrain.
The Cool Rock Trail isn’t really hard on the legs and the rest of the body and you can always turn around and go back if you feel you’ve gone as far as you can go. It’s quite an interesting trail and this part of western America offers some of the nation’s most spectacular scenery.