Round Trip Distance: 10.3 miles
Elevation: 4783 - 5685
Cellphone: 1-4 bars
Usage: Hiking - No Dogs
Time: 3.5 hrs.
Trailhead: Wildwood Trailhead
Attractions: Solitude, geology
View Ute Canyon in a larger map
The Ute Canyon trail is located in the Colorado National Monument. The Ute Canyon trail stretches from the lower trailhead on Wildwood Drive to the upper trailhead on Rimrock Drive. The trail is one of about a half dozen or so trails that can be accessed on the Monument without paying an entrance fee if done so from the lower trailhead on Wildwood Drive.
The trail starts out at the Wildwood Trailhead which is the same traihead as the Liberty Cap and Corkscrew trails. The Wildwood trailhead sits just outside the boundary for the Colorado National Monument but as you can see the Monument is still providing the kiosk, trash can and other signs and trail markers.
As the trail begins it heads southwest towards the cliffs and disappears behind a large tilted slab of rock.
The trail climbs steeply as it travels behind the rock from the valley floor where it gains over 700 feet of elevation before reaching the bench area above the Precambrian granite cliffs. While this stretch of trail is the most strenuous part of the entire hike it can still be very enjoyable due to its beautiful geology and the overall environment.
After hiking for 1 mile you come to the point where the Ute Canyon trail splits off from the Liberty Cap route.
About 2 more tenths of a mile the trail splits again with the upper part of the Corkscrew trail.
The hiking for the next 4 miles is more gradual as you work your way up the drainage of Ute Canyon.
The trail follows a stream bed which would be difficult to manage in wet weather. It is surprising to find so much grass, cottonwood trees and willows thriving within the otherwise dry canyon.
Finger Arch clings to the wall of the canyon and seems to attract the attention of hikers as they travel up the drainage. Look for the slit of blue in the cliff in about the middle of the picture.
After about 3.5 miles of hiking the trail wraps around a large cliff and turns toward upper Ute Canyon. It is only about another mile to the base of the cliff where the trail starts climbing up out of the bottom of the canyon to Rimrock Drive. The trail gets pretty steep again at this point but they have done such a good job making steps that it doesn't seem as strenuous as you would expect. From the wash to Rimrock Drive the trail ascends about 550 feet with a distance of one half mile. That makes this stretch the steepest part of the hike but it still may not seem as strenuous as the first mile.
Looking down from the trailhead on Rimrock Drive.
Ute Canyon is popular with some trail runners and even though hiking it can be hard to fight off the urge to jog at least the downhill portion back to the Liberty Cap junction.
Due to the strenuous nature of this hike it can take a little more water than another hike of equal distance and if it happens to be a hot summer day you may find you need as much as 200 ounces of fluids. It is not uncommon to hike the entire distance between the Liberty Cap turnoff and Rimrock drive without seeing another person. If you would like to experience the Ute Canyon trail for yourself then all you have to do is 'Take a hike'.