Round Trip: 7.5 miles D3 cabin route
Elevation: 4600-5245 feet
Cellphone: 3-5 bars
Usage: Hiking -Dogs - Equestrian - No bikes - No OHV
Time: 4 hrs.
Facilities: Vault toilet at trailhead
Trailhead: Devils Canyon
View Devil's Canyon D3 in a larger map
The Devils Canyon D3 route ranks right up there with Monument Canyon as a world class hiking experience. The scenery is spectacular and the route the trail takes through the stream bed and around canyon walls makes the hike very enjoyable. There are a few steep sections but they are worth the effort to accomplish this hike. If you have ever hiked the Blackridge Trail on Colorado National Monument this is the canyon that you can look down into on the west side of the trail. The trail maps at the visitor information area show this route, which is a loop trail, with a round trip distance of 5 miles. We hiked up the west side of the canyon and measured 3.8 miles with our GPS from the parking lot to the cabin. The distance back on the east side of the canyon was a little shorter because the trail takes a more direct route. I hiked an extra 4 tenths of a mile on the way back making a detour to get a picture from the bottom of the Precambrian ravine that splits the canyon down the middle. Without that detour the hike would still have been a respectable 7 miles round trip.
We left the parking area around 1030 and passed through the gate as we headed up the wide road for the first leg of the trail. We passed the second visitor information area, crossed the bridge over the seasonal stream and came to the D1/D5 fork in the trail at the 4 tenths of a mile point. For this hike we took the left branch heading southeast towards the canyon.
A little passed the half mile point we came to the D2-D3-K1/D1 junction and followed the D1 branch to the right. We could have taken the D3 fork but we wanted to save that section for the return trip.
The next fork was around the .85 mile point. We veered left on this one and continued hiking above the stream bed. Just pass the 1.15 mile point the trail started dropping down into the wash. At the bottom of the wash we met up with the D3 trail that ran through the stream bed and started following it up the wash. The hiking is very pleasant as the trail works its way up the gully.
Just before we reached the 1.5 mile point we came to the D3 trail split at the base of the Precambrian formation of granite gneiss. This is the spot where the D3 loop to the cabin begins. You can go either way but I highly recommend taking the trail to the right that follows on the west side of the canyon for the trip up and coming back on the trail that follows the east side of the canyon coming back. The west trail is a little longer because there are more washes that the trail has to wind around. It's a very scenic part of the hike that you won't want to miss. It is nice to have the shorter more direct part of the loop for the tired legs on the return trip.
The trail to the right began climbing steeply from the bottom of the wash. If you don't take the branch of the trail furthest to the right that climbs up out of the canyon you will quickly run into difficulty continuing up the ravine.
At the 1.75 mile point the trail reaches an altitude of 4950 and begins to level off a bit as it continues to wind its way up the canyon. The trail had a pretty red color from the Chinle (pronounced chin-lee) formation that under lies the impressive Wingate sandstone cliffs.
We spent a little extra time chasing a whip snake around trying to get some good pictures. Whip snakes are harmless reptiles that we have a lot of in this area. The older snakes seem to lose most of their color and turn more white than dark. Instead of coiling like a rattlesnake they lift up their head 6 inches or so off the ground at times like they are forming the letter 'Z'. I guess it gives them a better look at things.
The highest point of the trail was about 5245 feet just before we reached the cabin. We arrived at the cabin at 1245 so we had been hiking for 2 hours and 15 minutes. We spent some time looking around inside the cabin before heading back. At one time the cabin served as a line shack for cowboys that ran cattle in the area. The rustic atmosphere and natural setting of the cabin would be hard to match by any museum.
There is a trail that heads further up the canyon that beckons to be explored but it will have to wait for another time. The trail that heads back down the east side of the chasm is just north of the cabin. The hiking was direct and downhill and the views of the canyon walls and the ravine made for some good pictures. I kept taking pictures of this prominent rock as we approached closer to it. It reminded me of the rock moai statues on Easter Island.
I couldn't get a picture that really does the gnarly looking Precambrian trench its due justice. It seemed that either the sun was shining into the lens or we were too far away when it wasn't.
We were back in the stream bed at the beginning of the loop at the 5.6 mile point into our hike. We followed this route down the gully all the way out rather than climbing back up the west bank to the D1 trail. It added more variety to the hike and it was a pleasant and fun section of trail. The argument could be made for this trailhead being the busiest in the valley but the traffic is divided among more than a half dozen different trails. We only saw one jogger and two other couples on the entire D3 loop and there were over a dozen cars in the parking lot. If you want to explore the trails of the Devils Canyon yourself all you have to do is 'Take a hike'.