Round Trip Distance: 6 miles (overlook)
Round Trip Distance: 8 miles (Knowles Canyon)
Round Trip Distance: 28 miles (Colorado River)
Difficulty: Moderate - Strenuous
Elevation: 5848 - 6420 feet
Cellphone: 0-4 bars
Usage: Hiking - Equestrian - Dogs
Time: 5 hrs. 30 mins.
Trailhead: Knowles Canyon
Distance from 24 and F Road: 27.6 miles
Attractions: Wildlife, scenic canyons, solitude
View Knowles Canyon in a larger map
Knowles Canyon is located in the Black Ridge Canyons Wilderness Area. Knowles Canyon is one of the longest canyons in the wilderness area. It is possible to hike the full 14 mile length of the canyon from the trailhead down to the Colorado River or a hike from the trailhead to the Knowles Canyon overlook is an excellent alternative that is much shorter. Another option is to follow the old jeep road and explore the upper bench area of the canyon.
Approach: Make your way up to Glade Park and from the Glade Park store head north on 16 1/2 Road. Within 1/2 mile turn left, or west, on B S Road (B South). Follow B S Road for 11 miles to the trailhead. The first 3 miles are paved followed by 4 miles of gravel and then 4 miles of dirt road. A 2-wheel drive vehicle with a little bit of clearance will make several washes easier to handle. When I drove in the road was dry and pretty smooth. There were 2 or 3 washes that had about a 6-10 inch dip in them where the recent rains had cut their way through. I suppose a car could cross them at an angle but if you have a choice you might want to take something a little higher. (or your mountain bike)
The first portion of the hike takes you around the sandstone cliffs through several deep washes. The trail is bordered by tall grass, sagebrush and juniper trees.
After about .8 miles the trail turns left and climbs up the sloping sandstone cliff to the top of the ridge.
Over the ridge the trail meets up with an old jeep road at about 1.2 miles from the trailhead. From this high point I had about 2-3 bars on my cellphone. My signal varied between 1-4 bars all the time I was on the ridge and in the upper area of Knowles Canyon. I'm sure it would have disappeared entirely if I would have dropped down into the deep part of the canyon. I received a call while I was in the canyon which may be the only time the lyrics of the Grateful Dead have prickled the ears of the natives there.
After following the old road for about another mile, or two miles from the trailhead, there is sharp left hand turn in the road. If you look off to the right side of the road there is a cairn that marks the beginning of the overlook trail. The first 100 yards or so of the overlook trail is a little faint but it becomes very distinct and easy to follow after that.
It is a little less than a mile of very easy hiking from the road to the overlook where you can see into the deeper reaches of Knowles Canyon. You will, of course, add a great deal to the difficulty if you choose to hike down from the overlook. There is no apparent path that descends into the canyon from this point although a very distinct trail can be seen coming in from the west.
The road leading into Knowles Canyon was a collage of various animal tracks. I was totally surprised to see a fresh bear track as I had quit carrying my bear spray until next spring. Most of the tracks were made by a herd of elk that appeared to be migrating into the area for the winter. There were also deer, bighorn, bobcat and mountain lion tracks. There were fresh tracks from 2 hikers that had been in the canyon the day before and it appeared that a mountain lion had followed them for about 2 miles on their way out. That will keep you looking over your shoulder.
At about 3 miles the road drops down a series of switchbacks into upper Knowles Canyon. About 4 miles from the trailhead there is a log across the road with a large cairn next to it. (This log isn't to be mistaken for a previous log that had a small cairn of rocks stacked on top of it. I'm not sure what it was pointing out.) If your aim is to hike down to the river this is where you will want to turn. The hike down to the river is more of a two day backpacking adventure that requires a lot more planning and preparation.
On the hike back I found an old shelter on the cliff above the overlook turnoff. It appeared to have been constructed quite some time ago.
Some of the cliffs have an eerie look where salts and other softer materials have dissolved away leaving ghouly face like features.
I went through 100 ounces of water, 20 ounces of Gatorade, a bagel and 2 energy bars. There wasn't anywhere to filter water from so you will need to pack in everything you need unless you are planning to hike all the way to the river. Judging from the logbook most people come to Knowles Canyon for the shorter one day hikes. Knowles Canyon doesn't see a lot of hikers so if it is solitude that you are looking for your chances are good. If you would like to see it for yourself then all you have to do is 'Take a hike'.