Round Trip Distance: 13.5 miles
Elevation: 4922 - 6739 feet
Cellphone: 0-4 bars
Usage: Hiking - Equestrian - Dogs
Time: 5 hrs. 30 mins.
Attractions: Solitude, wildlife
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The McCarty trail is located in the Dominguez Canyons Wilderness Study Area between Grand Junction and Delta, Colorado. The trail stretches for about 13 miles from Escalante Canyon almost to the Uncompahgre National Forest. Most of the trail travels across a high mesa that parallels Escalante Creek. This post covers over half the total distance of the trail beginning at the lower trailhead in Escalante Canyon to the Escalante State Wildlife Area.
The McCarty trail starts out with a little steep climbing. The trail follows a very old double track for most of the first half mile.
There aren't any signs at the trailhead that mention any restrictions but before you have gone a half mile the trail crosses into the Dominguez Canyons Wilderness Area and all travel is restricted to hiking and equestrian.
After hiking just under 4 tenths of a mile the McCarty trail leaves the double track for awhile on a trail to the left. This trail comes out on a small grassy bench and travels around the east side of the hill that presents itself ahead of you. The trail wraps around the hill for a little way and then begins a series of switchbacks and steep ascents until you are all the way on top of the mesa. At this point you have completed about 1.5 miles of hiking.
The rest of the trail has an uphill slope that matches the incline of the Uncompahgre uplift. (At this point I had gone from 0 bars on my cellphone to about 4 bars.) If you turn around at this point you will have a pretty good workout in and you will have already seen pretty much all there is to see on the McCarty trail. In the cooler months though there are quite a few deer and elk in the area.
There is an old structure along the way that I had no way of telling whether it predated any white settlers or not.
From this point the trail is blocked in numerous places by fallen trees. Most of them are pretty easy to hike around but for the next half mile the route finding can get a lot harder. Good trail skills, a map, and a GPS will make this stretch much more manageable.
The trail does get back onto the easy to follow double track and the hiking gets much easier and more a matter of just how far you feel like going. The turn around point in the picture is right where the trail crosses into the Escalante State Wildlife Area. There isn't a sign and there didn't seem to be anything remarkable about the area to set it apart from the rest of the trail.
This is a picture of the largest Horned Lizard or 'horny toad' that I have ever seen. This thing was almost as big around as a soda can.
There was a huge population of Cicada bugs. At times they made so much noise that they were almost deafening.
This one had big orange eyeballs. They say that you can fry these guys up and make a meal of them. I was hoping for a big flock of birds to come and devour a few thousand of the noisy boogers.
The McCarty trail is much more pleasant to hike in the cooler months. There isn't any water anywhere along the way so you have to bring everything you need with you. I started early in the morning when it was still cool out and I still went through 120 ounces of water and 40 ounces of Gatorade. I would like to find out more about the history of the trail but there doesn't seem to be a lot of info out there. If you happen to know something please post a comment and share it. If you would like to see it for yourself then all you have to do is 'Take a hike'.