Cool Rock Canyon

Rating: 
Round Trip Distance: 4 miles
Difficulty: Moderate
Elevation: 5058 - 5701 feet
Cellphone: 0-3 bars
Time: 2 hrs. 30 mins.
Trailhead: Crocodile Rock
Fee: none
Attractions: Scenic canyon, geology




The Cool Rock Canyon trail is located in the Gunnison Gorge National Conservation Area and Wilderness near Delta, Colorado. The primitive trail begins by the Gunnison River and follows the canyon for 2 miles to a fence that is the turnaround point for this post. A kiosk near the trailhead mentions that at some future time the trail may be extended for another mile.


Google Maps should do a pretty good job providing directions to the trailhead with its 'Get Directions' function. Basically you drive east from Delta, Colorado on Highway 92 and turn right on either H75 Road or 2200 Road. H75 road is the more direct approach. Measure about 5.3 miles from the intersection of H75 Road and 2200 Road following H75 Road to where the South River Road splits off on the right. Follow the river road for about 2.4 miles as it drops down a steep hill to the level of the Gunnison River and continues to the Cool Rock trailhead. H75 Road is gravel and the South River Road is dirt. An SUV type vehicle would be preferable but we have seen several family type cars on the road on each of our trips.


The trail starts out climbing the hillside just a little to get around a dry waterfall at the mouth of the canyon.


After getting around the waterfall the trail enters the wash for most of the rest of the hike. A kiosk at this point has a little information about the area.


We saw lots of 'Cool Rocks' but thought that this water worn block of sandstone stood out from the rest.


The trail follows the wash around many colorful bends as it works its way up the canyon. Some of the rock in a few places looks like it could fall at any moment but it has probably been that way for decades.


Hikers in Cool Rock Canyon will need to be prepared to do some minor scrambling to get past boulders in several places. While the trail is open to equestrian use it is hard to imagine them making it past this area which means they would only be able to see the lower mile of the canyon.


At one point the wash becomes blocked to the point that you must climb a side trail on the right side of the canyon to go any further. Before doing so it is kind of fun to explore around the boulders in the bottom of the wash.


The trail gets very easy again once you make it past the boulder jam.


A fence crosses the canyon at the two mile point and that is where we turned around. Nothing says that you can't step over the fence and continue up the canyon. It is all part of the Gunnison Gorge National Conservation Area.


A mylar post near the trailhead makes mention of archaeological sites in the area. There is one very old rock shelter in the bottom of the wash. Rocks have been packed around the boulders leaving only a small opening to crawl through. One would think that something like this was only a temporary shelter and probably only used while hunting in the area. That is pure speculation though.


A designated campsite sits along the river at the trailhead. There are several more in other locations. Some are open to anyone but further into the gorge there are campsites that are reserved for rafters. This stretch of the river has a Gold Medal designation allowing flies and artificial lures only.



Just over top of our pickup in the picture you can make out the what I referred to as the steep road that drops down to the level of the river. If you click on the picture is should pop up a high resolution image that is easier to see. Our truck doesn't have a lot of weight and it is only 2-wheel drive so we probably wouldn't have come down the hill if the weather would have been wet. There are 4 other trails in this area of the Gunnison Gorge. For those that would like to spend several days in the area hiking and fishing the riverside campsites may be very appealing. The brochure for the Gunnison Gorge lists the Cool Rock Canyon trail as Easy/Family Friendly but with the scrambling around boulders that is required we tended to think of it being more moderate than easy. It is definitely the sort of hike we typically used to drag our kids on. If you would like to see it for yourself then all you have to do is 'Take a hike'.