Birthday Canyon

Rating: 
Round Trip Distance: 4.5 miles
Difficulty: Moderate
Elevation: 5102 - 5886 feet
Cellphone: 0-4 bars
Time: 2 hrs. 30 mins.
Trailhead: Crocodile Rock
Fee: none
Attractions: Scenic canyon, wildflowers




The Birthday Canyon trail is located in the Gunnison Gorge National Conservation Area and Wilderness near Delta, Colorado. The primitive trail begins at a parking area near the Gunnison River and follows the bottom of the canyon for several miles to the area near the head of the canyon where an old jeep road crosses the trail. The hike is a mix of easy travel up the sand and shale wash and areas of boulders and dry waterfalls that require some scrambling and route finding.



The unmarked trailhead and parking area is along the South River Road about 6.8 miles from the intersection of H75 Road and 2200 Road. The trailhead is on the left side of the road just a few hundred yards before reaching the Cottonwood Grove Campground. The trail begins by following the wash toward the canyon across the road from the trailhead.


The canyon eventually deepens and the wash becomes a little more congested with boulders the further along you hike.


The boulders never do get too bad and are normally pretty easy to get around.


This is about the worst obstacle in the canyon. It can be bypassed by climbing up the side of the hill for a short distance.


During the springtime a surprising variety of wildflowers can be found. Golden Corydalis can be spotted blooming is several areas.


As well as these Nuttalls's violets. Also spotted were scarlet globe mallow, Rocky Mountain beeplant, Navajo fleabane, perkysue's, blazing stars, golden asters, tangy mustard and more.


Powerlines pass over the canyon at about the 1.6 mile point of the hike. By this time the canyon is becoming very shallow.


An old jeep road crosses the canyon at about 2 miles. This is the turn around point for the hike.


Padres Dominguez and Escalante passed through this area along the Gunnison River on their expedition in 1776. They crossed the Gunnison River a little further upstream where they began following the North Fork toward the present day town of Paonia. A mention is made in the journal of seeing some of the clear type gypsum like in this photo.


The Birthday Canyon is much easier to hike than the neighboring Crocodile Rock trail but not quite as easy as the Suncliff Canyon trail.


The Cottonwood Grove campground begins right next to the Birthday Canyon trailhead where there is also a primitive campsite. The surroundings are peaceful and the sound of the Gunnison River rushing by enhances the ambiance. At present camping at the campground and the primitive campsites along the river is free. Whether rafting the river, fishing the gold medal waters or hiking the rugged canyons the Gunnison Gorge National Conservation Area and Wilderness is mostly a well kept local secret. If you would like to see it for yourself then all you have to do is 'Take a hike'.