Deadhorse Trail

Rating: 
Round Trip Distance: 5.5 miles
Difficulty: Moderate
Elevation: 7859 - 8306 feet
Cellphone: 0 bars
Usage: Hiking - Equestrian - No Dogs
Time: 2 hrs.
Facilities: Vault toilet at end of road
Trailhead: Kneeling Camel
Fee: $15/vehicle
Attractions: East portal overlook
 


View Deadhorse Trail in a larger map

The Deadhorse trail is located in the North Rim Section of the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park near Crawford, Colorado. The trail travels back from the rim of the canyon through an uplands area of oak brush and sage to a primitive overlook of the East Portal of the Black Canyon just below the Crystal Dam. Deadhorse Gulch can also be viewed by crossing the stock fence at the end of the trail.


The Kneeling Camel Overlook serves as the parking area and trailhead for the Deadhorse trail. This is also the best view into the canyon that there is on this hike.


From the Kneeling Camel Overlook follow the road for a hundred feet or so and turn left onto the service road.


At this point there is a trail sign with the usual mylar marker with what forms of travel the trail is opened to.


The road remains gravel until it reaches the old Ranger Station.


From the old Ranger Station the trail continues following a much older abandoned road.


After dropping into the drainage, which is the lowest point of the hike, the trail begins its gentle climb passing a spring fed stock pond at the 1 mile point. The NPS website shows a distance of 3/4 mile at this point but they may have been measuring from the Ranger Station and not the Kneeling Camel trailhead.


The trail climbs at a steady rate gaining about 450 feet of elevation. It never gets much steeper than what you can see in the picture and environment never changes much either. In some places the brush is a little higher and thicker than in others but overall it all looks about the same.


There is an optional side loop that heads over in the direction of the canyon but there isn't much we can say about it other than it looked mostly overgrown. We were going to check it out on the return trip but the mylar marker is hidden by the brush coming from the other direction and we missed it.


It is interesting that the type of scat we saw the most of was mountain lion. All of it looked at least a week old. There were also some elk, deer and bear signs, mostly in the way of scat, as well. It wouldn't be at all surprising if there were a few elk bedded down in the oakbrush listening to us pass by.


At about the 2.5 mile point of the hike the trail comes to a fence where it turns sharply to the right and follows the fence line for the last quarter mile to the rim of the canyon.


This is what the East Portal looks like through a 300 mm zoom lens. The roller dam is where the water is taken from the Gunnison River and diverted right through the mountain for irrigating the Uncompahgre Valley around Montrose, Colorado. There is a campground at the East Portal as well as trails along both sides of the river that provide fishing access to the Gold Medal waters. A few picnic sites can be found along the road leading toward the Crystal Dam which is out of view around the corner in this picture.


The view of the Black Canyon and the East Portal isn't the greatest at the end of the trail. On the other hand, the views from the Kneeling Camel Overlook are very spectacular. At some future time it would be nice to hike the side loop and see what it has to offer and maybe cross the stock fence near the end of the trail and hike around the top of Deadhorse Gulch. The map shows that is all part of the National Park. The end of the trail and Deadhorse Gulch are actually also a designated Wilderness Area. If you would like to see it for yourself then all you have to do is 'Take a hike'.