Bighorn Loop

Rating: 
Round Trip Distance: 4.5 miles
Difficulty: Moderate
Elevation: 5808 - 6505 feet
Cellphone: 0-3 bars
Time: 2 hrs. 30 mins.
Trailhead: Duncan
Fee: $3/person per day
Attractions: Wilderness Area, geology




View Bighorn Loop in a larger map

The Bighorn Loop trail is located in the Gunnison Gorge National Conservation and Wilderness Area near Delta, Colorado. The loop is made by combining the upper section of the Duncan trail with the Bighorn  trail, the upper section of the Bobcat trail, and the Redrocks-Nighthorse trail. Looking at the Google map the trailhead near the top of the map is the Duncan trailhead and the one at the bottom is the Bobcat trailhead. The Redrocks-Nighthorse trail is on the left and it runs along the ridge connecting the two trailheads while the Bighorn trail on the right runs along the cliffs above the Gunnison River connecting the Duncan and Bobcat trails.


Google Maps doesn't know anything about some of the roads needed to get to the Duncan trailhead so it runs into trouble when you try to get directions. The quickest route is to drive east on the Falcon Road located 1 mile south of the Olathe traffic light on Highway 50. Follow the Falcon Road for 3.7 miles to 6400 Road. Continue driving straight ahead. At this point the road is the Peach Valley Road. Stay on the Peach Valley Road for the next 5.2 miles passing the Peach Valley Staging Area after a short distance. Keep to the left at the Chukar Road and drive over the hill. From the Chukar Road turnoff it is another 2.2 miles to the turnoff for the Bobcat Road and 1.5 miles past that to the turnoff for the Duncan Road. Turn right on the Duncan Road and follow it 1.8 miles to the trailhead on top of the ridge. The Falcon Road is paved and the Peach Valley Road is gravel until it passes the Chukar Road at which time it is dirt. When it rains hard the bottom drops out of the dirt road making it virtually impassable.


Once you begin hiking you immediately enter the Gunnison Gorge Wilderness Area which has a $3/person fee. There is a fee station at the trailhead. Be sure to read the instructions and put one copy of the form on your dashboard and carry one with you while you are hiking. From the ridge the Duncan trail descends what looks like an old 4-wheel drive road.


At about 0.4 miles the Bighorn trail begins on the right.


The trail heads south along the ridge for a short distance when just past a tree it heads down to the next lower bench.


The next mile and a half of hiking is an easy traverse over to the Bobcat trail. All of the elevation changes are minor.


There were fresh bighorn tracks in the area on the day we did this hike but no sightings.


The trail comes close enough to the edge of the cliff in a couple of places where the Gunnison River can be seen far below. Unless you are on a designated trail that goes down to the river don't try to climb down there. The only safe places to get down to the river in the Gunnison Gorge Wilderness Area are the Ute trail, Duncan trail, Bobcat trail and the Chukar trail. These cliffs have fooled more than one person that didn't live to tell about it.


A little red sandstone adds a nice contrast of color.


The cliffs of the Gunnison River from the Gunnison Gorge all the way through the Black Canyon National Park and the Curecanti National Recreation Area are some of the most rugged and beautiful cliffs that you will find anywhere.


The Bighorn trail reaches the Bobcat trail right at the 2 mile point of the hike.


It is all uphill from here to the Bobcat trailhead but the climb isn't all that bad. The elevation gain between here and the trailhead is less than 500 feet spread out over about 6 tenths of a mile.


Typical Rocky Mountain weather. The skies were blue when we began hiking.


To close the loop and get back to the Duncan trailhead we make use of the Redrocks-Nighthorse trail.


The Redrocks-Nighthorse trail climbs the ridge and follows it for the remaining 1.9 miles. This isn't the greatest place to be when a thunderstorm is quickly approaching. We were running the trail at this point.


As you can see, we didn't beat the storm back to the trailhead. It was pouring buckets by this time. The 5 miles down the mountain and back to the Falcon Road was all done in 4-wheel drive locked into low gear just to keep from sliding off the road. A 2-wheel drive vehicle probably could have made it to the trailhead if it had good clearance but it would have been stranded here for a day or two waiting for the roads to dry up. As far as hiking the Bighorn Loop goes it was a great hike. If you aren't familiar with the area the Duncan trail and the Bobcat trail both go all the way down to the Gunnison River. They both get a little rugged on the way down and require more advanced hiking skills and maybe even basic rock climbing skills. The Bighorn Loop though is pretty tame as long as you don't get too close to the cliff. If you would like to see it for yourself then all you have to do is 'Take a hike'.