Lower Bangs Canyon

Round Trip Distance: 9.2 miles
Difficulty: Moderate
Elevation: 4629 - 5078 feet
Cellphone: 0-4 bars
Time: 5 hrs. 30 mins.
Trailhead: East Creek
Fee: none
Attractions: Solitude

Lower Bangs Canyon is located completely within the Bangs Canyon Proposed Wilderness Area. The lower section of Bangs Canyon stretches from its mouth, where is spills into the Gunnison River, west to the junction of Bangs Canyon and West Bangs Canyon. Access to the area is easily obtained by parking at one of the parking areas on either side of Colorado 141 where the road crosses East Creek. It is at this point where the Tabeguache Trail crosses the highway. There isn't a well worn path to follow in all places but the route finding is pretty basic considering that most of the hiking is within a draw and Bangs Canyon itself.

I began by passing through the gate next to the Tabeguache Trail marker. The next couple hundred yards is a bit steep as the trail rises up and out of Unaweep Canyon. After that the hiking becomes pretty easy. I gave the hike a moderate rating mostly because of the distance and route finding.

After following the trail over the rounded hill it intersects a four-wheel drive road. The Tabeguache Trail follows the road to the left. The road to the right leads to private property after a short distance. To get to the mouth of Bangs Canyon I crossed directly over the road and hiked around the hill until I could drop down into a wash that drains the immediate area.

Once I was in the wash the route finding was pretty easy. All I had to do was follow the wash and hiking in the wash was a lot of fun. There were a couple of places where I followed paths along the side of the wash but I was kind of all over the place taking pictures of all the 'blooming' plants.

These spectacular Mirabilis MultiFlora, Colorado Four O'clock, were especially eye catching. The bees have a veritable smorgasbord this time of year.

I continued to follow the wash until I was almost to the gravel pit pond. There is an old fence line that marks the private property boundary just before you get to the pond. I left the wash and cut up the hill on an old 4-wheel drive road.

The key here is to look off in the distance to the west, along the Gunnison River, for a grove of Cottonwood trees. These trees are right at the mouth of Bangs Canyon. Sometimes I walk along the fence line and other times I hike a little further up towards the hillside.

There is a gate to pass through just before the mouth of the canyon. I spotted some Orioles in this area but I never could get them to sit still for a good picture.

I worked my way up the canyon along the stream. I crossed the stream frequently when the going looked easier on the other side. This particular pool of water was over waste deep. I don't know if it completely dries up in the summer so I wouldn't count on it for drinking.

I came upon some Spineless Hedgehog Cactus. At one time this cactus was listed on the Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants list but it was removed in 1993 when it was determined that it was not a 'discrete and valid taxonomic' entity. It turns out that this cactus is simply a variety of the Red-Flowered Hedgehog and they are found plentiful in Colorado and Utah. None the less it is still a rare occasion to come across the 'Spineless' variety.

I continued up the canyon until I was almost to the junction of Bangs Canyon and West Bangs Canyon. I saw one other set of footprints in this area that appeared to have been made from someone who had hiked in coming down the canyon rather than up from the bottom as I had. I had hiked just over 4.5 miles in a little over 3 hours at this point. I wouldn't give much regard to the elapsed time though because I took about 350 pictures on this hike. I probably spent more time taking pictures than I did actually hiking.

The trip back down the canyon went much quicker. I made it back to the cottonwood grove in about 90 minutes.

Pretty much every kind of cactus was in bloom. This appears to be an 'Uinta Basin Hookless Cactus'. The CWP lists the hookless as present in their proposal. The www.plants.usda.gov website includes Colorado as habitat for the species.

Near the trailhead there were Prickly Pear Cactus with pink, yellow and peach colored blooms.

In the area just above the trailhead I got bogged down again taking pictures. There were about 5 different varieties of cactus that were blooming along with some Sego Lilly, Globe Mallow, Creamy Thistle and several other wildflowers. I like the idea of having a few designated wilderness areas here and there to enjoy and protect. I think that this area would fit nicely into such a plan. I don't think that the present proposal is properly written to justify any special designation. I would like to see them rewrite the CWP and remove what appear to be some glaring mistakes. The Lower Bangs Canyon area is a fun place to explore and if you would like to see it for yourself then all you have to do is 'Take a hike'.