Lawhead Gulch

Round Trip Distance: 1.4 miles
Difficulty: Easy
Elevation: 5080 - 5160 feet
Cellphone: 0-4 bars
Time: 1 hr.
Trailhead: Lawhead Gulch
Fee: none
Attractions: Geology

The Lawhead Gulch trail is located in the Gunnison Gorge National Conservation Area and Wilderness near Delta, Colorado. The primitive trail passes through a gulch with interesting geology and a perennial stream that empties into the Gunnison River. The route through the small canyon and gulch follows a trail that has been used by game and probably Indians for thousands of years. We can make that assumption because of the rock shelter and petroglyphs at the Gunnison River Rock Art Site that is near the mouth of the canyon.

The Lawhead Gulch trailhead is shown on the BLM's map and brochure of the Gunnison Gorge National Conservation Area. At present there is no parking area or trail signs at the designated spot which is listed as point 3 on the map. There is a nice graveled trailhead that has been recently constructed at the top of the hill at the beginning of the Gunnison River Rock Art trail. Since the entire NCA seems to still be in the early development stages we parked at the point on the map where the trailhead is shown and began the hike from there. To get to that point from Delta drive east on Highway 92 and turn right at mile 12.2. Pass through the gate and follow the dirt road for 2.1 miles, staying to the right at each of the forks, to the point where Lawhead Gulch enters the small canyon. A high clearance vehicle is preferred but not required.

As the trail enters the confines of the canyon it becomes more pronounced and easier to follow.

Several times you will find yourself crossing the stream.

The one sign of development is a bridge made by the placement of a large flat slab that is firmly embedded in the bank. The slab is well buried in the bank and overgrown grass so it is hard to say just who it was that placed it there.

As you approach the bend in the canyon you will find the best route is on the sandstone shelf above the grassy bank of the stream.

The unique geology of the Morrison formation provides the biggest draw for the short hike.

The last section of trail climbs the side of the gulch to avoid the salt cedar and other brush that chokes the bottom of the canyon. Some areas of loose rock are slightly precarious to negotiate.

At the mouth of the canyon you can follow the trail around to the Gunnison River Rock Art Site. Both of these trails can obviously be combined to form a loop hike that would be around 2 miles or a little less in distance.

Time will tell whether an official trailhead will be constructed for Lawhead Gulch or whether the parking area for the Gunnison River Rock Art Site will become the trailhead for both trails. It would be simple enough, and much less expensive, to scratch out a trail along the ridge from the parking area to the head of the canyon where it could join the current trail through the gulch. A ridge route would avoid the drabness of walking on the road. However it turns out Lawhead Gulch is worth the little time it takes to hike. Especially after having already gone through the trouble to drive to the area to visit the rock shelter. If you would like to see it for yourself then all you have to do is 'Take a hike'.