Crocodile Rock

Round Trip Distance: 4 miles
Difficulty: Moderate
Elevation: 5123 - 5861 feet
Cellphone: 0-4 bars
Time: 2 hrs. 30 mins.
Trailhead: Crocodile Rock
Fee: none
Attractions: Scenic canyon, wildflowers

The Crocodile Rock trail is located in the Gunnison Gorge National Conservation Area and Wilderness near Delta, Colorado. The trail begins at a parking area near the Gunnison River and follows the floor of the canyon toward its head near the Smith Mountain Road. Hikers must be ready to scramble large boulders and make their way around several dry waterfalls as they work out their own trail through the primitive area.

The 'get directions' function of Google Maps should direct you to drive east out of Delta, Colorado on Highway 92 turning right onto H75 Road. Continue on the paved H75 Road to the intersection of 2200 Road. Begin measuring your distance from this intersection and follow the now gravel H75 road. At 2.7 miles you will pass the Sidewinder trailhead where there is a large parking area and a restroom. The road climbs the small hill where there are 2 roads that fork off on the right. Take the middle fork which is the River Road and follow it passing the unmarked Suncliff trailhead at 4.5 miles and down a steep hill to the level of the Gunnison River. Continue on the River Road passing the Cool Rock trailhead at 5.3 miles and park at the unmarked Crocodile Rock trailhead on the right hand side of the road at 6.2 miles.

The Crocodile Rock trail through the canyon has several areas of boulders and numerous dry waterfalls some of which are only a few feet high and others that are 10-15 feet high. The first such obstacle is right at the mouth of the canyon. Like many of the coming obstacles it is easy enough to get around by hiking above it along the hillside.

After hiking around the area at the mouth of the canyon the going gets pretty easy as you work your way up the wash. At about .38 miles take the left branch of the canyon.

At about 0.75 miles the hiking slows down considerably. The next quarter mile of the canyon is clogged with numerous boulders. Some of them are easy enough to scramble over and others are easier to bypass by hiking around them on the hillside.

 For one particularly tough stretch of boulders it is easier to hike along the wall of the canyon for several hundred feet. Some people might enjoy staying in the bottom of the canyon and scaling the boulders more than trying to avoid them. A person with a shovel could probably build a nice trail along the hillside in only 1 or 2 days that would greatly improve the quality of hiking in the canyon.

The hiking gets easy again at the 1 mile point. From here the dry waterfalls seem to get bigger but there is always an obvious way to get past them.

We came across several domestic sheep carcasses in the canyon. This one looked like a recent kill although how it died is unknown. There are supposed to be bighorn sheep in the Gunnison Gorge area which makes seeing domestic sheep very troubling. Bighorn sheep have no immunities from the diseases that domestic sheep carry and entire herds can be wiped out from them like they were in part of Canyonlands National Park.

Most of the obstacles that Crocodile Rock Canyon presents can be overcome by either hiking over them on the right side or climbing them directly on the right side. We were jokingly calling it a right handed canyon until we finally came to one that we could only get around on the left side.

After the left handed waterfall the hiking became easy again. At 1.6 miles a set of powerlines passes over the canyon. At almost 2 miles we came to one last waterfall with a lot of large boulders. Judging by the distance we had hiked it appeared that this was the suggested turnaround point. Still having lots of pent up energy though we scaled the obstruction to see what was on the other side.

After climbing over the last waterfall the canyon became very shallow and easy to hike and it was at this point that we chose to turnaround.

As far as a rock that looks like a crocodile there are several. The sandstone breaks off in long slabs and the ones that haven't fallen into the canyon yet can with a little imagination look like a crocodile.

The Crocodile Rock trail is 1 of 4 trails that are along the River Road in the Gunnison Gorge National Conservation Area and Wilderness. The others are the Suncliff Canyon, Cool Rock Canyon, Birthday Canyon and West River trails. The BLM has a nice brochure with a map of the area on their website. For those that would like to camp out and spend more time in the area hiking and fishing there are a few primitive campsites along the road as well as the Cottonwood Grove campground near the Birthday Canyon trailhead. The Cottonwood Grove campground has a restroom, tables, fire pits and a boat launch. This stretch of the Gunnison River has a Gold Medal designation and only non motorized watercraft are allowed. If you would like to see it for yourself then all you have to do is 'Take a hike'.