Dolores River Trail

Round Trip Distance: 6.9 miles
Difficulty: Moderate
Skill level:
Elevation: 4955 - 5084 feet
Cellphone: 0 bars
Time: 3 hrs. 45 mins.
Trailhead: Dolores River/Bedrock
Fee: none
Attractions: Scenic redrock canyons, petroglyphs, solitude

The Dolores River trail is located in a Wilderness Study Area near the small Western Colorado town of Bedrock not too far from the Utah border. The trail follows the Dolores River towards its confluence with La Sal Creek where hikers will find numerous boulders with some very old and weathered petroglyphs. The very remote location of this trail lends to its solitude with very few visitors finding their way there on a regular basis.

The turnoff to the trailhead is located along Highway 90 at the historic Bedrock Store that was built on solid rock in 1883. The town of Bedrock is about 21 miles west of Naturita, Colorado and about 15 miles east of the Utah border. The store has been closed for a number of years but it does have a for sale sign so maybe it will reopen at some future date.

From the store follow the signs for the boat ramp to get to the trailhead where this post begins. A person with a good 4-wheel drive vehicle could continue on to the roads end at the beginning of the Wilderness Study Area.

There are a few picnic tables around the area of the boat launch which is mostly just a place for getting rafts on and off of the river. From the trailhead the route leads into the canyon and away from the highway. There are several roads and small trails that all lead that way and in this case it is an 'all roads lead to Rome' situation. The roads further away from the river are the more direct route to take but they should all eventually lead to the same trail.

Once you get to the Wilderness Study Area boundary you are officially on the trail. The route finding is very easy from this point with only one obvious course to follow.

The trail never does ever get right down to the waters edge although there are places where it would be easy enough to accomplish. It looks like the trail was an old mining road at one time. We didn't see any old mines but this is uranium country and there aren't any farms or ranches through this area of the canyon. This could also have served as an old wagon road in pioneer times. I'm guessing that when the road was built that it was following and old Indian trail.

A little over 1.5 miles from the trailhead the river turns sharply to the right and the trail continues around the point of the mountain above the river. The elevation changes on the trail are mostly small and gradual so the hiking is about as easy as it gets.

Shortly past the bend in the river there are the remains of some stone walls near a large boulder beside the trail. The last inhabitant appears to have been either a prospector or pioneer judging from the bits of refuse left behind. There was no easy way of telling if there were any earlier inhabitants at this site or if the rocks that were used for the walls had been used for a previous nearby structure. It would probably take an archaeologist that has a permit to dig around a little to solve that mystery.

The trail continues to follow the old road toward the confluence of the Dolores River and La Sal Creek. In this picture La Sal Creek is coming in from the canyon on the right. The trail does a little climbing to get above the river on a little mesa as well as winding through a small gulch.

The area where the petroglyphs are comes up at about 3.25 miles from the trailhead. The first petroglyphs are on a boulder on the left or river side of the trail.

This boulder has a lot more images than the 2 that we outlined and they are so faded and worn that even the outline is a guesstimation.

Numerous more petroglyphs can be found on various boulders on the right side of the trail a little further away. Be sure to check all sides of the rocks if you don't want to miss any.

This one looks like an alien. It has some similar features to some of the Sego Canyon pictographs. It is really too faded for our untrained eyes.

We have a suggestion for all future rock art vandals and that is 'Go Find Your Own Rock'. This was one of the better preserved panels except for the graffiti.

The Dolores River trail is a pretty easy hike. The round-trip distance of almost 7 miles kinda pushes it up to the moderate level. The petroglyphs were really faded and a little confusing. We saw images what seemed to be a mix somewhere between Archaic, Fremont and slightly Barrier Canyon style. It would be nice to read an expert's interpretation of the site.  If you would like to see them for yourself then all you have to do is 'Take a hike'.