Hermits Rest

Round Trip Distance: 6 miles
Difficulty: Strenuous
Elevation: 7166 - 8953 feet
Cellphone: 0-3 bars
Time: 2 hrs. 45 mins.
Trailhead: Hermits Rest
Fee: none
Attractions: Scenic gorge, fishing, backpacking

The Hermits Rest trail is located in the Curecanti National Recreation Area between Gunnison and Crawford, Colorado. The trail leads from an overlook of the Black Canyon and Morrow Point Reservoir to a campground on the shore of Morrow Point around 1800 feet below. The Park Service lists the one-way distance as 3 miles. Our GPS showed 2.6 miles in and 2.6 miles out but on a steep trail I can see how a GPS might come up short on the linear distance.

The trailhead is along Highway 92 about 18 miles from its junction with Highway 50 near the Blue Mesa Dam. The Park Service brochure lists the distance at 17 miles but regardless the trailhead is hard to miss.

The Hermits Rest trail is well worn and very easy to follow. The vegetation changes quite a bit from the altitude of the trailhead down to that of the lake. In that respect it is almost like combining 2 or 3 different hikes into one. The trail starts out passing through short sagebrush, that spends a good bit of the year surviving in frigid temperatures, but soon gives way to oakbrush and then pinyon pine trees.

When you begin hiking you can see over top of the mountains on the opposite side of the reservoir into the ranching area of the Cimarron Valley. As you get nearer to the bottom those same mountains seem to get higher and higher until it seems hard to remember that a little earlier you were actually higher than them.

After 1.3 miles you come to this bench that sits where the trail crosses the ravine from one hillside to the next. At this point you are a little past the halfway spot, distance wise, but you have only descended about 620 feet or roughly 1/3 of the elevation. In other words the trail gets steeper from here. And 1/3 compared to 2/3 would mean that it gets twice as steep. Actually the top of the trail has some long sweeping switchbacks that reduce the plunge into the canyon a great deal. By the time the trail seduces you to get this far you may as well see it through to the end.

This is a shot of one of the steeper sections of trail and as you can see it is a pussycat in comparison to many other trails. We never did see any bears but  from here to the campground area we saw several tracks. We had also seen a few elk tracks and the most common scat that we saw on the trail was mountain lion which is a good reason to keep glancing over your shoulder every once in awhile.

The campground has about a dozen spots with tables, fire grates and a level spot for a tent.

In one direction you can see the Morrow Point dam. As you can see the reservoir is pretty full. To give you an idea of how deep the canyon is and how much water the dam is holding back drive around to Cimarron where you can see the other side or check out the Mesa Creek post on this website. That dam is over 400 feet tall. Since there aren't any roads into here the only boats that you will see are the tour boat or one of the fishing guide boats it is a very quiet place.

Looking back up the canyon in the other direction it is just plain pretty. Morrow Point Reservoir is about 11 miles long. Each of the 3 dams, Blue Mesa, Morrow Point and Crystal are positioned so that the backwaters of Morrow Point reach almost all of the way back to the Blue Mesa dam and the waters of Crystal reach almost all of the way back to Morrow Point. The dams were built as part of the Colorado River Project to control flooding and provide hydroelectric power to the area. It used to be that there would be a really big spring flooding season and then all of the water was gone before anyone got any meaningful use out of it.

A vault toilet is perched above the bank down near the water at the campground.

The climb back to the trailhead didn't seem all that bad. This was the second trail we hiked into the canyon on this day and it wasn't even lunchtime yet. We actually hiked the Crystal Creek trail after doing this one. Now you know how someone with a full time job gets so many trails in each week.

It took 1 hour and 20 minutes to hike down from the trailhead to the campground and 1 hour and 26 minutes to hike back out. The sign at the trailhead suggested planning on up to 3 hours to hike out which for someone that is backpacking and carrying gear that would be understandable. Most people don't hike in a non stop fashion like we do and they probably don't hike quite as many miles either so our times of course are only a general guide anyway. Like all the other hikes that go into the Black Canyon the Hermits Rest trail is spectacular. You will be hard pressed to match the canyons beauty anywhere. If you would like to see it for yourself then all you have to do is 'Take a hike'.