Corral Gulch

Round Trip Distance: 9.9 miles
Difficulty: Moderate +
Elevation: 8118 - 9132 feet
Cellphone: 0 bars
Time: 5 hrs. 15 mins.
Trailhead: Little Creek/Basin Trail
Fee: none
Attractions: Pine/aspen forest, single track

The Corral Gulch trail is located in the Uncompahgre National Forest near Grand Junction, Colorado. The lower end of the trail begins off of the Little Creek trail and follows a branch of the Little Creek through a canyon or gulch to its upper end where it meets the Rim Trail. Much of the 1000 feet of elevation gain for this hike comes at a very gentle pace making it hardly noticeable until you come to a few sections of trail near the upper end where the steepness increases considerably for short distances. Mountain bikers frequently combine the Corral Gulch and Little Creek trails with the Basin trail to form loops. Generally they ride up the Basin trail to the Rim Road and then come down either of the other trails to their vehicle.

This hike begins at the Little Creek and Basin Trail trailhead. You can find the trailhead by driving about 3.5 miles south from the northern boundary of the Uncompahgre National Forest. Turn right on the Big Creek Road, Forest Road 403, and follow it for about 5.8 miles. There are room for several vehicles to park on either side of the creek but be sure not to block the road. Jeeps and ATV's are able to drive up the Basin Trail and need room to get through.

Follow the single track Little Creek trail south from the trailhead. Hiking along the creek couldn't be much pleasanter. To let you in on a little secret, I've never seen a single mosquito on this trail or any others in the area. We tend to wait until after the middle of July before hiking the Uncompahgre so maybe if there are any they have already died off by then. We have hiked many times after significant rainfall though and still haven't seen any.

Continue following the Little Creek trail for just over a mile to the beginning of the Corral Gulch trail. For some reason the very beginning of the Corral Gulch trail gets a little obscured by the prolific sagebrush, snakeweed and other plants but after getting a short distance away from the Little Creek trail the route becomes very obvious and easy to follow. Be sure to stay on the trail that follows the north side of the creek. And don't worry, the only type of snake you might see are garter snakes and not anything poisonous.

The hike up the gulch is very pleasant with sections of grass along the creek that look like natural locations for a park. There are a few swampy areas that dry up as the summer goes by. If you are hiking up here in June you can look forward to either hiking around them or getting your feet wet and muddy.

The trail crosses a small stream at a point where the canyon appears to fork. After you cross the stream the trail seems to head in the wrong direction toward the right fork of the canyon. You will find that after a short distance the trail comes to a switchback and heads back to the left in the expected direction.

Just under 3 miles the trail passes through a fence that divides two different grazing areas.

The canyon becomes narrower and more confined the further up it you hike.

The trail crosses several seeps as it goes. Each of these taken together make up the source of the water that is flowing in Little Creek. A couple of the seeps are very significant. When the snow melts or when it rains upon the mountain a good deal of the water soaks into the ground where it sinks down until if comes to a layer of bedrock. When it reaches the solid layer it travels laterally until it comes out of the mountain at one of these seeps. You can think of them as water spigots that are draining the soggy mountain. As the upper portion of the mountain dries out so do the seeps that are nearer the ridge until only the lower seeps of the mountain are producing any water. The seeps are good spots to find an explosion of wildflowers and plants including monkey flowers, fern and monkshood.

The trail gets considerably steeper between 4 and 4 1/2 miles with most of the climbing occurring in a single quarter mile stretch. A few spots are a little rocky but it's not all that bad in either direction.

The last half mile is pretty easy hiking. The trail follows the canyon as it keeps arcing to the right with the Rim trail following the ridge on your left side and the Basin trail following the ridge above you on the right.

Turkey tail mushrooms are among the edible varieties that you can find on this hike. If you are a mushroom hunter be sure to bring your knife and bag. You might also dig a few wild onions to saute with them. Be sure you know what you are doing before eating anything from the woods. It's not all that difficult to learn if you spend enough time doing the necessary research. As a good rule of thumb never eat more than a small sample of anything to see how it is going to effect you.

We also saw a few deer including bucks on this hike. Cattle were grazing along Little Creek and the lower half of Corral Gulch. The cows were a little annoying in a few places when they thought we were there to herd them. They would bunch up and head along the trail in front of us with the cows bawling for their calves and vice versa. The Uncompahgre Plateau is a great place to head when it gets hot in the valleys. We tend to begin hiking early in the day to beat any afternoon thunderstorms that may come along. Of the hundreds of miles of trails in the area Corral Gulch is one of the few single tracks. If you would like to see it for yourself then all you have to do is 'Take a hike'.