“A popular and beautiful trail traversing the length of this red sandstone canyon.”
— Janice Shepherd
Birding · Fall Colors · River/Creek · Spring · Views · Waterfall · Wildflowers · Wildlife · Commonly Backpacked
Dogs must be leashed in the lower 5 miles of Big Dominguez and lower 3 miles of Little Dominguez to protect desert bighorn sheep. Read signs at trailhead for possible changes in policy. Bicycles or mechanized equipment of any kind are NOT allowed in wilderness areas.
Dominguez Canyon Wilderness offers scenic canyons and mesas carved in sandstone, cascading streams, waterfalls, spectacular geologic features, desert bighorn sheep, Native American rock art and historic structures from early mining settlements.
The Big Dominguez Trail accesses some of the most popular areas of the Dominguez Canyon Wilderness, including waterfalls and rock art. The most common access is from the Bridgeport Trailhead or from the Gunnison River at the mouth of Big Dominguez Canyon (if you are arriving by boat). The upper end of Big Dominguez Canyon can be accessed from a trailhead at the Big Dominguez Campground which is 11 miles off CO-141 on a good dirt road. When it is dry I've driven my Honda Civic to the upper trailhead without problems. The road to the Bridgeport trailhead is also a good dirt road but should be avoided when wet. The outhouse and parking lot are set back from the river and the hike starts with a hike down the road towards the river to the road beside the railroad. Follow this road to the 2nd bridge (the first bridge is private property).
This hike is fairly easy, whichever end of the canyon you start at. It maintains a mostly steady low gradient with occasional very short steeper parts. There are no crossings of Big Dominguez Creek the entire length from Bridgeport to Dominguez Campground.
If you are lucky you may spot some desert bighorn sheep along the canyon slopes.
As cattle are sometimes being moved through this area it is important to remember to leave gates as you have found them, namely closed if it was closed and open if it was open.
Backcountry camping is permitted in parts of the canyon. Camping by the river is limited to boaters from May 1st through Labor Day. Camping is not permitted in the lower 5 miles of Big Dominguez canyon and 3 miles of Little Dominguez canyon. Many backpackers make a multi day loop around Big and Little Dominguez canyons.
Flora & Fauna
Look up at the cliff sides to see if you can spot a desert bighorn. Look down at the ground to see lots of small lizards. Birds also abound in the canyon and make a very pleasant soundtrack to the hike. You'll see hawks soaring overhead. In the spring to early summer there are wildflowers of many kinds all around.