The McCarty Trail offers an abundance of solitude allowing you to connect to the natural beauty of the area. Along the trail, you'll pass old brush fences that were used by early Colorado settlers to manage their livestock.
The trailhead is along Escalante Canyon Road where you'll turn for Escalante Canyon Road off Hwy 50 just south of mile marker 59. At the turn off you'll find a "Point of Interest" marker and a large parking lot that works for a carpool meeting place if the group is a mix of people coming from the north and south. The trailhead for McCarty Trail is 4.8 miles from Hwy 50. Eventually, you'll cross the Gunnison River along the way. In the spring and summer there is a popular river put-in on the northeast side of the bridge with portable toilet on site. The trailhead for McCarty Trail is on the north side of the road just after a curve in the road. It is quite small and easy to miss but it is signed with a BLM McCarty Trail sign.
The trail first follows an old two track as it climbs steeply out of the canyon bottom. In the first 2000 ft of trail you may see some old trails heading off to the right. The BLM is working on rehabilitating those, so stay left. There's a brief reprieve in the elevation gain when you reach a broad bench. At the far end of the bench, the trail turns to the left and starts climbing again. Take note of the old tree brush piles that line the trail in this stretch. Lots of cowboy time from long ago went into building those.
You'll now be up in a high desert pinyon-juniper forest with some broad meadows that may have been man-made to improve the grazing for livestock.
The trail continues all the way to its intersection with BLM roads that lead to the Uncompahgre National Forest. Along the way you'll pass through an old brush fence that extends the length of this high mesa. You'll also cross a state wildlife area.
Exploring off-trail to the north can be rewarding as deep Palmer Gulch runs parallel to the trail.
Let your abilities, energy level and time schedule be your guide as to how far along McCarty Trail you choose to go and whether you do any off-trail exploring. Chances are though you and the wildlife will be the only ones out in this quiet section of Dominguez Wilderness.
This trail is in Dominguez-Escalante National Conservation Area. More information about the area can be found at the BLM website