July 03, 2019 Slideshows » Columns

Road Trip Hike: Browns Canyon National Monument 

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Bob Falcone
Bob Falcone
The entrance to Browns Canyon National Monument. This is at the line dividing the Arkansas Headwaters Recreation Area from the rest of the National Monument
Bob Falcone
A short distance down the road are two parking lots and a toilet facility. The parking on the left is for trailers only. If you're not hauling a trailer, park at the lot on the curve, adjacent to the toilet.
Bob Falcone
The National Monument borders the BLM's FourMile Recreation Area. Motorized use is allowed in the FourMile area.
Bob Falcone
Close-up of the map on the FourMile Recreation Area sign. This hike was on the Turret and Catkin Gulch Loop Trails
Bob Falcone
Information signs at the trailhead, behind the toilet facility
Bob Falcone
Trailhead sign and trail. As a "Wilderness Study Area", no mechanized travel, which includes bicycles, is allowed. The area is open only to foot or horseback travel. This hike starts on the Turret Trail/Trail #6045
Bob Falcone
Views of the Collegiate Peaks, like this one of Mt Princeton from near the trailhead, highlight this hike
Bob Falcone
A short distance from the trailhead, turn left to continue on the Turret Trail
Bob Falcone
From the trailhead, the trail climbs steeply through a series of switchbacks for about .6 miles, before descending again to this overlook at just under 1 mile. The trail then descends again into a dry riverbed.
Bob Falcone
At approximately 1.3 miles a trail cuts off to the right. It enters private land, so stay to the left and in the riverbed.
Bob Falcone
About 100' further down the riverbed from the "Y", the trail turns left and up out of the riverbed.
Bob Falcone
Once out of the riverbed, the trail follows what looks like an old Jeep road through a wide open area. Again, there are great views of the nearby Collegiate Peaks, including Mt Princeton on the left and Yale in the center.
Bob Falcone
At about 1.7 miles the trail crosses a wide dry riverbed. Continue straight across the riverbed and at about 2 miles the River Bench Trail/#6045A cuts off the right. Stay left on the Turret Trail.
Bob Falcone
The trail continues east into a side canyon, where it is overgrown in spots. It ends up in a "dry" riverbed where it appears that the trail may have followed the left side of the riverbed prior to being eroded. Stay on or adjacent to the riverbed (look closely for the trail).
Bob Falcone
At just under 3.2 miles, at a bend in the riverbed, the trail cuts off to the south side of the dry riverbed (right). There is a cairn, but it can be easy to miss. A short distance later, the trail starts another steep climb through switchbacks for about 700'
Bob Falcone
At about 3.8 miles, at the bottom of a steep hill, the River Access Trail/#6045B forks off the right
Bob Falcone
Bear left, staying on the Turret Trail in the dry riverbed
Bob Falcone
A couple hundred feet up the riverbed from trail 6045B, the Turret Trail cuts off to the right. This turn is easy to miss, so watch closely.
Bob Falcone
At 4 miles turn left onto the Catkin Gulch Loop Trail. This is not the start of the actual loop part of the trail.
Bob Falcone
At approximately 4.8 miles the trail meets the start/end of the Catkin Gulch Loop. Based on not much more than a hunch, I took the trail clockwise, which turned out to be the easier direction. Turn left here.
Bob Falcone
The Catkin Gulch Loop Trail is a fairly primitive trail, and it is easy to lose it. You will need to be observant and have good wayfinding skills for the next mile or more. At about 5 miles, the trail again meets a dry riverbed. It is hard to find the trail, but turn right at the riverbed and stay in, but to the right, of the riverbed as much as possible as it enters a canyon. Follow it until you reach a fence at a narrow part of the canyon.
Bob Falcone
At approximately 5.45 miles, the trail leaves the Wilderness Study Area and enters the National Forest. If you come to a fence, but not this gate, follow the fence until you find it. There is an obvious trail on the National Forest side of the fence, but it's easy to lose it after a while. You need to have good wayfinding skills for this part of the hike, and this is where the COTREX app will be particularly useful.
Bob Falcone
The trail makes a turn out of the riverbed and climbs an old two-track until circling back into the Wilderness Study Area
Bob Falcone
At about 6.5 miles, the trail re-enters the Wilderness Study Area. About a half-mile later, the trail closes the loop. Re-trace your steps to return to the trailhead. Total distance is a little under 12 miles.
Bob Falcone
Actual GPS track of this hike.
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Bob Falcone
Trailhead sign and trail. As a "Wilderness Study Area", no mechanized travel, which includes bicycles, is allowed. The area is open only to foot or horseback travel. This hike starts on the Turret Trail/Trail #6045

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