Gunnison Gorge National Conservation Area

The Gunnison Gorge National Conservation Area and Wilderness is located in both Delta and Montrose Counties.  Consisting of 62,844 acres, the National Conservation Area preserves diverse landscapes including desert shrub & sagebursh lowlands to rugged pinon-juniper covered slopes of the Gunnison Gorge.  Within the NCA common animal species include:  mule deer, elk, mountain lion, Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep, coyote, ringtail cat, small mammals, neo-tropical birds, raptors, chuckar,and  river otter to name a few.  The Gunnison River is designated a “Gold Medal Trout Fishery” by the Colorado Parks and Wildlife, trout include rainbow, brown and cutthroat trout.  Sensitive plant species include:  Montrose penstemmon, Delta lomatium, Clay-loving wild buckwheat, Colorado hookless cactus, bald eagle, Gunnison sage-grouse, spotted bat, kit fox, and river otter.

Recreation includes horse back riding, mountain biking, motorcycle and four wheeler riding, and four wheel jeep travel.  Consult the PDF links below and explore the different areas of the National Conservation Area. The second PDF is a trail system sap for:  Flat Top, Peach Valley Recreation Area.  Within the NCA there are many opportunities for camping, from wilderness, non-wilderness river camping, dispersed vehicle camping and day use recreation.

Fishing the Gold Medal Waters of the Gunnison River can be accomplished through trails taking one directly down to the Gorge and into the Wilderness Area. The wilderness area preserves 17,784 acres, with the primary activities of hiking, backpacking, fishing and floating on the Gunnison River. There are four major trails emanating from these access roads:

Chukar Road: 7 miles, trailhead for the Chukar Trail, 1.1 miles.
Bobcat Road: 1.5 miles, trailhead for the Bobcat Trail, 1.5 miles.
Duncan Road: 2.5 miles, trailhead for the Duncan Trail, 1.5 miles.
Ute Road: 2.5 miles, trailhead for the Ute Trail, 4.5 miles.
From Pleasure Park: North Fork to Smith Fork Trail, 4 miles.

Rafting in the Gunnison Gorge Wilderness Area:

Chuckar Trail to North Fork:
Season: Spring-Summer
Day-Use Pass: na
Class of Rapids: III
Length: 13.5 miles
Put-in: Chuckar Trail (1 mile from drop-off to Put-in on the Gunnison River.

Gunnison River below Gunnison Tunnel

  • Streamflow: 642 ft³/s
  • Gage height: 2.62 ft
Streamflow GraphGage height Graph
Hiking into the Gunnison Gorge Wilderness Area:

Chukar Trail:

Great views, Gold Medal Water with 1.1 mile trail down to the river. Chukar is the most heavily used trail in the NCA, with an elevations from 5,376 to 5,958 feet. Like many roads in Western Colorado, the Chukar invites one, with the last several miles being a progressively rougher four wheel drive road. As with all roads in the NCA, travel in wet weather is not advised. At the Trailhead there is a vault toilet, picnic tables with shade, and a visitor check-in and fee box.

Bobcat Trail:

A rough trail from the edge of the ridge down to the river. The last half mile of the Bobcat Trail is scrambling down cliffs to the river. This challenging route has an elevation difference from 5,529 to 6,249 feet.

Duncan Trail:

Trailhead is at the end of Duncan Road, with an elevation difference from 5,350 to 6,128 feet. The trail starts at a saddle on a ridge, with the view of the Uncompahgre Valley to the south and the Gorge to the north. From the trailhead, the distance to the river is 1.5 miles.

Ute Trail:

Ute Road is also listed as a four wheel drive route to the Trailhead. The Bobcat Trail is long and winding from the ridge into the gorge, with an elevation change from 5,369 to 6,512 feet. The distance from the ridge down to the river is 4.5 miles, with a trail along the river of over 3 miles in length. There are 4 designated hiker campsites. At the trailhead there is a vault toilet, shaded picnic table and grill, with a fee station with hiker registration.

North Fork to Smith Fork Trail:

From Highway 92, between Austin and Hotchkiss, locate the Gunnison Gorge NCA sign, turn east on 28.10 Road to Pleasure Park. To access the North Fork to Smith Fork trail one must cross the North Fork of the Gunnison River and follow the trail east along the River for 4 miles of fishing access. At the trailhead there are vault toilets, picnic tables with shade, and cooking grills.

Check out our, “Ride The Gunnison Gorge NCA” page

Fishing the Gold Medal Water:

Gunnison River- elevation 5,058 feet
Fish: Brown Trout, Rainbow Trout
Access: Medium
Boating: Non-Motorized
Additional Info: From 5 miles above Austin (Relief Ditch Diversion) downstream to the confluence with the Colorado River in Grand Junction.
-No bag or possession limit for Channel Catfish, Largemouth Bass, Smallmouth Bass, Northern Pike, Walleye, Green Sunfish, Bluegill, Bullhead, Yellow Perch, or Crappie.

Flat Top- Peach Valley Recreation Area:

The Bureau of Land Management has designed special areas for OTV travel with out trail travel restrictions. At 9,700 acres, these recreation zones provide “play areas” for ATV, cross country motorcycles, and mountain bikes. Consisting of adobe hills and arroyos, as well as, juniper- pinon uplands, these “play areas” allow for un-restricted travel beyond a trail system.

Gunnison Gorge National Conservation Area & Wilderness


Trail System Map: Flat Top, Peach Valley Recreation Area


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