Distance: 10.6 miles (round trip)
Walking time: 6 1/4 hours
Elevations: 620 ft. loss/gain
Trail: The first 2.8 miles of trail is actually an old jeep road that has been closed to vehicles by the BLM. The 0.8 mile section of trail that descends from the canyon rim into Grand Gulch is a good trail. The remainder of the route is an easy walk through the bottom of Grand Gulch.
Season: Spring, summer, fall. Spring or fall are the ideal times for this hike. The canyon is very hot in the summer and cold in the winter. The road to the car parking area is unpaved for the last 9 miles and may be impassible in wet weather. For current conditions call the San Juan Resource Area, Bureau of Land Management, in Monticello at (435) 587-2141.
Vicinity: Near Mexican Hat
Big Man Pictograph Panel
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Before you begin this hike, pause to examine the small pond near the car parking area. The pond is an oasis in the middle of a largely waterless tableland. Although it was constructed originally by local ranchers for the purpose of watering their cattle, it has since become a haven for birds, deer, and coyotes. If you arrived too late in the day to begin your hike, the pond is a delightful place to spend the night. One starry, spring evening while I was camped there I was treated to an unforgettable outdoor performance by a local orchestra of very talented frogs and birds. The concert began at dusk, with a few bass frogs tuning up their instruments, and as the night wore on they were joined by a variety of birds and insects and even an occasional coyote yipping from a nearby hill. By about 10:00 p.m. the musicians all seemed to be doing their utmost to outdo each other, and although none of them could be seen I am sure they could be heard at least a mile away.
Years ago it was possible to
drive a jeep from the cattle pond all the way to the rim of Grand
Gulch, where the Government Trail begins. The Grand Gulch is
now designated as a Primitive Area, however, and the road beyond
the pond is closed to all vehicles. Getting to Government Trail
today requires a 2.8 mile walk along the former jeep road. The
walk can be hot in the summer, but it is not without a measure
of scenery. The road parallels Pollys Canyon, across a flat,
open forest of juniper and pinion pine and lots of sagebrush.
It is ideal rabbit country and, consequently, supports a large
population of coyotes. After an hours walk the road suddenly
arrives at the canyon rim, where a weathered wooden sign identifies
the Government Trailhead.
If you are interested in a supplemental map of the
Big Man Pictographs area, we recommend:
Grand Gulch Plateau (Trails Illustrated, map #706)