“An exposed ridge scuffle leads to a mile of riverbank exploration.”
— Eric Ashley
Fall Colors · River/Creek · Views
- Wilderness permits are required to enter this route. They can be obtained from the visitor center.
- Campfires are not permitted.
- Poison ivy is present here. Wear long pants!
The unmaintained, rocky nature of this route makes it impractical to keep up any kind of pace.
Unlike the other inner-canyon routes on the South Rim, Devil's Backbone Route allows visitors to access the river without making a commitment to climb and descend 2,000 feet in elevation. It also has one of the longest stretches of riverside in the park, which makes it a good option for capable runners who are looking for a more leisurely, but still demanding outing.
Where it takes off from the end of the East Portal Trail
, the route turns to make a loose scramble over the ridgeline. The unmaintained route isn't clear, and the top portions are an uncomfortable blend of exposed cliff and gravelly tread. The NPS recommends a haul rope to assist your party.
Once down the other side, the going is much easier. From there, the route stretches ahead for nearly a mile of accessible river's edge, where runners can pick their way over rockslides and beneath scattered trees next to the rushing water. The footwork is still involved in places, but nothing like the ridge that starts things off.
The route is an out-and-back, so simply head back when you reach the end. The dramatic setting is beautiful in both directions, so the return is just as exciting.
Flora & Fauna
The waters of the Gunnison River are especially fine for fishing. A valid Colorado fishing license is required, and there are specific regulations to fishing in the area. Find out more by visiting the NPS's fishing page