Black Canyon of the Gunnison High Point Trip Report

Poison Spring Hill

Date: Memorial Day weekend 2000
Author: John Mitchler

Although Poison Spring Hill is the Park highpoint, you may also wish to investigate the "liner" to the southeast of the VABM 9040.

The two highpoints require bushwhacking and topo-reading skills, and an eight mile round trip with nearly 1,000 ft of gain. You'll need the park map and the Grizzly Ridge topo.

Off CO 92 at the south end of Crawford, take the Black Canyon of the Gunnison Road 11 miles south (the last 6 miles is unpaved gravel) to a T-intersection. The North Rim Ranger Station is to your right (northwest) and the rim-road leading to the trailhead is to the left (southeast). The current topo shows the North Rim Ranger Station in section 29, but it has been moved northwest to section 19.

Turn left at the T, and after driving the hair-raising park road along the canyon rim, you'll come to the Kneeling Camel overlook. This overlook is about 50 yards before the road to the old ranger station and is well before the turnaround at the rim road's end. Park at the overlook.

Walk east along the rim road and turn left (north) on the lane to the old ranger station. Before reaching the old ranger buildings, look for a poorly-marked dirt road to the right (east). This is the Deadhorse Gulch Trail. It is crudely marked (cairns and such) and is poor considering it is an official trail in the national park. This old road goes east and southeast for 2.25 miles to a ungated fenceline.

At this point you may either finish the NP trail by turning right (south) and going another 1/4 mile to the canyon rim; or you may gain the Park highpoint as follows. Go left (north) instead of right, and follow the fenceline uphill to its highest point along the southwest ridge of Poison Spring Hill. To reach the summit, one would cross the fence and follow the ridge.

Scrub oak dominates the landscape, however, cattle trails can be utilized to make good time. A poor east-west road extends along the southern edge of the hill's summit. Follow that east a bit and you should be able to spot the survey tripod wood and BM (Poison Spring Hill 1934, no elevation). A triangulation BM is in the middle of this road, pointing to the BM.

If you want to visit the liner, continue east off the summit for a quarter mile and watch for an 8 foot high fence about 50 yards to the north. Go to that and follow it east, exploiting the path it cuts through the shrub forest. Go about a third of a mile and then cut south, reading the land's topography and matching it to the topo.

The liner HP is on the south ridge of Poison Spring Ridge, about a quarter mile east of the 8,800 ft contour label on the topo. The NP/in-holding boundary is not on the topo, but it is on the park map. Luckily, it appears as a fence in the field. So as you descend off the hill, watch for an east-west fenceline. The HP of the ridge (and presumably the liner HP) is 20 yards west of the junction of the east-west fence and a north-south fence. To avoid crossing onto the private-property inholding, walk the fencelines from 8281 (SW corner of section 34) and follow the fence line to the liner HP (which is approximately at the center of the SE quarter of section 34). Walking the fenceline in this route will require much more up and down as the fence cuts across the gullies on the south slope of Poison Spring Hill.