Unaweep Canyon

The Grand Canyon of Colorado is the Unaweep Canyon, a unique geological feature in western Colorado.  Tom and I took a day to explore the canyon while we were in Colorado.  The unique thing about the canyon is that two creeks flow in opposite directions out of the canyon, separated by the Unaweep Divide.

To get to Unaweep Canyon, you take US 50 south of I-70 in Grand Junction.  Then you turn west on CO 141.  This is also the Unaweep Tabeguache Historical and Scenic Byway, which is 133 miles of constantly changing, beautiful scenery.  The Unaweep Canyon, which is the first part of the drive, has sheer cliffs and steep roads that climb the granite rock formations on either side.

At Gateway the scenery changes from granite rock formations back to sandstone cliffs that run along the Delores River.  This section of the Unaweep Canyon looks very much like portions of the Grand Canyon in Arizona.  We stopped to read all the historical markers and saw the remains of the Driggs “mansion” and the hanging flume that helped miners along the Delores River.  There were free-range cattle along the valley and several horse ranches.

Gateway is interesting because it looks like a typical crossroad western town on the map.  It contains, however, the new and luxurious Gateway Canyon Resort.  This is the top resort in Colorado and voted the #12 resort in the world in Conde Nast.  It is a luxury resort in the middle of nowhere Colorado and was quite a surprise when we saw it.  Gateway Canyon Resort offers golf, horseback riding, OHVs, a classic car museum, as well as lavish rooms and a first class restaurant.  If we weren’t living in our luxury 5th wheel, we would have been tempted to stay for a night or a week!

There are not a lot of hiking trails along Unaweep Canyon, but we did find a few.  We drove to the summit of one of the granite peaks by going up Divide Road and hiked around on BLM land for a while.  The granite cliffs here tower 1,200 feet above the valley floor.  Then we pulled over along the Dolores River and walked there also.  There are quite a few scenic overlooks and plenty of places to pull over and gawk at the landscape.  There are also two lovely picnic rest stops beside the creek in the Canyon.

The granite cliffs of Unaweep Canyon from the top of Divide Road
Another view of Unaweep Canyon
The Driggs “Mansion”
West Creek Picnic Area
A sandstone mesa
Gateway Canyon Resort
Dolores River
The Hanging Flume
Sandstone buttes
The General Store and Duesey’s Diner in Gateway

Unaweep Canyon is not the only canyon in Colorado, but it is one of the most accessible and beautiful.  There are plenty of interesting things to see and do along the route.  It may not be the Grand Canyon, but it is definitely a grand canyon of Colorado.

Four down, 46 to go.

  • Kristin Burkey

    Is there actually a “Grand Canyon” in every state?

  • revkaren54

    Tom and I have done some research and we have found 33 states that have some kind of designated “Grand Canyon.” We are trying to find a “grand canyon” in every state we visit.

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  • Gonad McGillicuddy

    Unaweep is my “back yard” — and i enjoy when others talk about it. Nice of you to consider it the “Grand Canyon” of the state, but of course you know others will argue (1) Royal Gorge (2) Glenwood Canyon (3) Black Canyon, and etc. but it is the ONLY 2-mouthed canyon (in the world, some say) and, well, “my” back yard!

    • revkaren54

      Thanks for your comment! I have been to Royal Gorge (private, short but deep), Glenwood Canyon (impressive but full of stuff), Black Canyon of the Gunnison (the grandest canyon in CO) so all were considered. Unaweep certainly looks the most like the Grand Canyon in AZ and has a varied landscape that was really beautiful. I think I can continue to make a case for it.