Gooseberry Trail

About two months ago when I had just arrived at Canyonlands and was looking for a hike to do on my day off, one of our generalist rangers, Steve, recommended Gooseberry to me as his favorite hike in the park. I didn’t get to doing it that weekend, and I’m so glad I didn’t, because I think doing Gooseberry by myself, in my first few weeks out here, would have been a very, very bad idea.

Since that conversation with Steve, I had become a little bit more informed on what exactly made up the Gooseberry trail. I knew that it was the shortest route into the canyons. I knew that the entire trail round trip came out to 5.4 miles. I knew that it had an elevation change of 1400 ft in less than 2 miles, so technically, I guess you can say I knew it was steep. But I also knew that it was Steve’s favorite trail, and so it had to be pretty okay, even fun.

What I didn’t know was how crazy Steve really is.

So a few days ago my friend Julia and I had a day off together, and neither of us having done Gooseberry yet, decided it might be a nice little hike to do. 5.4 miles? Nothing. 1400 ft? No problem.

I began to second-guess myself the second we got to the trailhead.

View from the top of the Gooseberry trail. Yeah, I don’t see a trail either.

For one, it being monsoon season, the trail must have flash-flooded the night before, because it was completely washed out and covered in mud. But even in good condition, I would never, ever, consider this trail ‘fun.’

Not only was it steep, which we anticipated, but it was barely a trail at all – less than a foot wide at most places, with a sheer drop off to the side. With every step loose rocks fell from under our feet, taking several minutes to hit bottom. It was a terrifying hour and a half down, and an absolutely painful two hours back up (though I still can’t believe it only took us two hours, it felt like SO much more). Luckily, we made it back without incident, and immediately made our way to the visitor center to report the trail inadvisable to visitors.

I’m really glad I did the Gooseberry trail. It was a serious test of how far I’ve come since my first days here. But will I ever do it again? Probably not. And more importantly, did Steve get a severe butt-kicking upon my safe return? Oh yes he did.

Julia poses for a picture in a rare moment of sure-footed ground

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