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Warner Route is a 4.2 mile moderately trafficked out and back trail located near Montrose, Colorado that features a river and is only recommended for very experienced adventurers. The trail offers a number of activity options and is best used from March until October.

Length 4.2 mi Elevation gain 3,034 ft Route type Out & Back

Backpacking

Camping

Fishing

Hiking

Nature trips

River

Views

Wildlife

Muddy

Rocky

Scramble

No dogs

Description
Waypoints (0)
Facilities
Tips

A beautiful and steep hike down to a fantastic canyon and Gold Medal Water and Wild Trout Water designated river. A backcountry pass (required) can be obtained at the South Rim Ranger Station which you'll pass on the way to the trailhead. The rangers can also be helpful in directing you to the trailhead. Access is not straightforward. The trail achieves most of it's 3,000 foot elevation change in under 3 miles so it's not for the faint of heart. Camping at the bottom is limited but adequate for the number of backcountry passes allotted per day. Some are upriver of where the trail meets the river, as is the one camp toilet. Others are slightly downriver and are, arguably, better. This is a wilderness designated area so the utmost care must be made to leave it as it is. No fires, no cairns, no trail markers of any kind, no assembling benches or tabled from rock and logs. Aside from the luxury of a toilet at the bottom, it's true backcountry. You need a "inner canyon permit" for this route and the rangers at the visitor center can give you valuable advice.

One pit toilet on the canyon floor.

Only attempt an out and back in a day if you are packing light and are in great shape. Bring your own water filter and toilet paper if you are camping.

Weather
UV Index
Daylight
Reviews (34)
Photos (150)
Recordings (11)
Completed (61)
Keri Clarke
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarGray StarGray StarThu Jun 25 2020
BackpackingScramble

Holy hell this is no joke. We backpacked in and it took us about 3 hours to get down and 2.5 to get up. Its 3 days later and I’m still crazy sore. The hike itself blows but the camping and fishing is incredible!

J Phil
Yellow StarYellow StarGray StarGray StarGray StarGray StarGray StarGray StarGray StarGray StarThu Jun 11 2020
Hiking

Not really a hike. More of a two-mike drop into the mouth of hell. We did it in a day, and we could hardly walk the next day. A couple sections are hard to find, but mostly it’s well marked. Unless you’re hardcore fishermen, don’t bother. There are better hikes with better views.

Mark Frasco
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarSun May 24 2020
HikingRockyScramble

Listen to other reviews, this trail is hard and requires a permit from the rangers at the visitor center! The descent down to the river is extremely steep and slippery with loose rock and dirt, this will take a lot of time. At times the path was so steep that we were traveling at an hour/mi pace. The ascent was not as dangerous, just be prepared to work. We reached the river at around 2.7 miles after 2hr 15 minutes. Took us 4hr 30 minutes overall after stopping for a little to enjoy the views. Andrew and Dee we have your pictures from the river but lost your number. If you see this try and find me on FB!!

Joe Johnson
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarTue Sep 24 2019
FishingOff trailRockyScramble

This trail was absolutely worth it for the stretch of the river at the bottom but was extremely difficult and I definitely underestimated it. It’s longer than what the app shows, with the mileage from Warner Point (the hike to and from Warner Point from the lot was easy and about .75 miles) at about 2.7 miles. In that 2.7 miles you descend almost 3000 feet. It is very steep but the worst part is is that the trail has very few switchbacks and is mostly composed of very dusty and loose dirt. I figured the climb up would be the hard part. The descent was much more difficult as every little stretch is asking for you to slip and you must proceed extremely slowly to not start slipping on the dust. But you can’t go slow without gripping things nearby because the trail is so steep. I fell a few times and was being very cautious. However just because the hike down was worse doesn’t mean the hike up wasn’t very difficult. Thankfully slipping isn’t as much a concern because you are going very slow and gravity is helping you with friction at most points. But if down was steep, up is sure to be steep too. There are practically no flats or breaks and it is brutal. I stopped countless times on the way up just at small inclines where I could catch my breath. Thankfully the trail is not very busy and I only saw two people on the descent and none on the ascent. Trail aside though, the river at the bottom was gorgeous and you get a different view of the canyon than what all the overlooks provide. And it’s an absolutely stunning view that I think is needed to truly experience Black Canyon. Also the fishing at the bottom was stellar just pack light and be careful not to snap rods if (when) you slip a few times going down. Also bring a lot of water or a way to filter the river water. All in all, it was very strenuous but by far my favorite part of the park.

Shelly G
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarThu Jul 25 2019
Hiking

Take plenty of water; strenuous hike with steep descent over boulders. Beautiful and private backpacking at canyon floor next to river. Ascent is brutal and need a lot of water. Amazing.

Diandra DeWaal
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarSat Jul 06 2019
Hiking

Such a beautiful trail but very very difficult. This hike earns it's "hard" rating. The rangers recommend 1 liter of water per hour, listen to them. Lots of Poison Ivy at the bottom so be careful. Take water filter if able to fill up bottles at the river. Started at 8am and finished around 3:00pm after spending about 1 hour at the river. Wear good shoes!! This National Park is a hidden GEM! Loved the views.

Ruby Anchondo
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarGray StarGray StarFri Jul 05 2019
HikingOff trailRockyScramble

Hardest trail I've ever attempted! We originally wanted to hike the Gunnison Trail but the permits were already all taken (arrived at 7:30 AM on a Friday), so we took whatever else was available. My boyfriend and I are in pretty good shape mid 20's and hike often. Before starting the trail we knew it was not marked but it was traveled enough to find the route. You start off the marked Warner Trail then when you see a post stating "Wilderness Permit Required" you take a left and begin the trail. You start off doing a few switchbacks but nothing crazy, once you're past that you go straight down a valley. We fortunately had our hiking poles to help us brake, but at some points we had to slide down our butts. Some dead trees fall along the valley which are great to hold onto. We came across a couple who said there was about two miles left to go down which I couldn't believe because we were already on the trail for over two hours (Ranger said it was about three hours down). Since you're really just following what looks most traveled we were confident we had been on the correct path. After another hour of loose rocks we knew we were only about half way down. As you are going down you cant help but think, "Dang, how am I going to get back up?" We knew the smartest thing to do was to just head back up. We were very disappointed, but we also did not have camping gear. Going back up is harder on your thighs but you can travel up faster rather than watching every single step while going down and trying to break. Very disappointed that we were running out of time but looking forward to finishing this hike in the near future. This hike is very hard and you need to make sure you bring lots of water and appropriate hiking shoes and pants. Watch your step because there are more loose rocks than stable ones. Always make sure to call out if there is a rocking falling so others may be aware.

Ryan R.
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarWed Jul 03 2019
HikingOff trail

This was a very difficult but very rewarding trail. The descent was slower than the ascent, just because it is so steep it's important to take your time and make sure you have good footing. The bottom has some poison ivy but is easy to avoid so long as you keep your eyes out for it. The river is a nice way to cool off once you reach the bottom. The views along the way are great, but the physical challenge is the most rewarding part of this trail. During the descent, I met some hikers who were climbing out who had gotten off trail and went about a half mile up the wrong ridge before realizing their error. It was a great reminder for me to listen to the ranger's advice and turn around periodically to note the path down. Once you reach the lower section with loose rocks, the trail becomes difficult to find and it would be very easy to make a wrong turn on the way up, as the hikers before me had done. I'm in fairly good shape in my early 30s, the trail took about 4.5 hours round trip (not counting the time spent cooling off at the bottom).

Matt Harris
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarGray StarGray StarGray StarGray StarGray StarGray StarMon Jun 03 2019
Backpacking

like others have said this is by far the hardest trail I've ever done. add a 35lb pack with gear on and you will wonder what in the world have you gotten into. we got a pass to camp and the bottom, however when we reached the bottom the river was too high and we couldn't make our way to the camping area because the trail was 3ft under water and we couldn't find a way around. left with no other options we filled our water up and went back up. I cannot stress how steep and loose the vast majority of this trail is. with packs on, if we did not have hiking poles we never would have made it. took is about 6 hrs to get back up, may could have done that a little faster if we had stayed the night but we were still feeling tired just from going down. I absolutely would not recommend this trail to someone carrying a large pack. the view at the bottom is spectacular but in my opinion the juice isn't worth the squeeze on this one. if you just want to go to the bottom use the Gunnison route or east portal.

Katie Jo T.
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarTue May 28 2019
HikingOff trailRockyScramble

The beauty and difficulty of this route exceeded my expectations. I would recommend this hike only to those comfortable with steep scrambling and remote route-finding. A tough hike with amazing views! Pair with a sunny day and a sturdy pair of hiking boots and you are sure to enjoy yourself.

Amanda Swindle
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarSat May 04 2019
HikingMuddyRockyScramble

Hardest trail I’ve ever done, but very rewarding with views and challenge on the ascent! We had to use cairns for the second half of the descent which was very helpful on the way back up. We are mid 20’s and in shape, took us 5 hours round trip. At some points on the way back up, we had to stop every couple minutes to catch our breath. Take it slow and listen to your body! Very challenging but definitely doable. Probably my favorite hike!

Dakota Bernklau
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarSun Dec 09 2018
Hiking

If you are looking for a hiking experience of a lifetime, look no further! Please be aware that this is a very difficult hike, the park ranger informed us that this is one of the most difficult hikes in Colorado primarily due to the very steep grade, and I have to agree. If you are ready to push your hiking abilities, this hike is for you! No words can describe the beauty of Black Canyon, and Warner Route gives you a perspective of this canyon which very few people have seen. I hiked Warner route with a buddy of mine in early July. The temperatures during the day were just under 100F, so we waited until late afternoon (around 90F) to begin our descent into black canyon. I packed approx. 5L of water for the descent and I drank every bit of it. At the bottom we replenished our water supply at the Gunnison River with a water purifier. We cooled off in the river which was extremely refreshing! We brought hammocks to spend the night at the bottom of the canyon. I do not recommend hammocks as most of the trees at the bottom are kind of scrubby and not adequate for setting up a hammock. We trekked back up Warner Route mid-morning the next day. Near the end of our hike a small thunderstorm passed overhead, laying a foggy mist over the canyon; a view that left us in awe! About the trail: This trail is very diverse, landscapes and trail conditions change drastically throughout the hike. The beginning portion of the trail consists of tight switchbacks which eventually fade into a steep downward slope. The base of the trail changes continuously: dirt, sand, gravel, loose rocks, etc. Tree roots and large rocks are useful hand-holds. Keep your eyes on the trail ahead, it is easy to slip. Some parts of the trail are not very well marked. We took pictures of landmarks along the trail on our way down so that we could find our way back up when returning. Here's a short video of our hike: https://youtu.be/g4AIg9Xsdoc

Mojtaba Safabakhsh
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarGray StarGray StarThu Sep 27 2018
Hiking

Warner route is a lot of intense slopes up and down. You should be ready for that. There are a few forks on the way up that can mislead you off the way. Requires some scouting at times. We benefitted from download of the trail. Although it was very exhausting for me towards the end, I am happy that I could do it.

Navid Safa
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarGray StarGray StarSun Sep 23 2018

The loose rocks make it slow for the distance. It’s not an easy hike. If you’re in good shape, it should take you about 5 hours total. If you’re not in great shape, I wouldn’t recommend it at all...

Robert Gordon
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarGray StarGray StarSun Aug 05 2018
Hiking

This was definitely the hardest hike I have ever done. It didn’t help that we were backpacking in. 2400 feet of the elevation gain/loss occurs in the last mile. Lots of scrambling and climbing. Bring walking sticks for they way down. The trail is exposed most of the way, and can get very hot in the afternoon. It is hot at the bottom too. At the bottom, the campsites are somewhat hard to find. There are a few close to the outhouse, and a few to your left when you reach the bottom. Fishing is not great, unfortunately, so don’t make this hike for the sole purpose of fishing. It isn’t worth it. Still, I give this hike 4 stars, because it is like another world at the bottom. There are no people there, and you feel completely isolated from the outside world. Two thunderstorms passed while we were camping, and the way the sky lights up and the thunder echoes off the steep canyon walls, you would think you were in London during the blitz.

Stacy Petty
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarGray StarGray StarFri Jul 13 2018
Hiking

We hiked it yesterday, down to the river, car to car, in a touch under four hours. We're in pretty good shape for a couple of 50 year olds, have been in better shape; but it gave us a heck of a challenge. I fortunately still had my scrambling gloves in my backpack, and it's a good thing I did. You will need a permit to go down this trail. Usual stuff. Make sure you have enough water, food, rain gear . . . Looking forward to doing it again next time we're in the area.

J Phil
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarGray StarGray StarGray StarGray StarGray StarGray StarMon Jul 09 2018

This trail isn't meant the be done in a day unless you are in top shape. I was sore for days. The trail itself is obvious in most places but has a spot or two where the trail is hard to see on the way back. the view is good at the bottom, but it's not worth doing unless you're an avid fisherman.

Matt Mason
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarTue Jun 12 2018

Really challenging but worth every step.

Adam N
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarThu May 17 2018
Hiking

good hike; a bit more exposed to the sun (and hotter in the pm) than the Gunnison Route. Also less scree/talus than Gunnison, but more loose dirt and packed dirt covered with small/medium sized pebbles that can sit you down in a hurry. as of 5/16/18, all snow/ice is long gone and the walk is quite dry. roughly 1:45 down and the same time back up. the bottom has some great sunning/relaxation spots, so plan to spend some time down there before slogging back up. you can filter nice cold water straight from the river for a great refresher.

Richard Amos
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarGray StarGray StarTue Apr 17 2018
Hiking

Did this hike in mid-April when snow was starting to melt considerably. The path was not icy, but we did not get to the bottom! Beautiful views at the start, and the pathways were largely snow free (although muddy). As you turn for the 'final' descent downwards it gets considerably trickier. As someone with eyes bigger than my stomach, I was up for it, my partner who isn't a fan of slope-scrambles didn't want to go any further. This is a hike where you have to be confident about slip sliding down some pretty rocky path whilst knowing you're coming back up there a few hours later! It is an amazing, easy to follow hike and the river (which we visited in another spot later) would be well worth the trip. But it is difficult, tiring, and the view as you descend further starts to disappear behind trees, so you have to be committed. Saw some very large tracks - maybe elk. Also saw a very stupid wild turkey pottering about at the top. As everyone else says, go to the visitor centre, get advice from a ranger and remember you cannot do this without a wilderness permit.

Tom Stritzinger
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarGray StarGray StarSun Jul 23 2017

Did this hike with my son on 7/21/17. It was tougher than we expected, especially going down. It took us nearly 3 hours to get down thanks to the sheer steepness. It was 2.5 coming back up. Beautiful at the bottom where we did a little swimming in the very cold Gunnison River. Don't underestimate this hike due to its shortness.

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