Corbett Creek

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Corbett Creek Canyoneering Canyoning Caving
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Difficulty:3C1 III (v4a3 III)
Raps:‌10-13, max ↨200ft
Overall:6-8.5h ⟷3.9mi
Approach:1.5-2h ⟷3.1mi ↑2020ft
Descent:4-6h ⟷5ft ↓1420ft
Exit:30min ⟷0.8mi ↓450ft
Red Tape:No permit required
Rock type:Cutler Sandstone
Condition Reports:
28 Jul 2023

"Bolts at the big rappel have been fixed after a flood in 2022 damaged those anchors. Slippery - all downclimbs needed a rope for safety with the bigge

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Best season:
BEST in Aug;Sep


A unique canyon carving a narrow gorge through the red sandstone of the Cutler Formation. A few long rappels, several short rappels and lots of good downclimbing.

Note: Early season slippery or higher water conditions will change many late-season downclimbs to short rappels.


Drive north on Highway 550 for 2.1 miles form the Ouray Hot Springs Park. Turn Left over the bridge and an immediate right onto County Road 17. Proceed for 0.3 miles to the parking area for the Corbett Creek/ Dallas Trailhead. Note: the parking area moves around over the years based on flood debris from flash floods, which have gone through Corbett Creek.

Hike up the Corbett/Dallas Trail for 2.5 miles. Stay left at the first junction with the Dallas Trail to remain on the Corbett Trail. Once most of the elevation has been gained and just after a stunning aspen forest, stay left at the second junction with the Dallas Trail to continue. Cross the North Fork and continue to the Main Fork. Depart the trail when it is closest to the Main Fork and enter the stream.

A slow hiker will take 2+ hours for this hike. A moderate pace will take about 90 minutes.

To descend the South Fork, scramble up the south face of the Main Fork Corbett drainage (38.04059, -107.71102) and traverse a short distance to the South Fork.


beta updated July 2023 and rappels renumbered

    Updated Corbett Creek Profile (2023) reflecting changes and corrections to the guidebook Canyoning in the Colorado San Juan Mountains, uploaded by the author Ira Lewis. The guidebook contains profile maps like this for all 55 canyons in the book.
  • Main Fork

    R1: 130' from a tree higher up a small slope on Canyon Left. Some suggest creeping the rope to mitigate sharp edges. The rappel is free hanging

    R2: 25' and R3: 30' are in quick succession. Anchors vary based on flash floods. Build a deadman anchor or look for trees. These can both be bypassed on Canyon Left, but it is not an ideal path through the brush.

    R2 & R3 have been described as "a couple fun downclimbs that may require a partner assist. [For the] ~15 foot drop [at R3] go down the dry chute in the middle to the right of the waterfall chute, which could be stemmed but would be very slippery. To descend the dry chute, lower your pack down, lie back spread eagle to get the most friction, and use the crack for a foot hold and the hand holds. Partner assist those in need." Stuck ropes could be retrieved using the bypass gully on Canyon Left.

    R4: 50' from a tree root on Canyon Right for a low angle rappel just above the confluence with the South Fork

    South Fork

    SF R1: 170' from tree CR

    SF R2: 100' from tree CL

    some downclimbs including a short rappel (R3) of 20'

    SF R4: 55' from tree CR

    Confluence of South Fork and Main Fork

    R5: 80' from a tree on Canyon Right for two tiers

    R6: 200' direct from bolts on Canyon Left
    Preferred/suggested: R6A: 45' to the rebelay station on Rappeller's Right after the small pothole, then R6b: 170' from the rebelay station.
    Rebelay Stations are safer as they allow someone manning the station to keep eyes on their teammate while on rappel. (this is also a great place for photos).

    Also consider that this canyon frequently flashes and the floor level tends to rise and fall, specifically this is noticeable at the bottom of R6.

    A Narrows section quickly follows the big R6 waterfall.

    R7: 15' from a small slung tree on Canyon Right. This be downclimbed in lower water conditions.

    R8: 100' from bolts on Canyon Left for three short drops ending at the base of the North Fork waterfall

    A Downclimb on Canyon Right around a large boulder signals the start of the Red Cutler Sandstone layer.

    R9: 100' from bolts on Canyon Right down three turning tiers into a deep chamber below.

    R10: 65' from bolts higher on Canyon Left right around the corner just downstream of R9. The waterfall is only 25'.

    R11: 20' from a rock pinch on Canyon Right.

    R12: 45' from a rock in Canyon Center can protect a downclimb depending on conditions into a stunning little narrows with a spring-fed small waterfall coming in on Canyon Right.

    R13: 30' from a rock pinch on Canyon Left.

    Continue downstream until the canyon opens. Round the bend to the left and depart Corbett Creek for the exit when Corbett Creek turns right again.


    Continue down canyon until the narrows end, passing a tributary waterfall on canyon right. A minute or so downstream is a large sandy beach on canyon left. Beyond the sandy beach, follow Corbett Creek around the sharp turn to the left and locate a well-worn trail on Canyon Left, which leads back to the trail used for the approach. Hike downhill back to the car for a mile.
    Continuing downstream from this exit forces travelers onto private land in direct view of local's backyards. Please abide by the exit trail avoiding the private land below.

    Red tape

    Beta sites

    Trip reports and media

    8-10-2015. Group Size: 10. Total time: 7 hours. Hiking Time 2 1/2 hours. Time in Canyon: 4 1/2 hours. This was not a fast group. Longest rappel: 190 feet. # of Rappels: 7.

    9-3-2017. Group Size: 4. Total time car to car: approx 9 hours. We lost time on the first rap where we got the rope a bit stuck and on the big rap where we used the belay station instead of going in one shot. 2 of the people in the group were very experienced, but we were not in a rush. Great warm day.

    2023-07-28 4 people, bolts fixed at the big rappel (R6). Slippery. Water level was high, but workable.



    Information provided by automated processes. KML map by (unknown). Main photo by (unknown). Authors are listed in chronological order.

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