REVERSE MISERY RIDGE LOOP: 3.7 MILES ROUND TRIP FROM THE WELCOME CENTER
Avoid the crowds headed up Misery Ridge and take the scenic River Trail as it winds around the park's main climbing areas, to the Monkey Face spire, and then up to the rim for great views before coming down the traditional route back to the bridge.
From the Welcome Center, go to the Overlook and descend the paved trail, then bear to the right to go down the short, but steep scree Chute Trail.
Alternate route down: take the left fork down the more gradual gravel Canyon Trail and follow it around until it meets at the bottom of the Chute Trail, adding 500 more feet to your trip.
Head immediately left after crossing the bridge on the easy River Trail, that takes you past climbing areas of Morning Glory Wall, The Dihedrals, and Christian Brothers.
Continue along the river past Phoenix Buttress around the Southern Tip of the park until you see Monkey Face, one of the icons of the park, come into view. Continue up the more difficult Mesa Verde Trail by taking the first Mesa Verde connector to head up to the top of the ridge to take in the breathtaking views along the flat part of the Misery Ridge Trail.
Then position yourself wisely as trail challenges you down its more difficult scree twists and turns back to the bridge where you started, then back up either the Canyon or the Chute Trail to the Welcome Center.
TIP: REVERSE OPTION
You can of course do this in reverse, by going slightly right heading up the steep Misery Ridge Trail just across from the bridge. You can take in the views from the summit there, and then head back across the ridge, then down to the river and back to the bridge and back up either the Canyon or the Chute Trail.
TIP: WATCH WHERE THE SUN IS
Dehydration is a huge issue, along with heat exhaustion for hikers on Misery Ridge. Best to go to the left on hot mornings to avoid going up the steep Misery Ridge Trail in full sun.