Hike to the top of Mount Garfield to see what locals call Grand Junction’s “Best view in town”
On the way up Mount Garfield and especially from the overlook at the top, you will get amazing views over the Grand Valley with Grand Junction and Palisade with it’s orchards to the south and the lunar-like landscape running out from the bottom of the cliffs to the west.
This is a difficult and challenging hike for three reasons
The amount of elevation gain (2000 feet)
The steepness of the walk up the spines of the alluvial fan-like finger at the start and end of the hike
The exposure to the sun is brutal, (this is why most people get an early start to this hike to avoid being exposed to sun and the heat of the day, and you should consider doing the same)
The hike is rewarding but be careful and plan appropriately in the heat of the summer, do not run out of water on this hike!
Mount Garfield (6637 feet) named after President James Garfield, sits 2000 feet above the highway and Grand Valley. Setters moved into the valley in 1882 and dedicated the promontory above their valley to Garfield who was assassinated in 1881.
The mountains running along the north side of Grand Junction are called the Bookcliffs because they resemble “books on a shelf” as first noted in 1853 during John Gunnison’s expedition through the Grand Valley and the name stuck ever since.
They were formed as part of the Colorado Plateau, the rippled appearance on the lower portion of the faces of the Bookcliffs is the erosion of an ancient seabed formed about 75 million years ago.
From the north end of the parking lot head out on the trail heading west. In a few hundred feet, the trail faintly splits, but continue to the right, you should see the trail heading straight up the spine of one of the alluvial fingers. There is a stone marker at the bottom. This part of the route is the steepest and is about 45 minutes of steep walking.
The trail alternates between being steep and very, very steep.
Eventually, individual large boulders seem to block the route, but the trail finds its way around them. Towards the top the route becomes confusing with multiple trails, but they all head upwards and eventually will converge so just keep going up.
The trail finally flattens out and you cross a large grassy bench via a well-worn path. Don’t be deceived, at this point it seems like you’ve climbed pretty high, but you’ve only completed 800 of the 2000 feet of vertical climb at this point.
The flat trail eventually ends with a rocky, boulder-strewn climb to a second grassy meadow.
Looking back over the bench while climbing up to the meadow
At the meadow’s far end is another climb that heads up and toward your left.
After the climb, the trail runs parallel to the bottom of the cliff face, climbing gently as a single track with great exposure to your left.
Around the next corner is yet another climb. This time the route finding can be difficult, the trail becomes confused and disappears once you start getting higher, but the idea is to reach the top of the cliff face and head to your left. Look for signs of boots and scratches on the rocky surfaces from others hiking poles.
Once you work your way to the top the trail flattens out for a short distance before coming to your final climb to the mesa top. Again the trail is confused, but keep heading upward until you top the mesa.
The views over the Grand Valley are stunning
From here it’s just a short 0.25 miles to the flag pole at the overlook for great views over the Grand Valley.
3.6 miles round trip out and back with 2000 feet of elevation gain
Dogs okay, but steep
No shade, a hot trail in the summer, bring more water than you think you will ever need
Watch out for water in the tunnel beneath I-70, after snow or rain the water in the culvert can be too deep
After snow or rain the trail can be slick and dangerous
In the upper sections, if you see piles of horse manure on or near the trail keep your eye out for wild horses
Best photographs are from the top at sunrise or sunset, afternoons can be hazy over the valley
Culvert Route (Culvert can be impassable due to wet weather)
From I-70 take exit 42, head south to G 7/10 Road and follow it west for 1.5 miles to where it turns north and passes under I-70 through a culvert to the parking lot
Alternative Route (Dirt roads can be impassable due to wet weather)
From I-70 take exit 42, head south 0.8 miles to G Road and follow it west for 4.4 miles.
Turn right on 33 Road and cross over I-70, take your first right onto the good dirt frontage road for 1 mile, when the road turns left (north) continue onto a poor dirt road, continue for 2 miles to the trailhead.