Kodels Canyon is perfect hike outside Colorado National Monument

The best part about Kodels Canyon is that it’s close to home, right near Colorado National Monument. To find it, go west on Interstate 70 to Fruita, Exit 19.


Kodels Canyon

Drive time and distance: 15 minutes, 12.7 miles

Length: 3.5 mile loop with spur trails

Hiking Time: 2-3 hours

Difficulty: Easy to semi-strenuous

It’s quick. It’s beautiful. It’s not very crowded.

Kodels Canyon is a great place to hike, and it’s easy to reach. Kodels is the canyon just to the right or west of the Fruita entrance into Colorado National Monument.

I haven’t written about this canyon for a few years because I haven’t hiked here for a few years. Last Saturday, however, as I three-putted the last hole on the Monument nine at Adobe Creek Golf Course, I thought to myself, “I’m better at hiking than golfing. Maybe I’ll hit Kodels Canyon this week.”

So I did, and you can, too. To find it, go west on Interstate 70 to Fruita, Exit 19. At the top of the ramp, navigate through the round-abouts and head toward the National Monument (to your left) on Colorado Highway 340. Travel across the Colorado River and pull off the right-hand side of the road a couple of yards past the Kings View Estates turnoff, about 1.4 miles from I-70.  There’s a small graveled area where you can park.

At the trail head, you’ll spy a couple Bureau of Land Management signs directing you onto a trail system established for Kodels, Devil’s, Flume and Pollock Bench trails. The Kodels Canyon Trail ranges in elevation from 4,500 feet to about 5,100 feet, depending on how far you want to climb. The first part of the trail is easy, but the last part is a little more strenuous.

At the start of the trail, you’ll head west, then southwest and down toward the wash.  The trail forks in several places and BLM signs mark trails K1 and K2 at the first fork. I traveled on the K1 stretch to begin this week’s hike, although you could stretch it out a bit by taking the K2 trail to K3. You could easily take K1 to K3, or take K2 to K1, back to K7.

The “K” stands for Kodels, just as “D” designates trails in Devils Canyon and “P” stands for Pollock Canyon trails. It’s handy to have the BLM’s “Devils Canyon and Pollock Bench Trail System” brochure, so you can learn your KDPs. All these trails are marked on that brochure, available for free at the BLM office near the airport in GJ.

As you hike up toward Kodels Canyon, you’ll come to a BLM fence with signs and travel instructions. From the trail head to this point, hikers and horseback riders are allowed. From this point forward, only hikers are allowed.

Back in 2007, this canyon was vandalized by a spray-painting geek who was later caught after spraying the name of his girlfriend all over these drop-dead gorgeous cliffs.

The perpetrator, along with his accomplice and approximately 60 good-hearted BLM volunteers traveled here in early 2008 to clean up the mess. I couldn’t even see where the graffiti used to be. Those volunteers did a great job.

At the mouth of this beautiful canyon, you’ll enter a broad amphitheater-type sandstone structure. You’ll eventually come to the BLM/NPS boundary, but keep going as this canyon widens and opens to tall Wingate Sandstone walls and eventually into Precambrian rock.

The lower reaches of this trail are dog friendly, however once inside Colorado National Monument boundary, dogs are not allowed.

The trails here are managed as “Designated Trails Only.” Open trails are signed and marked. The BLM is closing and rehabilitating numerous excess routes through this area.

You can help by staying on the designated trails. In the long run, it will provide for a much better trail system, but no matter which trail you stumble upon here, you’re sure to get a good hike out of it!

PERFECT GIFT FOR THE HIKER IN YOUR FAMILY: Are you still looking for that perfect gift for the hiker in your life? Well, you still have a chance to purchase a copy of “Haggerty’s Hikes in a Bottle,” while supplies last!

Published by Pyramid Printing with the generous support of The Daily Sentinel and Gene Taylor’s Sporting Goods Store, “Haggerty’s Hikes” features 52 hiking columns — a hike a week for a year — from Colorado’s Continental Divide west to the slot canyons of southeastern Utah. All hikes are expertly mapped by the Daily Sentinel’s award-winning graphic artist, Robert García.

Each hike is listed on a separate sheet of tough, semi-waterproof paper and gathered on a small carabiner clip. The collection is rolled up inside a high-quality water bottle.  All proceeds go to the operations and maintenance of our very own Western Colorado Botanical Gardens.

Get your copy (only $19.95, tax-deductible) from The Gardens Gift Shop at Riverside Parkway and 7th Street, or at Gene Taylor’s Sporting Goods, 445 W. Gunnison.

Don’t delay. Hike on over there today!


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