Despite the mud, Ribbon Trail is a great hike close to Grand Junction
My friend Elaine Rau raved about the Pollock Bench Trail the other day.
“Gorgeous,” she gushed. “Drop-dead gorgeous. Jaw-dropping gorgeous. Spectacular.”
“The rock formations in those canyons are incredible,” she exclaimed. “They’re awesome. Really just jaw-dropping. And they’re right here in the valley.
Well, as incredible as Pollock Bench Trail is, the night before I wanted to hike, it snowed, rendering that same gorgeous trail quite muddy.
I just hate to muck up a good trail. I think land managers hate for me to do that, too. So I opted for another of my favorite hikes in the valley — the Ribbon Trail. It’s longer than most, steeper than some, and very unique.
Yet, the upper trail head was full of snow the other day, and the lower trail was muddy, although not as muddy as Pollock Bench.
Go figure, it had just snowed. So, if you’re trying to avoid mud from now until it really freezes, stick to the Colorado Riverfront Trail.
If not, the 40,000-acre Bangs Canyon area is managed by the Bureau of Land Management and encompasses several wild canyons, including Bangs and Northeast Creek. It extends from the Uncompahgre Plateau to the south bank of the Gunnison River.
Here, water has cut through the Morrison and Entrada sediments to form brilliantly colored hideaways on the flanks of the Uncompahgre uplift.
To reach the lower Ribbon Trail from Fourth and Main in Grand Junction, go west on Main to First Street; turn right and go to Grand Avenue (Colorado Highway 340). Turn left, cross over the Colorado River and turn left at the stoplight on Monument Road, heading toward Colorado National Monument.
Turn left at D Road just past the Redlands Pet Clinic and before you cross the Redlands Canal. Stay on D Road as it turns right on Rosevale Road.
Go 1.1 miles and turn right on Little Park Road. The Little Park Staging Area is on your left, 5.8 miles from downtown Grand Junction, 4.3 miles from Monument Road and D Road.
The staging area provides a large parking lot for various outdoor recreational enthusiasts. Users of the Ribbon Trail must cross Little Park Road and saunter back down the road for about two-tenths of a mile.
You’ll find the spur trail leading to your left and down. At the bottom of this canyon, about .4 miles away, is the Ribbon Trail.
On your way down, you can literally hike through one of the coolest mud slides you’ve ever seen.
If you’re scared of the dark, hike around the tip of the slide. If you’re adventurous, however, take your sunglasses off, keep a hand in front of your forehead, and trek through a natural tunnel through the ancient slide to reach the same trail on the other side. Careful, though. It’s a mud slide, and it’s muddy right now.
At the bottom of the canyon, turn left for the Ribbon Trail, or right to Andy’s Loop, a fabulous mountain biking trail that leads to the Lunch Loop/Tabeguache Trail head on Monument Road.
To reach the upper Ribbon trail head, continue on Little Park Road. You’ll travel past the old Little Park Bentonite Site, past the Little Park Staging Area (about 2.5 miles past the Bangs Canyon Staging Area), past the Old Kiln Trail head (another 1.5 miles up the road), then up to the Ribbon Trail head.
Here, you’ll find a parking lot on your right that’s large enough for horse trailers. It’s 9.5 miles from downtown GJ.
The Ribbon Trail is dog friendly and restricted to hikers, horseback riders and bicyclists. This particular trail is closed to motorized traffic and there’s no overnight camping, open fires or shooting.
Elevation varies from 6,172 feet to 5,600 feet and drops immediately through a pinyon/juniper environment.
Lichens and mosses cover the sandstone beneath those squat pinyon and juniper where recent snows continue to melt. From here, you can see and feel just how large Grand Mesa is on the east side of the Grand Valley.
You can comprehend how impressive the Roan Plateau is as its massive shape casts a somewhat foreboding backdrop to Mount Garfield and the front of the Bookcliffs, running toward the west and the sunset.
To the south, the white-capped San Juan Mountains jut into the horizon 100 miles away.
In a quarter mile, you’ll come to the largest slab of exposed Kayenta formation rock you’ve ever seen. In the heat of the summer, it reflects sun like a massive solar reflector. In the winter, when there’s lots of snow, it’s one of the wildest sled rides you’ve ever been on, but BEWARE — it’s so large, and you can get going so fast, it can become very dangerous.
But at least it’s not muddy.