Out with a bang: Ribbon Trail at Bangs Canyon something to be thankful for


Ribbon Trail

Drive time and distance: 21 minutes, 9.5 miles

Length: 4.4 miles one way

Elevation: 5,600 feet to 6,172 feet

Hiking Time: 2-4 hours

Difficulty: Moderate to tough

There’s so much to give thanks for this Thanksgiving weekend. I’m thankful for my family, for my friends, for where I live and for what I do.

I’m very thankful for a kind and talented editor who’s patience allows me to be late with my column week after week.

I’m also thankful for numerous places to hike within minutes of downtown Grand Junction. Bangs Canyon is one of those places, and it’s beautiful this time of year.

The Bangs Canyon area offers short hikes, long trails, fat tire bicycle trips, four-wheel-drive roads, four-leg-drive horse rides, you name it. Recreationally, it’s truly designed for multiple uses. One of my favorite hikes, though, is the Ribbon Trail. It’s longer than most, steeper than some, and very unique.

The 40,000-acre area managed by the Bureau of Land Management 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.

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 the 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. At mile 7.7, you’ll find a dirt road on the left leading to the Bangs Canyon Staging Area for the Tabeguache Trail.

Motorized and mechanized travel is restricted to marked routes and this area is part of the BLM’s Adopt-A-Trail Program. The West Slope ATV Association has adopted this section.

Continue up Little Park Road and travel past the old Little Park Road Bentonite Site, past the Little Park Staging Area (about 2.5 miles past the Bangs Canyon Staging Area), past the Old Kiln Trail 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. This trail has been adopted and maintained by Siemens Medical Solutions employees.

Most of the Bangs Canyon area is open to hikers, Jeeps, ATVs, horses, motorcycles and bicycles. However, travel is restricted to marked routes. 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 the snow melted earlier this month and left moist depressions.

The tops of mushroom-shaped sandstone formations show deep-colored reds melting into rust, melting into tan, melting into black, melting into sand. In the early morning and late evening, the colors are fantastic.

From here, you can see and feel just how large the Grand Mesa is on the east side of 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 still-white-capped San Juan Mountains jut out of the ground 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.

Want a little less danger? Check out the Western Colorado Botanical Gardens at 7th Street and the Riverside Parkway. Here, you’ll find a plethora of hiking ideas in the form of “Haggerty’s Hikes in a Bottle,” a collection of 52 hiking columns from yours truly.

For a small donation of $19.95, you’ll not only get ideas for 52 different hikes here in western Colorado and eastern Utah, you’ll also get a handsome, stylish and distinctive water bottle to go with them.

Or, you can check out the brand new Western Colorado Botanical Gardens 2010 Calendar. For $10, you can view a dozen gorgeous large format photos of our lush gardens, and a handful of smaller photos. All proceeds from both products help keep the Gardens open to all of us, and I’m extremely thankful for that.


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