The view’s afoot — hiking
There’s a hiking trail for everyone in the Grand Valley and surrounding areas, whether you have two feet or four paws, a family in tow or are flying solo, can muscle up a hill in no time flat or would rather lie flat, or just want to try something new.
A great place to start is Colorado National Monument (except for furry friends — no pets allowed on these trails). Options range from a quick, quarter- mile jaunt near the Visitor’s Center on Window Rock Trail to a 14-mile round trip haul between the Upper Liberty Cap Trailhead and the Wildwood Trailhead.
East of the Grand Valley is a hiking destination for those seeking cooler temperatures, wildflowers, lakes and clusters of aspens and pines: Grand Mesa.
The Crag Crest Trail is a 10.3 mile loop starting and ending at the East Trail Head above Eggleston Lake (and a bit longer for those taking the West Trailhead near Island Lake just off Colorado Highway 65). Crag Crest Trail allows humans and animals to share the trail and take in a panoramic view of the Bookcliffs, West Elk Mountain Range, San Juan Mountain Range, Uncompahgre Wilderness, Lizard Head Wilderness and the Raggeds Wilderness. The length, dropoffs and the elevation (above 10,000 feet the whole way) may deter some.
If you prefer the quiet in a desert landscape and a chance to glimpse some elusive wild horses, there’s the three-mile Coal Canyon Trail in the Little Bookcliffs Wilderness Study Area, accessible via Interstate 70 from the Cameo Exit (head across the Colorado River and keep heading west).
For those seeking a strenuous hike, the trail up the Bookcliffs’ Mount Garfield will get your heart rate up. Take I-70 Exit 42 at Palisade, turn south on 37 3/10 Road, turn west onto G 7/10 Road and follow it to the trailhead just north of the interstate.
The two-mile trail is steep, so bring water and the right attitude. The 2.5mile Gearhart Mine Trail also leads to the top of Mount Garfield and is a bit easier, but not by much.
Finally, for the kid in all of us, there’s the Trail Through Time Paleontological Trail, a relatively easy 1.5-mile loop in the McInnis Canyons National Conservation Area. It’s accessible off Interstate 70 at Exit 2, the Rabbit Valley exit. The interpretive trail, which is north of the interstate, preserves the remains of a variety of dinosaurs and plant fossils and is adjacent to the Mygatt Moore Quarry.
On the Monument: A short hike with a great view on the Colorado National Monument, but a change in elevation some beginners may find arduous, is the mile-and-a-half round trip Coke Ovens Trail. Start at the Upper Monument Canyon Trailhead about three miles from the Visitor’s Center on Rim Rock Drive. Hike down the switchbacks that begin the decent into Monument Canyon. Head right at a fork in the switchbacks to continue on the Coke Ovens Trail. The trail ends in a fenced overlook of the Coke Ovens, a series of cylindrical rock formations named after the conical ovens that produce a derivative of coal.
On Grand Mesa: Some quick hike options atop Grand Mesa include the paved, half-mile LandO-Lakes Trail with great views, and the 1.7-mile Island Lake Trail along the lake’s south shore. Both trails are accessible off Colorado Highway 65, with Island Lake Trail near the Forest Service’s Grand Mesa Visitor Center and Land-O-Lakes Trail just up the road.