Kodels Canyon

Rating: 
Round Trip Distance: 3 - 4.75 miles
Difficulty: Moderate
Elevation: 4560-5135 feet
Cellphone: 3-5 bars
Time: 3 hrs. 25 mins.
Trailhead: Kodel's Canyon
Fee: none
Attractions: Scenic canyon, bighorn sheep




Kodel's Canyon is the first major canyon west of the West Entrance to the Colorado National Monument. It is named after an old prospector hermit that once had a cabin in the mouth of the canyon. He dug the mine mentioned in this post and worked the claim for probably at least 30 years until around 1930. The Kodel's Canyon trail by itself is a 3 mile round trip hike but after adding in the distance from the Kodel's Canyon trailhead and back it comes out to 4.75 miles round trip.


To access the trail drive south out of Fruita towards the Colorado National Monument and watch for a turn off along highway 340 just past Kingsview Road and just before Dinosaur Hill. There is a restroom located at Dinosaur Hill. There isn't a trailhead sign but there are a couple of signs on the fence that indicate there is a trail there and once you begin hiking there are trail markers at each of the forks.


Follow the trail heading west from the parking area and take the left fork for the K1 trail.


The K1 trail heads south and west in the general direction of Kodel's Canyon. Enroute it passes several junctions for the K3 trail and is met again by the K2 trail just before dropping over the hill into the wash that drains Kodel's Canyon. Once the trail gets all the way down to the wash go to the left and hike up the drainage towards Kodel's Canyon. Currently there isn't a trail marker at this important intersection.


The trail follows the wash towards Kodel's Canyon and at the 0.9 mile point from the trailhead the K1 trail crosses the K7 trail. At this point stop following the K1 trail and begin following the K7.


Horses are allowed on the trail up to the 1 mile point where there are some hitching posts for any riders that would like to continue on foot.


From that point the trail drops back down into the wash and enters the mouth of Kodel's Canyon. For the most part the trail stays in the wash leaving it only to get around a spot that is clogged with boulders.


At the 1.36 mile point the trail leaves the wash and crosses into the Colorado National Monument. Typically dogs aren't allowed on trails in the Colorado National Monument but this particular entrance isn't currently signed as such.


After entering the monument the trail begins a moderate climb up a grassy hillside. At just under the 1.5 mile point there is a fork in the trail where a short spur branches off on the left that leads to Kodel's gold mine.


Kodel's gold mine is worth the extra quarter mile that it adds to the round trip distance for the hike. The mine is located in a beautiful setting surrounded by black granite cliffs. The mines adit has a metal grate covering it that allows bats to fly in and out of the mine. What was once a hard rock mine is now a bat habitat. The following is an interesting excerpt about Kodel's gold mine from the "Geological Survey Bulletin 1508":

"It was named after an earlyday stonemason turned prospector, a hermit, who came to the Fruita area before 1900 and prospected for gold until at least 1930 in the canyon that now bears his name. He seemingly built a cabin or house near the mouth of the canyon, spent most of the rest of his life in a vain quest for gold in the canyon, barricaded his house against would-be intruders, and took potshots at anyone approaching his home for fear they were after his "gold." Some thought him only half crazy, but when he took repeated shots at an Indian named Henry Kadig, he was adjudged wholly insane and sent to the mental hospital at Pueblo, Colorado* for several years. When he got out he sold the grazing rights in his canyon to the late Irving Beard of Fruita, and seemingly was not heard from again. According to various estimates, Kodel dug an adit between 18 and 150 feet into the dark Proterozoic rock in the side of the canyon (shown in fig. 3), then sunk a shaft somewhere between 30 and 50 feet deep."


After inspecting the mine area retrace the route back to the last junction to continue on to the upper canyon.


The trail that leads into the upper canyon area continues with more of the moderate climbing it began with but eventually it begins leveling off a bit.


The trail peters out near the head of the canyon and a large boulder marks the normal turnaround point.


On the west side of the canyon there is a prominent pinnacle on a point. On the day we were taking pictures for the current post there were some rock climbers scaling the pinnacle via a crack route on the south side of the pillar. The climbers were unaware of a small herd of bighorn sheep that were watching them from a small outcrop about 200 feet away. We have always called this rock Kodel's Thumb.


If you would like to play 'Where's Waldo' then click on the picture, zoom in, and see if you can spot all 7 bighorn sheep in this photo. Three of them are laying down and the other 4 are standing up.


We could hear the rock climbers perfectly but they weren't able to hear us so well when we endeavored to point out the bighorn that were nearby.


While hiking back to the trailhead you might find the site of an Archaic era pithouse interesting. It sits a little above the east side of the lower end of the wash about a hundred yards or so before the trail leaves the wash. There are hundreds of ancient sites such as this in the Grand Valley that mostly go unnoticed. This pithouse would probably have had 4 upright logs supporting a log roof. An entry way probably extended toward the wash allowing the occupants to easily enter the pithouse.


Kodel's Canyon is a little out of the way as far as Colorado National Monument trails go. The park rangers have led tours into the canyon in the past although we don't know if that is a regular occurrence. Bighorn sheep can be spotted most anywhere in the monument. The key is to visit often, watch for their tracks, and listen for the sound of rocks that get knocked loose tumbling down the canyon slopes. Even if the bighorn aren't around the scenic canyon is worth a visit.  If you would like to see it for yourself then all you have to do is 'Take a hike'.