Round Trip Distance: 7.7 miles
Elevation: 4586-4840 feet
Cellphone: 3-4 bars
Usage: Hiking - Biking - Equestrian - Dogs
Time: 3 hrs.
Facilities: Vault Toilet at Kokopelli Trailhead
Trailhead: Moore Fun Parking area
View Horsethief Bench Loop in a larger map
The Horsethief Bench Loop is part of the Kokopelli Trails system just south of Interstate 70 between Loma and Mack. The Kokopelli Trails are some of the most popular mountain bike trails in western Colorado. To access the Horsethief Bench Loop trail you can park at the Kokopelli Trailhead and follow the road over the hill or you may be able to find a spot open at either the Moore Fun parking area or the Rustlers Loop trailhead. This post begins at the Moore Fun trailhead.
From the Moore Fun trailhead you can follow the road to the beginning of the Mary's Loop trail and follow Mary's Loop for about 1.65 miles to the start of the Horsethief Bench Loop trail. Most of the elevation gain on this hike is at the first part of Mary's Loop. The trail climbs at a fairly steep angle to the top of a bench overlooking the Rustlers Loop trail before it levels off. Once the trail levels off it is some very pleasant hiking to the beginning of Horsethief Bench.
The Horsethief Bench Loop trail has a major 'drop-in' down a very rough section of cliff. The trail drops off about 70 feet. That isn't much of a challenge for a hiker but most bikers carry their bikes both up and down the cliff.
At the base of the cliff there is a sign instructing bikers to take the trail to the left and round the loop in a clock-wise direction. The arrow points right for equestrian traffic and hikers are left to choose either direction. This post follows the trail in the same direction as the mountain bikes. The trail follows along the base of the Entrada sandstone cliff and heads off towards the river.
The trail parallels the Colorado River for the next 1.5 miles as it traipses around the bench along the inside bend of the river. Across the river you can see the mouths of west Pollock Canyon, Rattlesnake Canyon and Bull Canyon which are all in the Black Ridge Canyon Wilderness Area. This part of the trail is a lot of fun to hike with some excellent scenery.
There are lots of small shelves on the trail. This is a short clip of a couple of mountain bikers cruising over a shelf that is a couple of feet high.
There is a sharp corner where the trail comes upon a deep ravine at about 1.8 miles. The trail follows the ravine back to the east for quite a ways before it wraps around the end of it and heads back towards the river.
There are several Indian ruins around Horsethief Bench. These look very similar to a lot of the archaic type rock shelter sites that there are so many of in the area. There are also a lot of pack rat middens, including one in this shelter, that an archaeologist could probably have fun examining.
After the trail re-approaches the river it quickly makes a hairpen turn along another ravine. The further along the ravine the trail goes the shallower the ravine becomes until at last the trail drops into the ravine which now resembles a shallow wash.
The trail skirts the base of the sandstone cliffs as it heads back in the direction of the trailhead. At times the trail makes use of the washes in areas where it breaks away from the cliff.
It's all grunt work for mountain bikers to get back up the cliff out of the Horsethief Bench and get back on Mary's Loop. A person has a choice at this point whether to return down Mary's Loop or to follow it a little further west to its junction with Wranglers and follow that back to their vehicle. This is definitely another great place to 'Take a hike' and enjoy the outdoors in the greater Grand Junction area.