Round Trip Distance: 12.7 miles
Elevation: 4917 - 6802 feet
Cellphone: 0-2 bars
Usage: Hiking - Equestrian - Dogs
Time: 8 hrs. 15 mins.
Trailhead: Coal Canyon
View Spring Creek Trail in a larger map
The Spring Creek trail is located in the Little Book Cliffs Wilderness Study Area and Wild Horse Range north of Grand Junction, Colorado. This rugged canyon area is a great place for viewing wild horses and bighorn sheep. I hiked for over 8 hours and never encountered another person the entire time. At one point of the hike I was taking pictures of wild horses on one side and bighorn sheep on the other. Access to the can be made by taking the Cameo exit on I-70 and driving less than 2 miles along a dirt road to the Coal Canyon trailhead.
The Spring Creek trail runs through a branch of Spring Creek Canyon between Main Canyon and the Hoodoo Canyon trail. I chose to hike up the Main Canyon trail 1.7 miles and then up the Spring Creek trail to the high ridge above the back side of Mt. Garfield and then returned to the trailhead along the same route. The next time I hike the trail I plan on hiking on over the ridge at the top of the Spring Creek trail and taking the Hoodoo Canyon trail back to the trailhead.
After passing through the gate, just west of the parking area, the trail heads up the hill on the right. Main Canyon is just over the ridge to the north of the trailhead. The wild horses have made several trails of their own that go over the ridge. It's a good thing the all end up in the same place or it would be like hiking in a maze.
The stream that runs down Main Canyon is named Jerry Creek. The creek was flowing a lot less water than it was several months ago and that made it a lot easier to cross. The trail crosses the creek several times as it heads up the canyon. The turn off for the Spring Creek trail is about 1.7 miles from the trailhead. If you are off on one of the horse trails instead of on the main trail you can easily miss the turn off.
The seasonal stream bed of Spring Creek makes for a pretty good path when it's dry. The trail follows the stream for almost a mile before it makes a split off to the left up a branch of Spring Creek Canyon. If you are only interested in a short, easy hike then this is a good place to turn around. The difficulty begins to get increasingly more strenuous from here.
Someone has placed a marker on a boulder beside the trail as a memorial to one of the areas benefactors.
The trail climbs steeply at times over the next mile as it heads up the canyon above the stream along a bench. After almost a mile the trail meets up with the stream again. It is best to avoid the temptation to follow the stream bed. The trail crosses the stream again around the next bend and picks up once more on the opposite bank. The climbing kicks into high gear at this point which is about 4 miles into the hike. In the next 4 tenths of a mile the elevation increases 400 feet.
The trail comes to a 'T' junction and levels off as it wraps around the mountain on the left branch. There is a nice stainless steel water trough at Spring Creek Spring. It looks like the trough makes good use of the natural spring. I wonder how it fares in mid summer?
Instead of following the Spring Creek trail to its terminus where it joins the Hoodoo Canyon trail I hiked around the ravine and up the ridge to the top of the cliffs overlooking pretty much everything. The view was laid out for over 100 miles to the south but most of the mountains, like the Grand Mesa, were shrouded in clouds.
The hike back went much quicker as the trail practically drops straight down at times and the cliffs shoot up again once more swallowing the path as it returns to the stream bed in the bowels of the canyon. The difference between the wide open vistas of the top of the mountain and the narrow confines of the inner canyon are striking when experienced along the Spring Creek trail.
There are quite a few hoodoos throughout the canyon. This particular hoodoo looked like the skull of a dinosaur impelled upon a pole.
I spent quite a bit of time watching the bighorn sheep moving about the sides of the canyon. I didn't spot any lambs yet but several of the older ewes looked pretty big in the belly. One of the ewes was wearing a faded collar. I wondered how long she had been living with it. A couple of yearling's interrupted their grazing to butt heads and jump about a bit.
The wild horses look better than they did a few months earlier. I suppose it's a combination of warmer weather, greener grass and a shiny summer coat. Hooray for spring! If you happen to find yourself in the Little Book Cliff Wild Horse Area you will more than likely come across some of the resident wild horses. The bighorn can be a little more difficult to spot. They seem to prefer the warmer south facing slopes and tend to spend most of their time on high ledges where coyotes and mountain lions can be easily spotted. I stop frequently to scan the cliffs for movement. The white hind ends are the easiest part for me to spot.
Birds never seem to sit still long enough for me to get a good picture. It was nice of this Mountain Bluebird to accommodate me. There are a variety of animals and plants to observe in the Little Book Cliffs. You need to keep a careful eye out for some like the Midge Faded Rattlesnake. I carried a lot of gear on this hike. Even in the cooler weather I went drank 100 ounces of water and 40 ounces of Gatorade. If you feel a need to go somewhere and quench your naturalist thirst you might consider visiting the Little Book Cliffs and 'Take a hike'.