Round Trip Distance: 7.3 miles
Race one-way: 4.1 miles
Skill level: Advanced
Elevation: 4805 - 6785 feet
Cellphone: 3 - 5 bars
Usage: Hiking - Dogs
Time: 4 hrs. 45 mins.
Trailhead: Mt. Garfield
Attractions: Wild horses, wildlife, fossils
The Mt. Garfield Grumble is a 4.1 mile foot race up the mountain from the trailhead to the flagpole and down the west side. Most websites have the race listed as around 5 miles but I have measured it several times with my GPS and it is just over 4 miles. That said, it is probably the toughest 4 miles that you will find anywhere. I have run the route quite a few times but I have only ran in the race once.
View Mt. Garfield Grumble in a larger map
When you look at the west side of Mt. Garfield from the valley floor it is hard to imagine there could be a trail on the steep slope. The finish line for the race is 4 -5 miles from the trailhead depending upon which route you take. The participants get rides out of the desert from friends or support vehicles. Whenever I do the Grumble I always keep going around the front of Mt. Garfield back to the trailhead.
The first quarter mile up Mt. Garfield is along a ridge of adobe clay. The trail is very steep and when it's wet the clay sticks to your shoes and adds 5-10 lbs. to your load.
The second quarter mile of the trail winds around huge boulders and at times there can be a lot of scree to slip you up.
After completing the first half mile the trail briefly tops out on a little bench and you get a little more than a hundred yards to catch your breath and pick up the speed. The next field of boulders can require some big step ups and at times maybe the use of your hands to help you along.
The next bench area is the longest stretch of level ground other than the summit ridge. Wild horses can be seen grazing here in the cooler months. After crossing the field the trail begins climbing again at a fairly easy rate.
The trail bends around the face of the cliffs and pops out onto the saddle between the two hills. The next quarter mile climbs at a little steeper rate. This section can be pretty difficult in the winter when it is covered with snow.
After making it up the last steep section and rounding the corner the summit ridge comes into view. One more little cliff and then it's a walk in the park.
Most hikes end here at the flagpole, which is flag-less today, but the Grumble continues on passed the summit. There are numerous cairns to mark the route from this point to the edge of the mountain. The spot where the cairns direct the trail over the side is so steep that it requires you to practically climb down for the first 100 feet or so. I usually go past this spot a little bit to a point where I think it is a little less treacherous.
The trail follows a shallow ravine that descends to an opening in the cliff. The greatest amount of exposure for the trail is at this point. The trail crosses a coal seam that sits on top of a short cliff. This is probably the one section where if you were tripped up and went over the side you could get seriously hurt. Fortunately the trail is always very stable through here and easy to cross.
From here the trail descends at a gradual pace across the face of the Book Cliffs. The trail ranges from 6 - 12 inches wide. If it wasn't for the numerous spots that get washed out where the trail crosses little gullies you could run down this at full speed.
There are I-joists spanning a half dozen or so of the washes. Most of them are shorter spans than the one in the picture.
The trail continues cutting down the slope at times passing between, under and over boulders, until you arrive at what I call Sinners Ridge. When I ran the race I followed the trail markers that lead you off the left side of the ridge and around to the hogback that takes you to the finish line. As I reached the hogback 2 other runners came along at a dead run and passed me up changing my would be 6th place finish to 8th. I came back the next day and found out that they had continued on over the top of the hill where they had a direct shot all the way down the hogback and had cut out the lateral traverse around the hill. There was a big sign on the trail that they had taken that said; Sinners Repent!. The rules of the race said that all you had to do was start at the trailhead, pass the flagpole and take any route you wanted.
Here's a look down the hogback to the final stretch to the finish line. Sometimes I could run faster off to the side of the trail in the softer dirt. There isn't much scree on the trail so if you have any legs left you can really book it.
As far as the Mt. Garfield Grumble trail run goes that is all there is to it. As far as hiking though I still had a little over 3 miles to go to get back to the trailhead. You can follow the road out to the interstate and then follow the road that parallels it back to the trailhead or you can cut across at an angle and knock over a mile off the distance. I followed the wash to the left of the finish line area for over a half mile and then cut across the front of Mt. Garfield at an angle.
This area is about as hospitable as Death Valley. It does have its own little ecosystem that you can explore. The area was used heavily as a dump for many years and you can't help but to see junk sticking up through the ground. There also seem to be a couple of junk yards in the making at a couple of locations. I picked my trail to pass far enough between any of the residences as not to upset anyone.
There is a horse trail that meanders around the base of the mountain or you can hike down the road along the interstate. I tried to stay on the horse trail for part of the way.
I drank 100 ounces of water and 100 ounces of Gatorade while hiking the Grumble. This is the first time that I walked, rather than ran, the whole route. Next time I think I will pack a camp shovel and do a little trail maintenance. On a couple of occasions I parked at the Stagecoach trail and ran up that, then all the way across the top to Mt. Garfield, down the Grumble and out to Patterson Road where I called surfer girl and begged for a rescue ride. Now days I just hike. If you would like to see the Grumble for yourself then all you have to do is 'Take a hike'.