Round Trip Distance: 5 miles
Elevation: 5067 - 5559 feet
Cellphone: 2-5 bars
Usage: Hiking - Biking - Dogs
Time: 2 hrs.
Facilities: Vault toilet
Trailhead: North Fruita Desert
Attractions: wildflowers, deer, coyotes, camping
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The Joe's Ridge trail is located in the North Fruita Desert Area, at the north end of 18 Road, about 8 miles northwest of Grand Junction. The area provides access to several nicely designed trails that are used for hiking, mountain biking and some equestrian. The 18 Road area has around 73 miles of trails counting the 28 mile long Edge Loop that goes up and around the Little Book Cliffs. The various trails can be combined to form hikes of about any length. A campground at the upper end of 18 Road has several restrooms and roughly 35 free camping sites.
For this hike I made use of the Prime Cut trail, that stretches from the trailhead to the cliffs, then the Frontside trail that runs from the campground westward along the front of the Little Book Cliffs, until I was at the top of the Joe's Ridge trail. I followed Joe's Ridge until I was back at the lower end of the Prime Cut trail.
After following the Prime Cut trail for less than a quarter mile there is a marker where the lower end of the Joe's Ridge trail joins the Prime Cut trail. If you want to hike the trail in reverse you could go left here. Otherwise this is the point where I rejoined the Prime Cut trail on the return trip.
The Prime Cut trail is fun to hike. The trail parallels 18 Road by mostly following a gully that meanders up towards the cliffs. The trail stretches for just over 2 miles with the vegetation and juniper trees becoming thicker the higher up you go.
The junction of Prime Cut and Chutes and Ladders is right at 2.1 miles from the trailhead. Following Prime Cut, to the left, will lead over to 18 Road and the campground.
The trail over to 18 Road is fun to follow. There have been rocks placed in the wash to smooth out the ride and protect the trail from further erosion.
When the trail reaches 18 Road you could follow the road for about 100 yards to the Frontside trail or you can just cross the road and follow Kessel Run which is a lot prettier and a lot more like hiking.
After following the Frontside trail for about a half mile you come to the junction of the upper end of Joe's Ridge which splits off to the left.
The upper end of Joe's Ridge stretches for just over 1 mile from the Frontside trail to V.7 Road. Looking down the east side of the ridge you can see that it parallels the campground and it provides some spectacular views of the area surrounding Grand Junction. On a clear day you can see Mt. Sneffels over 100 miles to the south.
It's not hard to see where a mountain bike rider might pause for a moment before coming off of Joe's Ridge. It's not quite as steep as the first part of Mt. Garfield and it is a whole lot more pleasant to descend than Mt. Garfield.
Once the trail meets V.7 Road you can either follow the road, or better yet, there is a trail that runs along the north side of the road. Just past camping spot 35, in the campground, you need to cross over the road to get back onto the Joe's Ridge trail. The trail meets up with Kessel Run, which you could follow all the way back to the trailhead, or just until the Joe's Ridge trail breaks off to the left and crosses 18 Road back to the Prime Cut trail. If you elect to follow Kessel Run you will need to add a little over a quarter mile because it overshoots the trailhead and comes back to it from the south.
Joe's Ridge is a nice short hike that is a lot of fun. There is enough elevation gain, 500 feet, to make you feel like you have had a bit of a workout. There is always the option of camping out and spending a little extra time hiking and biking some of the other trails. If you would like to see it for yourself then all you have to do is 'Take a hike'.