Round Trip Distance: 6.5 miles
Elevation: 5033 - 5397 feet
Cellphone: 2-5 bars
Usage: Hiking - Biking - Equestrian - Dogs
Time: 2 hrs. 40 mins.
Facilities: Vault toilet
Trailhead: North Fruita Desert
Attractions: wildflowers, wildlife
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The Vegetarian trail is located in the North Fruita Desert Area, at the end of 18 Road, about 8 miles northwest of Grand Junction. The area is popularly referred to as simply '18 Road'. Working with various groups in the area the BLM has set aside different sections of the land for ATV use and mountain biking. The trail area at the end of 18 road is open exclusively to hiking, mountain biking and some equestrian. There is a campground with vault toilets and about 35 camping spots equipped with picnic tables and fire pits. The camping is currently free of charge but there has been talk in the past of introducing a fee of $10/night.
By itself the Vegetarian is a real 'no meat and potatoes' trail less than 2 miles long. For this outing I combined it with sections of the Edge Loop trail to make a nice loop hike of 6.5 miles with a little more substance. If you would like to try something shorter an out and back hike would be 3.5 miles or by making use of a section of the Chutes trail you could make a loop of just under 5 miles. All of these options begin by crossing 18 Road from the North Fruita Desert trailhead parking area and descending the hill to the junction of Prime Cut and the Edge Loop. Take the right fork and hike up onto the berm of the stock pound.
There is another trail junction on the east side of the stock pond where the Vegetarian trail begins at the left fork while the Edge Loop trails off on the right. The two trails parallel each other a little for a short distance.
The Vegetarian trail works its way east through the valley for about a mile and then climbs a short hill, meandering for awhile before reaching its eastern end at the Chutes and Ladders trail. It is at this point that you could turn around and hike back to the 1.75 miles back to the trailhead for a 3.5 mile hike or turn right on the Chutes trail, follow it for 1 mile to the Edge Loop, and follow the Edge Loop back to the trailhead for a total distance of about 5 miles all together. For my hike I took the left fork to get over to the Edge Loop Cutoff trail.
After taking the left fork of the Chutes and Ladders trail it is only about another 50 yards before the next junction where the Edge Loop Cutoff begins. At this point I abandoned the Chutes trail and followed the Edge Loop Cutoff trail as it headed off further towards the east.
The hike becomes much more interesting as it progresses along the Edge Loop Cutoff. There are many more areas of juniper trees and several gulches to cross.
The trail crosses a jeep road at the 2.55 mile point. If a person needed to cut about a half mile off the hike they could turn right onto the road and follow it on out. The road is part of a loop that takes you over to Layton Wash. If you continue on you come to the road again at 2.88 miles. At this point the Edge Loop Cutoff follows the road to the right leading away from the Book Cliffs.
I came upon 3 different herds of deer in this area that were all within about a quarter mile of each other. There is another junction about a quarter mile down the road from the last trail marker where the Edge Loop continues east toward Hunter Canyon. To get back to the trailhead you need to not take that trail and stay on the road. That trail will take you around toward Hunter Canyon and on top of the Little Book Cliffs where you will head back to the west to Coal Gulch and back to the trailhead via the Frontside trail. It is a loop of over 25 miles which I will save for another day.
This section of the Edge Loop follows the road for a little over a mile. At about 4.35 miles into the hike the trail leaves the road on the right side.
The trail drops down from the road and passes by another stock pond. I can't imagine how desperate I would have to be before I would try to filter any of that water. It looks like the temporary relief to your thirst would be followed by a much more painful death.
Just past the stock pond there is a fenced off area. It is at this point that the Chutes trail that is coming from that junction we past at the end of the Vegetarian trail comes to an end where it meets the Edge Loop. The Edge Loop turns off to the left just past the corner of the fence. The trail markers were all broken off at this point so I picked them up and stuck them in between the fence wires. Just remember to turn left at the fence corner, which is about 4.7 miles into the hike, and the trail will become much more apparent after 20 yards or so. Its a nice single track the rest of the way back to the trailhead.
I began this hike after work and just finished as the sun was going down. I only went through 40 ounces of water but if you come out here in the summer heat you will probably want 2 or 3 times that much. The Vegetarian trail section of the hike was definitely the least interesting but adding the Edge Loop Cutoff on made it into a really good outing. The cutoff was, with out a doubt, the best part of the hike. If you would like to see it for yourself then all you have to do is 'Take a hike'.