Round Trip Distance: 7.3 miles
Elevation: 5231 - 5577 feet
Cellphone: 2-5 bars
Usage: Hiking - Biking - Equestrian - Dogs
Time: 3 hrs. 30 mins.
Facilities: Vault toilets at campground
Trailhead: 18 Road(campground)
View Frontside in a larger map
The Frontside 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 various 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.
There is parking area and kiosk at the end of 18 Road where it loops around into the campground. There isn't a sign saying so but this is what I am calling the 18 Road trailhead and this is where I decided to start the Frontside hike from. I could have parked down at the North Fruita Desert trailhead and hiked up either Kessel Run or Prime Cut but I figured the hike was going to be long enough without adding another 5 miles to it.
I followed the road leading into the campground to the beginning of the Frontside trail on the right side of the road.
The Frontside trail is used to get to the upper ends of Joe's Ridge, Zippity Do Da and Western Zippity as well as the west end of the Edge Loop. The Frontside and the western portion of the Edge Loop are actually the same trail.
On this morning as I set out there were a dozen deer or so that were heading up higher on the cliffs from where they had been grazing the previous night. I saw fresh elk tracks near the Zippity trail that indicated the same behavior but there weren't any elk around by the time I got there.
Measuring from the trailhead it is about .4 miles to the start of Joe's Ridge and another mile on over to the top of the Zippity trail. The trail crosses several washes along the way, one in particular drops down quite aways and requires you to climb back up on the other side, but the trail has an overall pleasant aspect to it so I didn't think it was too bad.
After veering right at the top of Zippity the Frontside trail follows the same ridge in the opposite direction. From here you can probably pick out some of the Frontside trail ,that lies ahead, as it winds around the bottom of the cliffs.
The trail down from the north end of the ridge is fairly steep. The trail drops down into another wash and then climbs out the opposite side and begins traversing around the cliffs. The hiking is pretty easy at this point. As you get nearer to Western Zippity the trail gently climbs up a smaller ridge.
Once on top of the ridge you can see the next junction where the Western Zippity trail begins. The Frontside trail makes a right turn and follows the ridge back toward the cliffs again.
The Frontside trail drops off the north end of the ridge and works its way around the base of the mountain as it enters Coal Gulch. I went as far as the Coal Gulch Road before turning around. I could have followed the road into the canyon for 1.5 miles and climbed the backside of the mountain to a point that overlooks 18 Road. I decided to save that portion of the trail for another day.
I had been in complete solitude on the hike out. On the way back I met several groups of mountain bikers who were all very pleasant and cordial. I could always hear them coming with enough time to move off the trail and let them pass. Most of them acted like they would have stopped for me just as well.
The Frontside trail can be hiked year round but some of the hills can get pretty muddy when it's wet. The total elevation gain for this hike is over 1000 feet after you take into account all the ups and downs of the trail. I went through 100 ounces of water with the temperature in the 50's F and low 60's F. I would probably want twice that much fluid on a hot summer day. If you would like to see it for yourself then all you have to do is 'Take a hike'.