Round Trip Distance: 7.6 miles
Elevation: 4544 - 6054 feet
Cellphone: 0-4 bars
Time: 3 hrs. 30 mins.
Trailhead: Kodels Canyon
Attractions: Historic trail, wildflowers, scenic views
View Fruita Dugway in a larger map
The Fruita Dugway trail climbs from Kodels Canyon up the north side of the Colorado National Monument to the Black Ridge trail. While both ends of the trail are located on BLM land the trail cuts across over 1.5 miles of the monument. The Fruita Dugway was a road that was built in 1907 to aid in hauling pipe for the construction of a water line that connect the Fruita Reservoirs to the town below. The trail was built along a cattle trail that had been in use since the 1880's and remained an important driveway for many years afterwards. There are journals that tell of ranchers that would set out on the trail from Fruita in the evening and drive their wagons and cattle across the desert during the night, to avoid the heat, and push their way up the Fruita Dugway to their summer pastures on Pinyon Mesa. The trail was also used by those living on Glade Park who would spend all day getting to the towns in the valley. There were ferries that crossed the Colorado River at Fruita and Grand Junction. With the building of the Serpents Trail this all day toil was reduced to just a couple of hours and after that the Fruita Dugway fell out of use.
The Kodels Canyon trailhead is nothing more than a pullout in the bar ditch along Highway 340 across from Dinosaur Hill. The trailhead provides access to several other popular trails including the Kodels Canyon trail where a hermit by that name once wiled away his days prospecting for gold.
Follow the markers for the K1 trail which will take you towards the monument.
When you get to the start of the K7 trail leave the K1 trail which turns west at this point. The K7 trail continues straight ahead into the canyon.
Turn left immediately onto the faint trail after passing through the pole fence.
After passing through the fence you can see portions of the trail that lay ahead. The trail crosses the mouth of Kodels Canyon and continues to a long rock ridge on the other side.
The next quarter mile is the steepest section of the entire hike. The trail ascends up the mountain on the west side of the rock. There are a couple other spots that are a little steep but they are for much shorter distances.
At 1.5 miles you come to a gate at the end of the rock. After passing through the gate the trail gets pretty faint but if you make a hard right turn you will pick it up again shortly.
At 1.58 miles you will come to another fence at the boundary of the Colorado National Monument.
The trail comes up to an overlook where you can look down into Kodels Canyon. From here the trail turns left to the east and begins climbing again.
This is another steep section of the trail but it only stays that way for a hundred yards or so.
They made use of some dynamite to build the next section of trail. If you drive up the Fruita side of the monument the first pullout you come to after passing through the last tunnel has a picture of this section of trail with some cattle in it. The kiosk mentions the historic nature of the trail.
The trail appears to head into a dead end canyon but it doubles back on a hairpin turn after the wash gets shallow enough.
The trail keeps curving around the hill until you are practically face to face with Rim Rock Drive. At this point you can walk over and checkout the kiosk that I mentioned or continue up and around the corner and you will be right above the road.
The next stretch of trail follows an expanse of slickrock. The trail pretty much disappears but there are plenty of cairns to show the way.
The trail passes by the quarry site where much of the stone came from that was used in the various constructions on the monument.
At one point the trail follows a bench around an upper section of Kodels Canyon.
There is another boundary fence at 4.2 miles where the trail once again meets BLM land.
At just under 5 miles the Fruita Dugway meets up and becomes the Black Ridge trail. It is here that the Fruita Dugway and the Black Ridge trail become one and the same and this is as far as this hike goes. If a person had the desire they could leave a bike tied up at the Visitor Center, which is only about a half mile away, and enjoy a nice downhill ride back to the Kodels Canyon trailhead.
With most of the effort completed with the hike up the trip back can be used to enjoy some of the spectacular views.
You might imagine yourself being part of a cattle drive a hundred years or more ago and pick out the spots where you might stop for lunch or lay up for the night. Rusty old tin cans lay upon the ground in various places.
The Fruita Dugway remains mostly unscathed by the encroachments of the lower valley and can be seen much the same as it was in its hay day. If you would like to see it for yourself then all you have to do is 'Take a hike'.