Mt. Garfield

Round Trip Distance: 4 miles
Difficulty: Strenuous
Elevation: 4810-6780 feet
Cellphone: 3-5 bars
Time: 3 hrs. 45 mins.
Trailhead: Mt. Garfield
Fee: none
Attractions: Views, wild horses, petroglyphs

Mt. Garfield is a prominent outcrop in the Little Book Cliff mountains just to the north of interstate 70 between Grand Junction and Palisade, Colorado. The standard route is a 2 mile hike from the trailhead to the summit with an elevation gain of about 2000 feet. It probably takes most people at least 2-4 hours to complete this seemingly short hike. From the summit hikers are treated to some of the best views of the valleys orchards and farmland and its sprawling communities.

The trail gets very steep right from the start. The fact that it gains 2000 feet within 2 miles is why I rated the trail strenuous. You will see a lot of people turning back early, which is fine, maybe they will come back sometime and go a little further.

The trail passes some pretty impressive boulders as it climbs up to the first little mesa. There is an old abandoned coal mine that used to operate in the winter months. People from the area would drive to the bottom of the hill and buy coal. The workers at the mine would hike up the trails every morning, put in a full days work, and then head back down at the end of the day. There is a road that goes up the back of the mountain which was used to haul equipment to the mine.

Once you get across the first little mesa the trail climbs steeply once again before you reach a hidden field behind a rocky ridge. After all of the climbing this fairly level stretch is a welcome site. At times you will see wild horses grazing in this area.

There is a large boulder off to the right as you enter the hidden field that has some petroglyphs on it. They are pretty faded but we outlined some of them on our computer to give a little idea of what is there. Remember that it is illegal to damage them in any way so avoid touching them

The trail rises a little less steeply as you begin to traverse below the cliffs to a saddle on the east side of Mt. Garfield.

From this spot you begin the ascent of the last really steep section of the trail. This is an area that can get pretty treacherous in snowy conditions.

Without too much more hiking you arrive at the last leg of the hike and then the gentle slopes along the top to the summit.

Looking down at the valley from Mt. Garfield is like peering out the window of an airplane. On a clear day you can see Mt. Sneffels over 100 miles to the south.  The trip back down goes a lot faster. My best time is 11 minutes. (That was at an all out run in my younger days.) There is a race called the Mt. Garfield Grumble each year around Memorial Day. Most people don't have to run the race to grumble though. If you would like to see the great views of the valley from the top of the Little Book Cliffs and be among the many people that make the trek to the summit of Mt. Garfield every year then all you have to do is 'Take a hike'.