Lemon Squeeze

Round Trip Distance: 2 miles
Difficulty: Strenuous
Elevation: 4822 - 5982 feet
Cellphone: 3-5 bars
Time: 2 hrs. 30 mins.
Trailhead: Mt. Garfield
Fee: none
Attractions: Historic trail, fun destination

The Lemon Squeeze shares the same trailhead as Mt. Garfield. The trail has several other names including; 'Gearhart Mine Trail' and 'Ute Prison Trail'. I don't know where they came up with that last one. My wife's grandpa once worked in the Gearhart Mine. He used to go up the trail each morning, put in a full day in the mine, and then run back down after his shift. He always called the trail the 'Lemon Squeeze'.

The base of the mountain to the east of the trailhead is on private property. The owner started to fence off the trail because some thoughtless people were dumping trash and old vehicles there. He said he would continue to allow access as long as people respect the land. You might consider helping the cause by packing out any trash you come across. It is preferable to park in the Mt. Garfield parking lot and then walk back around the lower section of the hill to access the trail.

Once you reach the base of the hill the climbing immediately steepens. It doesn't take long to gain enough elevation to make the vehicles on the interstate begin looking like match box toys. The trail wraps around the mountain as it continues to go higher and higher.

The trail around this section is a lot of fun in dry weather but once it gets wet it can be tricky handle.

After finishing the traverse around this mountain of clay you find yourself looking up a ridge of the same substance stretching up the hill in front of you.

This boulder is a favorite resting place for many of the trails hikers. Get a good rest because you are about to get tested on another very steep section.

At times this steep section of the trail is covered with enough scree to make it difficult to maintain sure footing.

If you look above you at the cliff just to the right of where the trail reaches the cliff you will see the object of the hike and the namesake of the trail. It's hard to make out but the crack in the cliff opens out onto a flat shelf big enough to hold a half dozen people or more.

Continue hiking up to the notch in the cliff until you reach the saddle area between the two hills. The Lemon Squeeze is to the east not more than 100 yards.

You will probably have to remove your pack or water bottles before you can 'squeeze' through the crack. The Lemon Squeeze has been a favorite destination of field trips from some of the local high schools. I've heard of one teacher that got stuck a bit in the squeeze but was extricated all in one piece. We always had an adult pass through to the shelf before allowing any youngsters through. The shelf is high enough up the cliff that I can't imagine anything good coming from falling.

Here is a picture of 'yours truly' and 'mrs. truly' enjoying the views from the Lemon Squeeze. You can see what the crack that you slip through looks like from the shelf side.

Hang on to those rambunctious kids mom so they can look over the edge.

The hike back down the mountain will test your knees. Most of the steep sections have enough scree and loose rocks that can be like marbles beneath you feet. I've hiked this trail hundreds of times and I think I've fallen 3 times. If hikers will resist the temptation to boot ski down the trail it would be a lot easier to manage. When a good rain comes along a lot of the loose rock and scree once again becomes married back into the trail.

I have taken my kids up this trail when they were as young as six years old. We have explored every ridge, crook and cranny in the area between here and the base of Mt. Garfield. If you would like to try and fit through the Lemon Squeeze and see the views of the valley from atop the Little Book Cliffs then you are going to have to 'Take a hike'.