Palisade Rim via Rapid Creek

Round Trip Distance: 13 miles
Difficulty: Strenuous
Elevation: 5091 - 5892 feet
Cellphone: 1-5 bars
Time: 3-7 hrs.
Trailhead: Rapid Creek
Fee: none
Attractions: Spectacular views, rock art, wildlife, wildflowers

The Palisade Rim trail is located in the Little Book Cliffs east of the town of Palisade. The trail is aptly named as it runs along the edge of the cliffs in many places offering some rather precipitous views of the Grand Junction area from a vantage point some 1000 feet above the valley floor. Access to the Palisade Rim trail can be made by following the Palisade Rim trail or for double the fun by beginning from the Rapid Creek trailhead.

The directions posted here begin at the Rapid Creek trailhead. To begin at the Ute Petroglyph trail you would follow it for the first mile to the east end of the rocks with all the petroglyphs where it ties in with the trail coming from Rapid Creek. The degree of difficulty for the Rapid Creek route is much more than the doubling of the distance might imply. The trail climbs for over 500 feet, descends to a point lower than the trailhead, and then climbs another 1000 feet with a couple of 100 feet deep washes along the way. On the return trip you get to do it all over again. That may sound disparaging but for a good workout and the grand views it is well worth the effort.

The hike begins by following the road up Rapid Creek through a stretch of private property for the first 3/4 mile. There is a nice view of the northeast corner of the Grand Mesa towering above the drainage.

The trail crosses Rapid Creek after about 3/4 of a mile. After climbing the road on the opposite side of the creek watch out for a trail to the right that leads to a red gate. This turn can be easy to miss because the gate is up and back away from the road enough that you don't readily notice it.

The trail travels through the junipers and comes to the road leading from the Palisade water treatment plant up Rapid Creek. The is a trail marker directly across the road where the trail leads over the hill to the road in Cottonwood Canyon. The Palisade Rim trail passes between to pieces of pipe on the opposite side of the road.

The trail crosses Cottonwood Creek and begins climbing the hill. After ascending a bit the trail begins heading back towards the trailhead around the north end of the mountain.

As the trail wraps around to the west side of the mountain it towers above the water plant and then Interstate 70. I stirred up several small herds of deer hiking through this areas.

The trail drops down the west side of the mountain and joins the road at the old Winger Mine.

The route follows the road for over a mile in a southerly direction. The road winds around the canyons offering some nice views of each one. We used to enjoy hiking in these canyons until they were posted with private property signs.

The road comes to an abrupt end at a washed out culvert in the bottom of one of the washes. The obstacle is avoided by climbing down and around the right side of the pipe.

After hiking up the hill from the culvert and around to another wash where the trail once again descends through it climbs up to a 4-way junction where it meets up with the normal route for the Palisade Rim trail.

There are numerous etchings scratched into the patina of the rock that are well worth checking out if you have never seen them.

From the junction the trail crosses the grassy area heading south and begins climbing the slope that lies ahead.

There are a few well worn trails that may distract a hiker from the main objective. On past hikes I have explored this area in all directions, even straight up the towering mountain to the east.

The trail offers many breathtaking scenes at various overlooks along the way.

Eventually the trail will wrap around the upper end of this canyon and come out along the rim of the mountain on the right of the above photo.

From the rim you can have a view of the valley that few people ever see. It is possible to work your way along this rim for another quarter mile but this is where I turned around.

There are so many deep fractures in the rock around the rim that you might wonder what is holding it all together.

Not much to say about the trip back except you get to see everything again from a different angle. I came very close to deer in several places. I was within 40-50 feet of this one. It just stood there for the longest time like it was waiting for me to come up and pet it.

The views on the Rapid Creek side of the mountain are just as amazing as those on the Palisade side.

This picture is of Cottonwood Creek. The trail crosses 2 creeks but both of them are within about 1 mile of the trailhead so they aren't very practical for water sources. I went through 120 ounces of water and 60 ounces of Gatorade on this hike.

Besides all of the deer and elk tracks on the trail there were also a pair of tracks from a couple of mountain bikes that went the entire distance. The only people that I met while hiking were within a mile of either of the trailheads. This trail offers a lot of solitude which might seem a little strange for its close proximity to the tens of thousands of people that it overlooks. If you would like to see it for yourself then all you have to do is 'Take a hike'.