North Soda

Round Trip Distance: 5-6 miles
Difficulty: Strenuous
Elevation: 5611 - 7405 feet
Cellphone: 0-3 bars
Time: 3 hrs. 30 mins.
Trailhead: North Soda
Fee: none
Attractions: Forest hike, deer, elk, turkeys

The North Soda trail is located in the Little Book Cliff mountains north of Grand Junction and Fruita, Colorado. The trail begins at an abandoned ranch site on private property at the mouth of Adobe Canyon and climbs to the top of the Little Book Cliffs where hikers can connect up with the Ute and Tellerico trails. (Hikers are apparently no longer asked to call the local BLM office to obtain permission to cross the private land as mentioned in some publications.)

Getting to the trailhead for this hike can be half the battle. The Google Maps get directions function doesn't quite get the route right for this one so here are our own directions: Drive north on 21 Road from Highway 50. After crossing the canal continue to follow the paved road into the north desert area heading towards the Little Book Cliffs. Begin measuring where the pavement ends at the gas plant and follow the now gravel road for about 2.1 miles. Turn right onto a dirt road that heads east and begin measuring again from this point. The road has a lot of adobe clay in it that turns to mush when the ground is saturated. If anyone drives on it at that time it can become deeply rutted. For this trip it had rained almost a quarter inch the night before and the road was in perfect condition. Measure 1.3 miles from the last turn to the next fork where you will need to follow the road to the right. At 1.6 miles, or 0.3 miles past the last fork, there is another fork where you will need to take a left. The last fork, which is the one in this picture is at 3.4 miles. The road gets a little rougher at this point but the few rocks that poke their way up can be carefully bypassed. On this hike we are going to climb all the way up to the high point in the center of the above picture.

An old ranch site comes up at 4.2 miles and serves as the parking area and trailhead for the hike. A vehicle with a little bit of clearance would be much more preferable to get to this trailhead than the family car but that is entirely up to the vehicles owner. After seeing a very nice car on the Butler Wash road in southeastern Utah I'm not going to pretend to tell anyone where to drive their vehicle.

Within about 100 yards of parking area watch for the trail that drops down into the wash and follow it.

The trail only follows the bottom of the wash in a few short sections. Most of the time it climbs right back out of the wash to get around rocks and spill overs. The constant climbing in and out of the wash probably adds another 1-2 hundred feet of elevation gain to the hike.

At 1.4 miles from the parking area the trail leaves the wash for good and begins its steep climb up to the ridge. For the next mile the trail relentlessly gains elevation with a few really steep spots along the way. Other than short pauses to take pictures or the occasional bio break we normally never stop to rest when we hike. On this climb though I did take about a 30 second break because I wasn't sure whether I was hearing my heart pounding in my chest or if I had scared up some wild horses that were galloping away.

The trail reaches the ridge at 2.4 miles. From here it is about 0.35 to the right to a high point that overlooks the valley and where distant views extend for a hundred miles to the south. The trail to the left leads over to the cabin and spring and connects up with the Ute and Tellerico trails. The wild horses and other animals have fanned out many trails in this area making it difficult at times to find a good route. If you find a spot where you can see off to the northeast you should be able to pick out a dirt road that is less than a mile away. Head for the road if you wish to continue in that direction. For this post we hiked up the ridge to the overlook and then returned to this point and hiked in the other direction for a quarter mile or so before turning around. We had hiked over to the cabin when we were on the Tellerico trail so we only went far enough for our map to show which direction it was.

Looking down the front of the Little Book Cliffs you can see short sections of the Tellerico trail on the third ridge over and way off in the distance you can see the very top of Mt. Garfield barely poking up over the other cliffs.

An alternative to getting over to that dirt road in the distance would be to follow the ridge to the east from the overlook. Either way you choose you will have to pick your trail carefully. This is where an GPS really comes in handy. It's too bad there aren't any trail markers to lead the way.

The hike back down the mountain isn't really all that bad. There are a couple of really steep sections but it seems a lot easier than coming down Mt. Garfield or the Lemon Squeeze trails.

For those that don't want to hike all the way up the mountain there is some very appealing geology to enjoy from the bottom of the canyon. A very worthwhile and easy hike would be to follow the trail for the first 1.4 miles and then continue up the canyon floor until you can't go any further before turning around.

It takes about half as long to get down the mountain than it does to climb up it. Like all of the other hikes that begin in the valley and top out on a ridge somewhere along the Little Book Cliffs the North Soda trail is a heck of a workout. Adobe Canyon is one of the prettiest places in the range so there are more reasons to hike this trail than just to show how tough you are. For those that like to do a little backpacking you can put together some really nice outings in the Little Book Cliffs and never be more than 20 miles from town. The map that we included shows a section of the Ute trail that can be added to come up with a longer route. If you would like to see it for yourself then all you have to do is 'Take a hike'.