Palisade Rim Upper Loop

Round Trip Distance: 9.5 miles
Difficulty: Strenuous
Elevation: 4720 - 6077 feet
Cellphone: 3-5 bars
Time: 4 hrs.
Trailhead: Palisade Rim
Fee: none
Attractions: petroglyphs, scenic views

The Palisade Rim trail is located in the Little Book Cliffs, at the base of the Grand Mesa, east of Palisade, Colorado. The current trail is a reconstruction of a popular old hiking trail that now consists of a Lower Loop and an Upper Loop. This post is of the Upper Loop but also encompasses the Lower Loop in route. Since its reconstruction the trails have been revamped with mountain bike riders in mind. The once steep ascents have been replaced with gentler switchbacks and large slabs of rocks have been placed to transition the trail over rough spots.

The BLM has created a trailhead at the Colorado River boat launch on the west side of Highway 6 and asks that people park there rather than along the shoulders of the highway. Hikers can take the trail along the side of the road or walk along the pavement as most seem to be doing anyway.

The actual trail begins along the fence that encloses a section of the canal. Before this fence was built we used to sit here with our kids and watch the pikeminnow swimming in the canal.

From the canal the trail begins its ascent up the mountain along a side canyon. The trail has had enough switchbacks added that what used to be about a half mile climb now takes just over 1 mile but it sure is a lot easier to hike.

After just over 1 mile the trail comes to its first junction with the lower loop. At this point the trail has already gained about 500 feet of elevation. All of the mountain bikers on this day were taking the left fork heading out and coming back on the right fork. This post does just the opposite and follows the trail to the right going out and comes back along the other route.

The right fork travels along the rim above Highway 6.

As the trail levels out after leaving the rim it heads more easterly towards the mesa. Watch for a side trail on the left that leads over to the rocky hillside where the first of several petroglyph panels can be found. A couple of them are pretty faint so you will need to look closely. Between the first panel and the junction of the Upper and Lower Loop trails careful exploration of the cliff will reveal several more small panels.

Following the route taking the right fork at the first junction with the Lower Loop the next junction comes up at about 1.9 miles and if you went the other way it is about 1 tenth of a mile longer so you would be measuring an even 2.0 miles at this point.

Pretty much 100% of the Upper Loop is all new construction. We have hiked this area for about 20 years and most of the prominent trails were made by the elk that migrate back and forth between the Whitewater/Kannah Creek Basins and this area. At times they can be seen all the way over to the hillside above Thompson's Corral and Island Acres during the winter months. This new trail is a welcome sight not just for the mountain bikers that are getting so much enjoyment out of it now but for all of us that have hiked in the area over the years.

At 2.7 miles the Upper trail begins its loop. The clockwise course seems to be the preferred direction of travel. At this point the trail has gained a little over 900 feet of elevation.

The slope of the trail lessens considerably at this point but the climbing continues to persist gradually for another 2 miles.

As the trail works its way toward the south it winds around each of the ravines and washes that cut through the slopes of the mountain. It reaches its high point around 4.5 miles and from there the trail begins to gradually turn towards the west.

At 5.0 miles the trail reaches its furthest point to the south near a wash were another trail continues south toward the Whitewater area.

At one point the trail crosses some slickrock that looks like it has a skeleton of some sorts slowly exposing itself as the sandstone around it erodes away.

The west side of the Upper Loop rides right on the rim as it heads back to the beginning of the loop. In places it is only a few feet from the canyons edge. The former trail that passed through here was set back at a much safer distance from the rim but that apparently isn't exciting enough for today's mountain bikers.

The trail reaches the point where the loop began at about 6.6 miles where it then retraces the already traveled route back down the mountain. There are numerous places on this trail that invite you to pause for a moment or two and take in the splendid scenery. Some of them are to look at interesting rock formations and others offer views of the valley below.

The junction with the Lower Loop is reached at 7.5 miles. The trail to the right is only about a tenth of a mile further and offers some different views than the already traveled route that went around the other side of the hill.

It seems the word has gotten out about the Palisade Rim trail. We spoke with a couple of riders that were visiting from Canada. This website gets a ton of hits from people looking for more information on the Palisade Rim trail and even more from others asking about the petroglyphs. That has prompted us to update our former posts that mostly covered routes that don't even exist anymore. If you would like to see it for yourself then all you have to do is grab your bike or 'Take a hike'.