Sarlacc Trail

Round Trip Distance: 14.6 miles
Difficulty: Strenuous
Elevation: 5394 - 6633 feet
Cellphone: 0-4 bars
Time: 3 hrs. 30 mins.
Trailhead: Coal Gulch
Fee: none
Attractions: Scenic views of valley/Book Cliffs

The Sarlacc Trail is located in the Little Book Cliffs above the 18 Road/North Fruita Desert Area north of Fruita, Colorado. The trail was built by a consortium of local groups and the BLM as a recreational venue for dirt bikes, mountain bikes, hikers and equestrians. The first 2 miles of the trail that leads up to the North Fruita Desert Overlook is also open to ATV's. To the south visitors are treated with expansive vistas of the Grand Valley, that lies below, and on a clear day the towering peaks, some over 14,000 feet, of the San Juan Mountains 100 miles away. Dwarfing the Little Book Cliffs to the north the much taller Book Cliff Range provides a backdrop to the numerous canyons and parks that are the home of the many deer, elk, bear, mountain lions and wild horses that rely on the area for their sustenance.

The west trailhead is located along V.8 Road in Coal Gulch about 2 miles east of the junction of the Frontside Trail and V.8 Road. If you continue up the canyon for another 4.7 miles you can access the east trailhead. There is a small parking area, that you can see in the last photo of this post, near the west trailhead. Access can also be gained by parking at the trailhead near the campground at the end of 18 Road and taking the Frontside trail which will add 5.5 miles of distance one-way. Alternatively you can park on 16 Road and follow the Sarlacc Connector Trail which comes out along V.8 Road west of the trailhead. If you use Google Maps 'Get Directions' function it will probably route you up 16 Road to V.8 Road. You can also drive up 18 Road to V.7 Road and drive west to V.8 Road. V.7 Road is just below the 18 Road Campground. There used to be a road sign there but at present the intersection is unmarked.

The Sarlacc Trail is closed seasonally from December 1 to May 1 to protect the wildlife habitat.

The first 2 miles of the trail follow an old jeep road. Most of the mountain bikers were riding up the canyon and beginning at the east end of the Sarlacc Trail so they wouldn't have to ride up this part of the trail. Going this way the gain is 1000 feet in 2 miles, most of which is rideable, compared to 1200 feet of gain spread out over 4.7 miles. I guess it depends on what type of workout you want but it looks like the preference is to ride the trail from east to west.

Mountain bikers and others have actually been coming up the first part of the trail to the 18 Road Overlook for decades. At one time it was included as an extension of the Frontside Trail.

At this point the trail passes through a squeeze and becomes a single track.

If this is the Great Pit of Carkoon then the sarlacc doesn't appear to be home.

The changes in elevation that the trail experiences from this point are much more subtle. What most people that look up at the barren south facing slopes of the Little Book Cliffs from the valley don't realize is that the backside of them is a forest of pinons and junipers with an abundance of wildflowers.

To everyone's delight there are several places where the trail travels around the mountain where further views of the valley open up below. It gives a whole new perspective to the Grand Valley.

We have hiked virtually every trail on this website up to now. In the interest of adding some of the longer trails in a more timely fashion we have resorted to making use of our mountain bikes. I had a little trouble with the loose dirt along the trails edges in places so it was necessary for me to keep my speed under control. As a result I only had one minor mishap but a ton of fun.

After the 2.3 mile climb up the west end of the trail and about 7.5 miles of single track the east end of the trail passes through another squeeze and comes out once again on the road. If you choose to drive up to this point they stress not to park on any of the well sites.

From the east end of the trail it is 4.7 miles of downhill flight back to the lower trailhead. There are a few places on the road that require a little peddling but for the most part it was all gliding. On our next trip we will ride the trail in the other direction and decide for ourselves which way we like best. The Sarlacc Trail is a wonderful addition to the hundreds of other trails in the Grand Junction area. We would like to thank all those that helped in bringing the trail about. There is talk of the possibility of extending the trail out to around 64 miles. Don't forget to bring lots of water for this one. You will need it. If you would like to see it for yourself then all you have to do is grab your bike or 'Take a hike'.