Uncompahgre Rim Trail

Round Trip Distance: 12.8 miles
Difficulty: Moderate
Elevation: 8958 - 9427 feet
Cellphone: 0-3 bars
Time: 3 hrs. 30 mins.
Trailhead: Rim Trail
Fee: none
Attractions: Aspen/ponderosa forest, deer, elk

This post is of the Rim Trail in the Uncompahgre National Forest south of Grand Junction and east of Gateway, Colorado. The trail begins off of the Uranium Road and heads northwest along the west rim of the Uncompahgre Plateau to an overlook that offers spectacular views of the Dolores River Canyon, La Sal Mountains, Abajo Mountains near Monticello, Utah, Lone Cone, and the Wilson group of  3 peaks that reach over 14,000 feet in elevation. A half dozen other trails connect with the Rim Trail offering many choices of routes for hiking, backpacking and off road fun.

The Uncompahgre National Forest is a big area that can take a little exploring before you become familiar with it. To get to the trailhead for the Rim Trail take the Divide Road turnoff on Highway 141 and follow it south. After 6 miles the road crosses the northern boundary of the National Forest. Continue for about another 9 miles and turn right onto the Uranium Road. If you measure from the turnoff on Highway 141 this would be mile 14.6.

Follow the Uranium Road for 2.8 miles and turn right at the sign in this picture for a total distance from Highway 141 of 17.4 miles. It is also possible to drive up the Uranium Road by turning off of Highway 141 about 4 miles north of Gateway.

At the trailhead there is a large parking area, a kiosk map, and several campsites with picnic tables and fire grates. The Rim Trail is an old jeep route that is open to all forms of off road travel. After a soaking rain or in early spring it can be too muddy to travel as you will see from the ruts left by those that tried it anyway.

As you head north along the trail Forest Road 416.1A comes up just under 1 mile from the trailhead.

At mile 1.3 the Cow Creek trail departs on the left. As you can see from the sign this very faint trail is only open to hiking and horseback riding.

The Cabin Trail comes up at mile 2.68. This is a popular route for ATV's, dirt bikes and mountain bikers that are joining multiple trails together to make big loops to ride. The ATVers usually join either the Cabin, Rim and Big Creek trails or the Basin, Rim and Big Creek trails to make loops. Dirt bikes and mountain bikes have the options of also incorporating the Big Creek Scout trail or East Unaweep trail when planning outings. And finally, backpackers, horseback riders and mountain bikers can also add in the Corral Gulch and Little Creek trails.

This map shows the trails in the immediate area around the Rim Trail. The blue trails are open to all forms of travel including jeeps and side-by-sides. The red trails are single tracks that are open to dirt bikes and the yellow trails, which are also single tracks, are open to mountain bikes except for the Unaweep Trail which is only open to hikers and horseback riders. Since the map also shows the interconnecting roads it should be good for planning trips as well as printing out and taking with you.

Big Pond comes up at about 3 miles from the trailhead. In the order of occurrence there is Big Pond, Rim Pond, Middle Pond, and Far Pond.

The Basin Trail joins the Rim Trail at around mile 3.7. The Basin and Cabin trails are the 2 trails that reach all the way from the Big Creek Road to the Rim Trail.

The Snowshoe Trail comes up on the left just under the 4 mile point. The Unaweep Trail begins a short distance down the Snowshoe Trail from this point.

The last trail to branch off of the Rim Trail is the North Fork Bear Canyon Trail at mile 5.5. Our map doesn't include the North Fork or Middle Fork Bear Canyon trails because we haven't hiked them yet. Once we do we will use the GPS files to add them to the map.

The trail ends at a spot on the Rim where there is a radio tower and some stunning views in the westerly directions.

Three big bull elk, still in velvet, were working their way through the oak brush below the rim. These might be the same 3 bulls that we saw last year near the upper end of the Cabin Trail that were moving too fast to get pictures of. This time they were unaware that anyone was watching them.

This is a picture of the camping area at the trailhead. Primitive camping is allowed anywhere in the Uncompahgre National Forest that isn't posted otherwise.

There probably has never been a time when we have come up to the Uncompahgre Plateau and not seen deer or elk. That coupled with the forest environment and miles and miles of trails makes it a favorite destination. On this outing fresh bear tracks were spotted near the Middle Pond as well as some mountain lion scat just north of the Basin Trail. Making use of the trail on this day were mountain bikers, backpackers, ATV's and dirt bikes. Everyone appeared to be having a great time playing and escaping the heat of the valleys below. If you would like to see it for yourself then all you have to do is 'Take a hike'.