Zion Curtain

Round Trip Distance: 17 miles
Difficulty: Strenuous
Elevation: 4503 - 5414 feet
Cellphone: 1-5 bars
Time: 4 hrs. 30 mins.
Trailhead: Gas Plant
Fee: none
Attractions: Scenic overlooks

The Zion Curtain trail is located in the Utah Rims Area near the Colorado/Utah state line west of Grand Junction, Colorado. The trail makes a giant loop around the Bitter Creek area of Utah Rims with about 2600 feet of total elevation gain in route. From its overlooks, high above Rabbit Valley, there are views of Castle Rocks, McDonald Creek Canyon, the Jouflas trail, Trails #2 and #6, the Western Rim trail and the Colorado River.

There are 2 trailheads that are commonly used to access Zion Curtain. The easiest to get to is accessible by passenger cars by taking Exit 227 of Interstate 70, on the Utah side of the border, and driving south on the paved road where parking is available near the gas plant. To get to the other trailhead take Exit 2, for Rabbit Valley, on the Colorado side of the border and follow the 4-wheel drive road, on the north side of the Interstate, that heads west for 5 miles. From there you can follow the double track under the Interstate. Some people also like to park at one of the staging areas, on the south side of the Interstate, in Rabbit Valley and begin from there.

Follow the double track road east from the gas plant. At the top of the hill there is a kiosk with a map of the Utah Rims Area. Continue east to the fork at mile 0.5 where the loop begins. The most common direction of travel for the loop is clockwise.

Continue past the tall communications tower heading north on the double track. There are several primitive campsites in this area. It is required to have your own porta-potty at the primitive campsites. An alternative is to camp at the Bitter Creek Campground, that is also free, and has tables, fire pits and an outdoor privy.

The trail drops down into the Bitter Creek drainage near the Interstate. Avoid taking the single track that begins near mile 2.6. It dead ends at a wash and it is pretty tough getting anywhere from there. (Ask us how we know. By the way, we already subtracted that extra little bit from the round trip distance.)

Another fork comes up around mile 3.3. The route to the right is a cutoff trail that connects with the Kokopelli trail.

Pass by another road that comes up on the right.

At mile 4.4 the single track trail begins. Continuing straight on the double track leads to the northern trailhead and passes under the Interstate after about a half mile. While the single track is only accessible by hiking, horseback riding, mountain bikes and dirt bikes, all of the double track is open to ATV's, side-by-sides and jeeps. There is plenty of double track in the area for everyone to come and play and have a good time without feeling like they are being left out of anything.

The single track makes use of several scenic washes and crosses multiple hills as it makes its way eastward toward the state line. Several of the hills are steep enough that they make hikers out of mountain bikers.

The state line comes up around mile 7.2. From here the trail turns south and follows the fence.

The overlooks begin after mile 9.1 as the trail begins to loop away from the state line. In this picture the Castle Rocks and McDonald Creek Canyon areas are in full view. The Utah section of Rabbit Valley Trail #2 can be seen directly below the cliff.

A portion of the very popular Western Rim trail can be seen from another overlook with the Colorado River just beyond and the La Sal Mountains in the background.

From it highest point above Rabbit Valley, at mile 10.6, the trail begins turning north again. The first section here travels across the slickrock that makes up the edge of the cliff. Eventually the trail begins dropping down into the Bitter Creek drainage once again. Most of this stretch is an easy roll but several of the trails most technical situations also present themselves. One is a very steep downhill section that is like a big slide.

At mile 14.9 the single track ends at its junction with the Kokopelli Trail and the cutoff. Continue straight ahead to follow the Kokopelli Trail that makes a 90 degree turn at this point.

The Kokopelli Trail makes a steep climb out of Bitter Creek and reaches the top at mile 15.7. The steep climb is rideable if you have any legs left. At the top of the hill the Overlook Trail and the Bitter Creek Campground are a short distance to the left. During dry weather a regular clearance vehicle can probably make it to the campground without any trouble. When the ground is saturated though there are a couple of spots where the bottom drops out of the road.

The rest of the trail is an easy roll back to the gas plant. Be sure to stay to the right at mile 15.9, where we leave the Kokopelli Trail behind. At mile 16.5 the loop comes to a close and from there it is a half mile to the trailhead. This ride took us 4.5 hours but we took over 250 pictures so that is 250 times that we had to stop. Of course, we didn't stop to take any rest breaks so maybe it all balances out. With all of its hills the Zion Curtain trail is a big ride. If you would like to see it for yourself then all you have to do is grab your bike or 'Take a hike'.

Elevation Chart