Palisade Plunge MP 14.7 - 19.1

One-way Distance: 4.5-17 miles
Difficulty: Moderate
MTB Skill level:
Elevation: 8017 - 9027 feet
Cellphone: 0-3 bars
Time: 2 hrs. 45 mins.
Trailhead: Lands End Road
Fee: none
Attractions: Long downhill

This post covers a hike of the first 4.5 mile stretch of the Palisade Plunge trail that begins at the Lands End Road and ends in the Sink Creek drainage. The first couple miles of the trail mostly follows what was previously the Whitewater Basin trail. This portion of the Palisade Plunge starts out traveling through an aspen and pine forest with a mix of oak brush that transitions into pinion and junipers as the elevation drops. Near Cliff Lake Reservoir there are patches of chokecherries and redcurrants as well as willows and even one or two elm and cottonwood trees.

The Palisade Plunge trail crosses the Lands End Road 3 miles from the top of the Grand Mesa and 9.7 miles from where the pavement ends when coming from the other direction. For this post we parked at the old Whitewater Basin trailhead a few hundred feet down the road.

After departing from the Lands End Road the trail goes over a small oakbrush covered rise before beginning its descent down the forested slopes of Whitewater Basin.

Old wooden posts and other signs of the previous Whitewater Basin trail can be seen in places. The trail builders have modified the original route somewhat to make it more interesting for mountain bikers. They replaced the previous mostly overgrown route with a nice wide easy to follow swath that makes the most of the natural contours of the mountain.

Near the 1.2 mile point from the Lands End Road the trail crosses Whitewater Creek.

Short uphill climbs that are just long enough to wake up your legs a little come up in several places.

At the 2.2 mile point there is a nice new sign that marks the spot where the remaining Whitewater Basin trail branches off on the left. At present that trail is mostly overgrown until you get down the basin a little further. After 1.7 miles it reaches the lower Forest Service boundary where there is another trailhead that is reachable by a 4wd road.

The Palisade Plunge trail continues working its way across the face of the Grand Mesa passing through a grove or two of aspens and thick areas of oakbrush. There is a nice grassy open area with a few willows where the trail passes by Cliff Lake Reservoir.

As the trail leaves Whitewater Basin behind the forest begins transitioning to pinion and juniper trees.

While traversing on around the mountain the trail passes through an old burn area where there are hardly any trees left.

Grand Junction, Palisade and the rest of the valley come into view as the trail begins working its way into the Sink Creek drainage. Before the settlers arrived in the late 1800's the only thing that was green down there in the valley was a narrow strip along the river. The rest of the valley was a treeless greasewood flat that looked as barren as the desert below Mt. Garfield. The founders actually sent articles to the newspapers back east to prepare any would be immigrants before they arrived.

We were hiking for this post and turned around right before reaching Sink Creek. From here it is another 13 miles or so on down to the Palisade Rim trailhead along Highway 6.

We only saw a couple of mountain bikers on the hike that we took. In time the Palisade Plunge will probably be at least as popular as the Whole Enchilada trail system in Moab. On that trail you usually meet mountain bikers in packs since a whole van full of them get dropped off together at the top. There isn't anything in the way of egress between the trailheads so make sure you're all geared up before heading out. Anyone thinking about backpacking or bike-packing should be prepared for bears because the area is full of them. We passed one bear that went crashing through the oakbrush but we saw tracks everywhere and probably could have filled a wheelbarrow with their scat. If you would like to see it for yourself then all you have to do is grab your bike or 'Take a hike'.