Palisade Plunge - Mesa Top

One-way Distance: 11.6 miles
Difficulty: Moderate
MTB Skill level:
Elevation: 9,865 - 10,735 feet
Cellphone: 0-2 bars
Time: 2 hrs.
Trailhead: Mesa Top
Fee: none
Attractions: Forested singletrack

The Palisade Plunge is a 33.8 mile long trail that begins at an elevation of 10,735 feet on top of the Grand Mesa, in the Grand Mesa National Forest, near Grand Junction, Colorado, and ends in the town of Palisade where the elevation is closer to 4,700 feet. This post covers the first 11.6 miles that begins at the Mesa Top trailhead and stretches across the mesa to the Shirttail trailhead that is at the edge of the mesa near the Lands End Observatory.

For turn-by-turn directions you can enter the 'Mesa Top Trailhead' into your driving app and choose the one on Forest Road 115.1B. The parking area is just north of the Delta/Mesa county line on Highway 90. Several shuttle services that include bike rentals can be found in the town of Palisade with a simple Google search.

The Palisade Plunge shares routes with the Mesa Top trail for an hundred yards or so before branching off on its own.

As the trail travels across open meadows, going from one grove of conifers to the next, it moves fast and easy over the well packed ribbon of soil. Basalt rocks are never far from the surface but with a good layer of dirt most of them protrude in the way of 'baby heads' for most of this part of the trail.

Just before the 2 mile point the trail crosses the road that leads to Flowing Park.

After crossing the Flowing Park Road the trail heads down the Kannah Creek drainage where the basalt is more prevalent and the trail gets a little bumpier. Right around the 3.7 mile point it crosses to the north side of the Lands End Road.

From there the fast moving trail takes an interesting route through the forest with most of the rough spots only occurring where it finds an occasional creek to cross.

Rollovers, with side gates for horses, provide non stop passage between pastures.

Near the 5.6 mile point the Palisade Plunge crosses the Deep Creek trail that runs across the top of the mesa more in the north/south direction. If a person needed to make a quick exit back to the Lands End Road the Deep Creek trail would bring them out after a half mile at the old Raber Cow Camp.

There are about a half dozen creek crossings altogether for the Mesa Top section of the Palisade Plunge. Most of them form natural channels for water to get from various reservoirs that were built for irrigation down into Kannah Creek.

For the last 2 to 3 miles the trail leaves the forest behind and travels all out in the open. The photo makes it look smooth and flat but the trail actually has many short dips and climbs and enough basalt in places to make it quite a bit rougher.

At the 11.6 mile point the Palisade Plunge reaches the Shirttail Point trailhead and begins what we call the Otto's Wall section. We saw one shuttle from Palisade that dropped a small group off at Shirttail Point rather than at the Mesa Top trailhead. On the day that we took the photos for this post we had the Mesa Top section all to ourselves. It took us just over 2 hours to travel the roughly 12 miles but that included stopping 150 times to take a picture. It's no telling how quick a seasoned rider could hammer it out but there's no doubt it would be considerably faster. If you would like to see it for yourself then all you have to do is grab your bike or 'Take a hike'.