A dominating feature of the Grand Valley’s skyline, Mount Garfield is one of the more challenging hikes in the area. It is well worth the hike to the Summit of Mount Garfield. Round-trip, the trail is four miles with an elevation gain of two thousand feet, ending at an altitude of over six thousand feet.
From the top, you can see most of the valley—including Grand Junction and Palisade–and a vast stretch of desert to the far right (west). Mount Garfield is on the eastern edge of a geologic formation known as the Bookcliffs. This formation stretches far into eastern Utah and is composed largely of sediment and sandstone–three to four layers are immediately visible.
Hike to the Summit of Mount Garfield
The first mile is steep and somewhat daunting. It is best taken slow, and in some areas you may need to use your hands to scramble up. Following this is a plateau where you can take a breath and enjoy the view. The last part of the trail takes you along a cliff edge where much care should be taken as to where you step. However, it’s difficult not to take in the unfolding view of the valley. Immediately below is Interstate 70. The hike is certainly not quiet, but the hum from the highway becomes muffled the higher you go. Towards the top of the mountain, you’ll get a greater sense of solitude, standing atop the Grand Valley’s horizon.
The best season to take this hike is May-October and when the trail is dry, as it becomes particularly dangerous during rain or snow. Because there is hardly any shade on the trail, it is best to go in the morning or while it is overcast. Be sure to bring plenty of water. Expect to spend three or four hours on the trail simply because of how strenuous it can be, but if followed through, it is certainly worth the effort!
While lightly trafficked, this trail is well marked. Occasionally, you may see wild horses that, though managed, are allowed to roam freely in the Little Book Cliffs Wild Horse Area. There are an estimated 90-150 wild horses in this area.
There are two other trails that end at Mt. Garfield: 1) Coal Canyon (the trailhead is located in DeBeque Canyon to the east off of Interstate I-70) and 2) an unmarked trail on the west side of the mountain. Coal Canyon (14.7 mi) is arguably an easier trail, as you trek through the backcountry of the Bookcliffs.
Directions to the Mount Garfield Trailhead
The trailhead can be tricky to find. Exit I-70 on Exit 42 (Elberta Ave) and take a right onto G 7/10 Road, which will cross under I-70 and dead-end at the trailhead parking lot.