Iconic to the Grand Valley, Mount Garfield is recognized by air as well as driving by at 75 mph down Interstate 70. It greets drivers coming from the east and leaves a lasting impression to those passing through from the west. Some people may never think there’s a way to climb to the top. But oh, there’s a way.
Let’s be honest — my choice of recreational activity includes mountain biking, road cycling, or running (on flat ground in a park). Hiking is not at the top of my list.
That said, I was privileged to hike Mount Garfield recently and I am sharing my experience and tips with you.
The trail is very strenuous and enlightening. With the route we took, it ended up being around 3.5 miles and about 2,000 feet of climbing.
Was it worth it? You betcha!
The views are expansive and even the San Juans are visible on a hazy day. Although I am sore, it’s a reminder that this hike should not be taken lightly. Prepare by hiking Riggs Hill or Liberty Cap in Grand Junction a few times. Get the thighs and calves strong before venturing vertical.
Would I do it again? Maybe.
Would I suggest you to do it? Absolutely.
Just prepare yourself more than I did and know that this trail is no joke.
Please note: Pack a backpack full of water, I would suggest three liters. It’s always better to have more than enough. Also bring along a snack, camera, a buddy and a smile.
The trailhead is located at the end of G 7/10 Road in Palisade.
According to an online source, there are two ways to reach the top of Garfield. An easy, less strenuous way, and the strenuous way. My goal was to take the easy, less strenuous way.
My husband and I ventured to what we believed to be the start of the easy route — a large, wood block at the end of one of the ridges that juts out from the Bookcliffs. To me, that indicates the start of a trail. Assuming we knew what we were doing, we looked up. We noticed a guy and his dog on the ridge to the west of where we were standing. That ridge looked steep, hard, and not something we wanted to attempt.
Looking up from the bottom, the “easy” way also looked steep. That should have provided me a clue that this was going to be painful. I just thought to myself, “I’m in shape, I ride bikes that make me climb 2,000 feet in a ride. This shouldn’t be hard.”
I thought wrong. It was steep the whole time.
As if being steep wasn’t challenging and butt-burning enough, the trail throws in boulder fields to climb through. Now this involves your arms to join the pain party.
After resting about 10 times in a .75-mile period (plus, multiple thoughts to stop and turn around), we figured we had to be leveling out soon, so we continued on.
The climb does eventually subside, and it’s like a hidden oasis. When we took a look back at the scenery (and the tough climb we just defeated), we enjoyed expansive views — at this time of year, everything is turning bright green and the fields below appeared quilted.
Then up comes boulder field No. 2. After that, it flattened again. For a few moments, it seemed like another country swallowed in green grass, large boulders and unique trees. We also saw a lot of horse droppings, proof the majestic creatures hang out there often.
After taking a rest, we ventured up the side of the cliff. Exposure is extreme here. Focus on the trail ahead or else vertigo will set in.
Once again, more climbing. At this time, I believe some obscenities and threats of divorce were thrown around as we climbed yet more boulders.
Side note: Continue left and don’t venture right; a right turn will take you the wrong way. Take the path that works best for you, as there are options to play with and make the climb easier (kind of).
The last half mile up is the easiest part of the whole journey. It evens out, somewhat, and eventually come up to the flagpole, exposing the valley below. Next to the pole is a marker letting you know you made the summit. Take a photo, eat a snack. Drink up all the views. Because now you venture back down the way you came.
Because it’s so steep, the descent puts a lot more pressure on the thighs. It might be better to do a slight jog instead of walking, as long as your footing is stable. Take breaks when necessary.
The venture down was faster and no tears were shed. It was exhausting though.