A Complete Hiking Guide to Mount Garfield in Colorado

39.0639° N, 108.5506° W

Single track hiking trail in the Colorado desert

MOUNT GARFIELD IS NOT ONLY THE TALLEST MOUNTAIN IN THE ENTIRE GRAND VALLEY OF COLORADO, BUT IT IS ALSO A FANTASTIC DAY HIKE. EXPLORE OUR ADVENTURE GUIDE TO LEARN EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT HIKING THIS BEAUTIFUL MOUNTAIN.

 


The beautiful Grand Valley in Colorado is extremely well-located. For starters, you have the stunning Colorado National Monument to the west and the Grand Mesa to the east. Both destinations have lots of outdoor adventure possibilities; including, tons of hiking and biking trails, climbing routes and even a ski resort to explore in the winter.


Similarly, if you are willing to drive a bit further afield, you will find incredible desert canyons right over the border in Utah, multiple national parks, natural hot springs and some of the most awe-inspiring mountains in the whole western United States.


While there are a lot of adventure possibilities within a short drive of the Grand Valley, if you are looking to instead stay closer to home but still get out and have an exciting day, then consider hiking up to the top of Mount Garfield - the tallest mountain in the entire Grand Valley (and one with incredible views).


Located right outside of Grand Junction, Mount Garfield is by far one of the best hikes in the area. Below you will find everything you need to know about hiking the beautiful Mount Garfield - a trail that, though short, packs a whole lot of adventure.





BASIC INFORMATION


DISTANCE: the main trail is 4-miles round-trip, there is also the option to do a 5-mile round-trip hike

TIME NEEDED: 2-4 hours total

DIFFICULTY RATING: moderate to difficult; you climb up 2,000 feet (610 meters) in two miles

BEST TIME TO HIKE: in the spring (especially mid to late-April) or in the fall, summers are very hot and in the winter there is likely too much snow.

TRAILHEAD LOCATION: off of Interstate 70 near the town of Palisade. Exact trailhead location here.







 

EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT HIKING MOUNT GARFIELD

 






\\ Getting to the Mount Garfield Trailhead


The trailhead for Mount Garfield is a bit difficult to get to. For starters, it is not very well-marked and many of the routes to the trailhead (via Google Maps) are actually wrong. Below are the basic directions to reach the Mount Garfield trailhead near the town of Palisade.



DRIVING


You can reach the Mount Garfield trailhead from both the towns of Grand Junction and Palisade. While Palisade is definitely closer to the trailhead (less than 5 miles away), the larger town of Grand Junction has more services available.



FROM PALISADE

From the center of downtown Palisade, you will first need to head north on Main Street. Then turn left onto 1st Street, drive west until you reach Elberta Avenue. Turn right here and then turn left on G 7/10 (right before you cross the drainage ditch). Once on G 7/10 keep driving until the road takes a hard right-hand turn. It will turn to dirt here and then go through a narrow tunnel under Interstate 70. Drive up a small hill until you reach the trailhead parking lot.


From downtown Palisade, it is approximately 2.6 miles to the trailhead.




Hiking trail on a rocky mountainside in Colorado



FROM GRAND JUNCTION

From downtown Grand Junction, you will head east on Main Street all the way until it meets up with the I-70 Business Loop. Once on the Business Loop, keep heading east as if you were heading towards the interstate. Then turn right onto Road F in the town of Clifton. Keep driving down Road F (which is now Highway 6) until you reach Road 36. Turn left then and then take a quick right onto G Road. Drive just a bit on G Road until you see Road 36 3/10. Turn left there and keep driving north until you reach G 7/10. Turn left here and keep driving until you turn right and go under the interstate. The parking lot is right up a small hill.


From downtown Grand Junction, it is approximately 12.1 miles to the trailhead.




BIKING


Another option for getting to the Mount Garfield Trailhead is to bike there. From Palisade, it is only 2.6 miles to the trailhead (most of which is on quiet country roads). The biking route from Palisade takes you mostly along Road G 4/10 until you reach Garfield Road. At Garfield, turn right and then take an immediate left onto Road G 7/10. Take that road all the way out to the trailhead.


From downtown Grand Junction, it is roughly a 12 mile bike ride to the trailhead. Most of that will be ridden on Patterson, which, while it is a busy road, does have a nice shoulder, and on G Road, which is a somewhat less busy road (this road has many wineries off of it). Once on G Road, you will turn left onto Road 36 3/10 and then left onto Road G 7/10. Take that quiet road all the way out to the trailhead.


💬 INSIDER TIP: we decided to bike to the trailhead from downtown Grand Junction, and while it was a very nice ride, we did end up getting a bit flustered by Google Maps' route suggestions. That is because Google Maps will tell you to ride on Road F 8/10, which is actually a road along an irrigation ditch that is very much off-limits (there are no trespassing signs all over). Similarly, once you get closer to the trailhead, the suggested route will tell you to ride along Stub Ditch Road, which is again private and off-limits (you will see plenty of no trespassing signs here as well). So if you are planning to bike to the Mount Garfield Trailhead make sure to stay ONLY on main roads and do not ride along private roads - no matter how nice they look.




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\\ Mount Garfield Trail Conditions and Hiking Route



TRAIL CONDITIONS


Overall we would say the trail conditions were quite nice up to the top of Mount Garfield. The trail is a bit steep in places - especially right at the beginning - but it is also very easy to follow. For the most part, we would say as long as you are comfortable doing a bit of rock scrambling and are wearing shoes with good grip, you should be totally fine hiking up to the top of Mount Garfield.


We actually did this hike in late April and were thrilled to find the trail totally clear of snow and instead full of wildflowers! We're talking wildflowers of all colors, shapes and sizes. If you are in the Grand Junction area and are looking to find some wildflowers, we cannot recommend this fun trail enough - especially in late-April.




THE HIKING ROUTE | SUMMITTING MOUNT GARFIELD


TOTAL DISTANCE: 2 miles, round-trip

TOTAL ELEVATION GAIN: 2,000 feet (610 meters) in 2 miles



START: from the parking lot, you will see a sign with a map of the two trails in the area as well as a bit of history on this part of the much larger Bookcliffs region. This includes information on the area's coal mining past and overall geology. This sign also talks about the area being a known home of wild horses (if you see one, don't approach it).



1 | If you are planning to hike the Mount Garfield Trail (the other option is the Gearhart Mine Trail, which is 5 miles round-trip - though a bit less steep) then you will start by heading out of the parking lot and turning to your left. Ahead of you you'll see a clear singletrack trail heading right up the ridge of one of the many fins. This is your trail. Start towards it and begin the steep climb.



2 | Once on the singletrack trail, keep slowly climbing upwards (don't worry this is the steepest part of the hike). Eventually, you will get to a flat-ish spot before it starts to climb steadily again. Keep moving upwards, around a couple of large boulders until the trail becomes rockier and less sandy.




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3 | The rocky section of the trail is just as slick and tough as the first uphill section, so make sure to stay alert and always go at an even, safe pace. You will start to do a bit of rock scrambling in this section of the trail - though luckily none of them are too tough or too tall. During this part, make sure to turn around a couple of times to take in the view of the Grand Valley.



4 | Soon enough you will reach a little plateau. The trail widens quite a bit here and it starts to become quite a bit easier. Keep walking towards the left (you will see Mount Garfield in front of you). When we did this trail in late April we were lucky enough to see a lot of different wildflowers in this section. Keep an eye out for red cactus flowers especially. Also, from here you can get a good view of the historic mining operations that once worked on the mountain. Along the righthand wall you can see a clear black patch and a couple of old wooden structures.


❔ GOOD TO KNOW: this is the area where the other trail reconnects with the Mount Garfield Trail. You will be able to see the other trail come in from the right once on the plateau. Just remember to keep heading left the whole hike and NOT towards the right.




Wide view of the Grand Valley in western Colorado

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5 | Once through the meadow, you will enter another rocky section. This part is a bit flatter (though you are definitely still climbing), and the rocks are just a bit bigger. Though don't worry - you can still easily make your way along this part of the trail, especially if you take your time.



6 | The rocky section takes a bit of time, but once you reach the second plateau/meadow area you will know you are about halfway (and the hardest half is done, woo). This second plateau is really pretty and affords you a great view of Mount Garfield ahead.



7 | Walk all the way across the meadow until you see the trail starting to climb a bit towards the large striped rock wall in front of you. Keep heading up the trail, which is now very obvious to follow, until it meets up with the large natural rock wall. The trail hugs the side of this for about 150 yards before it climbs up just a bit more to a saddle between the rocks.




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8 | This part of the trail might be really windy, so make sure to hold on to your hats or any other loose items. Walk along the saddle for just a bit until the trail once again starts to climb upwards. The trail does kind of fade here - since this section is almost entirely rock - so when in doubt, keep heading up to the top on whichever route works best for you.



9 | After climbing up the rocks, you will come to a clearly flat section atop the mesa. Congrats, that was the last tough part before the summit! Keep walking straight ahead along the rim until you see a large flagpole.



10 | The tall flagpole is the "top" - though we don't know if it is really any taller than other parts of the mountain. Either way, this is where the trail technically ends, so hang out here, eat a snack and take in the great view of the Grand Valley down below.




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11 | Once you have your fill of the views, start the hike back down to the parking lot. You will simply need to retrace your steps, just make sure to take your time on the rocky and sandy sections.



💬 INSIDER TIP: the way back down, especially towards the end, is quite steep and very slick. Go slow, try to hug the sides of the trail (where it is usually a bit less loose) and if you are really feeling uncomfortable, just sit down and butt slide.


In total, it took us approximately 2 hours to hike up to the top (though we stopped a fair amount to take photos of the wildflowers) and then 1 hour and 15 minutes to hike back down to the parking lot.



➳ You can find the Alltrails map for hiking Mount Garfield here.






\\ What to Bring With You for Hiking Mount Garfield


Below are a few important things you will want to bring with you when hiking Mount Garfield.


WATER

You will definitely want to bring at least 1 liter of water per person for the hike, even more if it is a really hot and sunny day. We recommend having a backpack that can carry your water bottle or a hydration bladder (like a Camelback). This will make it a lot easier to tackle the steep uphill park.


We really like this style of hydration pack from Osprey. It is great for hiking and for biking around on the trails.



SNACKS

While it is not a very long hike up to the top of Mount Garfield (5 miles max), it is pretty steep and takes some serious effort. Plus, once at the top, you will likely want to hang out a bit and take in the stunning view of the Grand Valley below. We recommend packing at least a couple of snacks in your bag, just in case you start to get a bit hungry. Our go-to hiking snacks are Kind bars, dried fruit (like mango) and gummy bears.



GOOD HIKING SHOES

When hiking Mount Garfield, you will definitely want to wear shoes that have enough grip to keep you from slipping on the really sandy, steep parts (especially at the beginning). When we hiked Mount Garfield, we wore heavier duty sandals (Keen's to be exact) and trail running shoes. Both worked pretty well, though we did both slip and slide a bit on the downhill sandy section towards the end.


In the summer, if we are planning to do a shorter hike (or one with a lot of water) we tend to wear lighter hiking sandals like these by Keen.




Person hiking up a rocky mountain in the day in Colorado



SUN PROTECTION

There is very (very) little shade along the hike so make sure to wear plenty of sun protection (a hat, sunscreen, sunglasses, etc.) - especially if doing this hike during the middle of the day and in the summer (Grand Junction can get really hot between June and August, so if possible, try to do the hike early in the morning or closer to dusk during that time of year).


We tend to wear sun hats at the very least when hiking during the middle of the day. This one by Stetson is perfect for hiking up Mount Garfield.


One other useful thing to have with you when hiking Mount Garfield would be hiking poles, especially for the downhill section. This is especially true if you are someone with bad knees. This pair by Stoic is affordable and durable.



You can download our FREE Hiking Gear Checklist here.



❔ GOOD TO KNOW: after finishing the hike, consider stopping in at one of the many wineries nearby. We especially like the Carboy Winery, which is located just a short drive or bike ride away. Find the exact location of the winery here.



 


If you are looking for a fun, exciting hiking adventure in the Grand Junction area, then definitely consider summitting Mount Garfield. As the tallest mountain around, this is a great destination for people looking to get a better view of the Grand Valley, or who just want an awesome spot to watch sunset. Plus, due to its shortness (4-miles round-trip) this hike can easily be done in the early morning or as an after work adventure.


Hopefully, this adventure guide covers everything you need to know about hiking Mount Garfield, but if you have any questions please leave a comment below or reach out to us directly.




 

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