On the Trail: The accessible heights of Mount Garfield
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado
GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. ” A 6,765-foot peak. Now that’s my idea of mountain climbing.
Not only could I actually breathe as I took in the views from the summit, but the hike up didn’t require a pre-dawn start, a multitude of provisions or nerves of steel, the way some of Colorado’s fabled fourteeners do.
That’s not to say Mount Garfield, that prominent butte to the west of Palisade in far western Colorado, is a walk in the park. The hike covers 2,000 feet spaced over 2 miles, so it’s pretty much a grunt all the way to the top, though an obnoxiously fit 25-year-old who passed a friend and me near the summit last weekend said he ran up in 30 minutes. It took us about an hour and 25 minutes, stopping to snap photos, admire the view, rest our legs, etc.
The trail climbs steeply almost from the get-go, accessing the peak via one of those sloping fins at its base that look like hardened piles of oozing concrete. The trail follows the spine of one of these piles until it meets the rock and dirt that make up much of the mountain.
Clearly visible from Interstate 70 as it skirts Grand Junction (the base of the mountain is right next to the freeway), Garfield looks like nothing but rock. The trail actually passes through some protected, grassy meadows farther up, though they’re invisible from below.
A flag pole marks the summit, which boasts 360-degree views that take in the Grand Valley, the Colorado National Monument, Grand Mesa, the Bookcliffs (of which Garfield is the highest point), the DeBeque Canyon high country and a far-off mountain range to the southeast that we guessed might be the Raggeds.
There’s supposedly a herd of wild horses up there ” probably in the valley accessed off the back of the mountain, though I’ve never seen them on any of my several visits. Horse apples are evident in the meadows, though.
I first did this hike on Christmas Day, a number of years ago, so I’m betting it’s accessible much of the year. It’s probably beastly hot in the summertime.
Finding the trailhead is the tricky part, but the easiest route (unless snow or mud is an issue) involves exiting I-70 westbound at Palisade and making an immediate right turn onto a gravel road (if you get onto the paved one, next to the vineyards, that works. You can access the gravel road above it and to the right eventually). Follow the road past vineyards, a few houses and a box culvert beneath I-70 that is too small for a vehicle. The second culvert/tunnel you’ll see on the right is larger and takes you beneath the interstate to the trail parking lot. Height clearance in the tunnel is 9 feet.
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The city of Aspen’s land use code says that only single-family homes can be built on lots smaller than 6,000 square feet in certain neighborhoods. That might change if Aspen City Council allows a proposed change that allows multi-family buildings to be developed.