Mount Garfield is a distinctive promontory along the Bookcliffs that form the northern boundary of the Grand Valley. The Grand Valley is the location of the confluence of the Colorado River and the Gunnison Rivers and contains the towns of Palisade, Clifton, Grand Junction and Fruita. The Bookcliffs got their name in 1853 when Captain John Gunnison lead an expedition through the Grand Valley. Gunnison’s recorder, Lieutenant E.G. Beckwith who noticed the unusual formation of the mountain range, said the mountain resembled “books on a shelf.” The name stuck. Settlers moved into the Grand Valley in 1882 and dedicated the promontory of Mount Garfield to President James Garfield who was assassinated in 1881.
Don’t expect to find solitude on Mount Garfield. However, if you can block out the roar from the traffic on I-70 it does make for a scenic hike. The trail climbs steeply along a relatively well-marked trail and makes for a nice little workout, gaining 2,000 ft of elevation in only two miles. The summit provides excellent views of the Grand Valley and the fertile agricultural fields of Palisade and Clifton. The area is rich with orchards and vineyards. The winemaking industry has really taken off in the area over the last decade. Although the Grand Valley is no Napa valley, perhaps it will be in the next fifty to one hundred years.
There are two ways to get to the trailhead. The official way is to exit I-70 in the town of Palisade onto 37 3/10 Rd (I love the road naming convention in the Grand Valley). About one hundred yards south of I-70 you will cross over an irrigation ditch. Make an immediate right (west) on G 7/10 Rd. Go about a mile or so west on G 7/10 Rd until you are forced to make a right (north). Head north to a tunnel that leads under I-70. The trailhead is just on the north side of I-70. The only problem with this method of getting to the trailhead is that the tunnel can fill with water. There are signs on the tunnel warning against going through it when it was full of water. I heeded this warning and parked on south side of I-70 and waded through the two-foot deep, filthy, muddy water. This was not a very fun experience.
An alternative is to be going westbound on I-70 and pass the Palisade exit. Drive roughly one mile west past the Palisade exit and look for a spot to pull off. There is a small break in the fence and you can drive you vehicle all the way off the road into a little parking area. This will sneak up on you fast and you may miss it if you don’t know what you’re looking for. However, if you go to the tunnel and it’s full of water, this is worth a try.
At the time I compiled this page there were thirteen active wineries in the Grand Valley. If you're looking for an activity to fill out your visit to the Grand Valley you might want to consider stopping by some of the wineries for a tasting or a tour. The Grand River Winery is probably the areas biggest and is about a mile from the trailhead. Below are some links to some of the winery/vineyard websites:
- Canyon Wind Cellars
- Carlson Vineyards
- Corely Vineyards
- Garfield Estates
- Grand River Vineyards
- Graystone Winery
- St. Kathryn Cellars
- Two Rivers Winery
Mountain Conditions/When To Climb
The heat and sun can be unmerciful in the Grand Valley during the summer when temperatures often soar above one hundred degrees. For that reason I suggest that Mount Garfield is best climbed during the fall, winter, or spring. Because of its low elevation and south facing slopes, I doubt much snow ever accumulates on it (and if it does it will surely melt of quickly).
Red Tape/More Info
There is no red tape.
As near as I can tell, Mount Garfield is administrated by the BLM. Their Grand Junction Field Office contact info is below. They have been extremely helpful in the past when I was researching Black Ridge, so if you'd like additional info I recommend you drop them a line.
- Address: 2815 H Road, Grand Junction, CO 81506
- Voice: (970) 244-3000
- Fax: (970) 244-3083
- Office Hours: M - F, 7:30am - 4:30pm MST
- Website: http://www.co.blm.gov/gjra/gjra.html