Hiking Palisade Rim Trail
The Palisade Rim Trail stands out as a Grand Valley classic. It’s a beautiful, must-do hike for both locals and visitors. Just east of downtown Palisade, this upper-moderate hike offers bird and wildlife watching, petroglyphs, and breathtaking views of canyons, Mount Garfield, the serpentine Colorado River, and the patchwork valley floor.
The trail is made up of two well-marked and -maintained single-track loop trails, lower and upper, with a connector trail. The entire trail system is approximately 9.5 miles (lower loop - 3.5 miles, upper loop and connector trail - 6 miles), with a 1,514-foot total elevation gain to 6,042 feet. There is cell service throughout.
This hike is ideal for spring’s mild weather. In warmer seasons, head out first thing in the morning or in late afternoon to avoid the heat of the day and any weekend trail traffic. As with most trails in the area, avoid this one after rain, especially the upper loop. Palisade Rim Trail is open to bikers, horseback riders, hikers, and dogs, making trail etiquette key.
After the hike, enjoy well-deserved refreshments in Palisade, looking back up to the trail towering above.
Getting to Palisade Rim Trailhead
Driving east on Highway 6, go approximately two miles past Palisade. Pass the trailhead on the right, one-third of a mile past milepost 45. Parking is another 200 feet on the left at the Colorado River boat launch. Walk back 200 feet to the gate and trailhead sign. Stay on the trail, no shortcuts!
The steep initial 800-foot climb takes you along and around a canal, followed by numerous switchbacks snaking through interesting rock formations. Stay alert at this point, as juniper and rocks make it difficult for downhill mountain bikers to see you.
Stay right and do the loop counter-clockwise for exposure to grand vistas along the way. When the trail opens up to a flat mesa, slow down and hug the rock wall on your left, following the trail to experience numerous panels of Ute petroglyphs.
Fork left through a majestic canyon back to the trailhead, or fork right on the upper loop connector.
Follow the connector trail across open sagebrush, and climb up to the next bench. Stay right and do this loop counter-clockwise as well. The first half leads you along steep, exposed cliff walls. Watch your footing, and stop frequently to take in the views. For their safety, keep dogs on leashes through this section. The back side of the loop heads away from the cliff’s edge and winds through washes back to the petroglyph junction. Take a right at the junction to return to the trailhead.