Andys LoopDate: 4/22/2013
Miles: Approx 7 miles Round Trip
Time: 3hrs 15min
Trailhead GPS Coordinates: 39° 2.991′N , 108° 36.343′W
View Andys Loop in a larger map
The Andys loop Trail is located within the Lunch Loop Trail System. There are multiple access points to the trail but the main trailhead is located just off of Monument Road. To access the trailhead from 1st and Grand in Grand Junction travel west on Broadway for approximately .87 miles until you reach Monument Road. Turn left and travel approximately 1.6 miles until you come to the Tabeguache Bike Park located on your left. The trail head is on the Monument Road side of the bike park next to the large kiosk. You can download a nice map that the BLM offers by clicking Lunch_Loop_Trail_System map here.
Out of all the trails within the Lunch Loop System, I think Andys Loop is probably the most strenuous. Most of the trails in this area were designed for mountain bikes and there are two things that can always be guaranteed with a mountain bike trail, first, mountain bikes obviously cannot ride in a straight line, it takes two miles of following the trail to go only one mile as the crow flies. Fun I’m sure if you’re on a bike but it sure wears the boot soles out fast. Two, even mountain bikes have limits on what they can go up or down, even though those limits are stretched to the breaking point often, you can generally be assured that you will not have to do any scrambling to get up or down any sections.
The trail begins by passing to the west of the bike park and follows a small wash. As the wash opens up to a wider valley area you will come to your first fork in the trail. At this first marker you want to turn right and follow the Eagles Tail trail as it continues to follow the little wash. Once you are nearly through the wash you will come to your second trail marker. At this point you want to turn right again and begin climbing to the top of the ridge. The Andys Loop trail is basically uphill for the first five miles so be prepared to gain a little elevation.
Once you reach the top of the ridge the trail levels out a little and follows along the edge. In front of you will be the Colorado National Monument and the mouth of No Thoroughfare Canyon. If you look in the right place you can see Devils Kitchen as well. Shortly after reaching the top of the first ridge you will drop fairly quickly down into a small valley area. This section of the trail would be a great spot to film a Sci-FI movie because it looks a lot like the photos that are being sent back from the Mars Curiosity rover.
Within short order you will pass through the remnants of an old fence and cross the last flat section until the return trip. At this point the trail passes by the mouth of Echo Canyon which is the most eastern canyon of the Colorado National Monument. There are some old cottonwood trees along the seasonal creek bed and a brushy riparian looking area. Straight ahead you will see where the trail begins its climb.
The climb out of the little valley is pretty steep and required a few rest stops to make it to the top. The trail follows along above Echo Canyon and twists and winds its way to a brief level section before dropping down once again and meeting up with the Ribbon Trail. This section of the trail is a little steep going down and there are a few narrow spots along the way that require careful placement of your boots. If you have young kids with you it would be wise to watch them close. A tumble over the edge could be life threatening
Once at the bottom of the hill you can make an abrupt right turn and follow the creek bed to the spillway of Echo Canyon and look down from the top of the waterfall. Due to time issues I opted to save that little side trip for another day.
Once you meet up with the Ribbon Trail you have your one last major climb. The Climb from the bottom of the canyon up to little park road is pretty steep but knowing it’s the last major climb kept me moving.
Once you reach Little Park Road, there are two options, you can cross the road and take the Gunny Loop trail up and around to the Tabaguache trail which will add almost a mile to your trip or you can turn left and follow along Little Park Road which is the way I went.
The Tabaguache Trail trailhead is a short quarter mile walk up Little Park Road. The trailhead is on the west side of the road and has a little information sign before dropping down into the little ravine. From this point you want to just stay on the Tabaguache Trail all the way back to Monument road. There are some mild ups and downs for the first half mile until you come to what they call Widow Maker Hill, Which you will know when you reach it. I slipped and slid in many spots going down it, I can’t imagine riding a bike down it. From Widow Maker Hill it is literally downhill the remainder of the way.
This would be a good training hike for a longer one and the scenery is consistent with the rest of the Lunch Loop Trails although each trail has its own unique features. I’m still not real sure why they call this trail a loop, because the actual Andys Loop trail is not a loop. Overall it was great to be out again after a couple months furlough.