Clarks BenchDate: 8/2/2010
Difficulty: Moderate to Strenuous
Miles: Approx. 2 Mile Round Trip
Trailhead GPS Coordinates: 38°59’14.21″N, 108°37’11.54″W
To access the trail from Grand Junction, travel west on Grand Ave from 1st street and turn left onto Monument Road. Travel about 1/4 mile and take another left onto D road which turns into Rosevale Road. About a mile take a right onto Little Park Road and continue traveling for another 5 miles or so. Shortly after a fairly tight turn to the right there is a road to the left with a sign indicating “Bangs Canyon Staging Area”. Follow this road the short distance to the parking area. The trailhead is straight to the west of the parking area. This trail shares the same trailhead as the Mica Mine Trail the and Rough Canyon Trail.
Clarks Bench is the mesa that separates Rough Canyon and Ladder Canyon (the Mica Mine Trail) within the Bangs Canyon Management area. I cannot find a name for this area so I just call it Clarks Bench Island because it looks like a small island right on the tip of the mesa.
The trail itself is not shown on any maps I could find and is not listed on any BLM signage. Given how much attention this area receives from the BLM and how they and other special interest groups generally prefer that you stay on designated trails, you might use your own judgment whether to hike this area or not. The fact that the trail follows an old road made me less concerned about going there.
To get to the trail you follow the Mica Mine/Rough Canyon trail through the fence and down into the small canyon. The lower portion of this section has some fairly large ledges to navigate down but should pose no problem for most people. Once you reach the bottom there is a sign indicating Rough Canyon to the left and Mica Mine to the right. Turn right and follow the Mica Mine trail for about a hundred yards or so. At the point where the trail turns to the left and begins heading up the canyon you can look to the left and see an old road heading up the hill. This will be pretty much the last place you will be able to head up the hill. If you miss it and keep going around the corner there will be nothing but cliffs.
As you work your way up there are actually quite a few rock cairns placed along the way that helps you to pick the correct route. There are a few places that require some fairly good route finding skills though but shouldn’t be a problem. If you lose the trail just head torwards the canyon on the right and you will eventually connect back up to the trail.
The difficulty of this trail was hard to determine. It is a fairly steep climb for almost a mile which could make it hard on you if your not in the best of shape, but then going back down was pretty easy. The trail varies between slickrock and sandy soil.
Near the top of the mesa there is a faint trail that breaks off to the right and drops down to the small “bridge” area that connects the “Island” to Clarks Bench. From this point you can climb the steep hill and actually get on top of Clarks Bench, be cautious if you go this way because there is a lot of private property in that area. For the more adventurous it looked like you could maybe climb down the hill and into Rough Canyon. I didn’t see a way to get down the other side into Ladder Canyon but I think there is a way. Due to the thunderstorms that were rumbling over head I did not have time to explore this area much.
Once you reach the top of the mesa you will be rewarded with great views of the Bangs Canyon and Tabaguache area. Looking over the valley makes you feel like your almost at the top of the world. There is an old hunting blind looking structure near the rim of the canyon, which looks pretty old, it makes me wonder who built it and what for. From this point the trail pretty much disapears so you have the option of either turning around and going back the way you came or following the cliff edge of Rough Canyon back down to the bottom to make a loop. Due to the above mentioned thunderstorms, I opted to turn around and head back down in somewhat double time. This is not the place to be during a thunderstorm.
This was a fun trail to do. As many times as I’ve hiked the Mica Mine trail It was neat to be able to look down into the canyon rather then looking up. I gave this one a 3 1/2 star because of the slight challenge going up, the great views and the neat blind looking structure at the top.