StageCoach TrailDate: 2/7/2011
Miles: Approx. 5 Miles Round Trip
Trailhead GPS Coordinates: 39° 7’12.55″N, 108°19’19.24″W
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The StageCoach Trail is part of the actual route that was used by the stagecoach to get from Grand Junction to Parachute. If you have ever driven through Debeque Canyon you can spot various sections of it throughout the canyon. It amazes me to think that people actually once dragged a stagecoach over this portion of the trail.
In the past, a person was able to park just off of Interstate 70 on the North side right after you cross the Colorado River, but the highway department has blocked the parking area. Unfortunately blocking the parking area has made it harder to access the trail. Each time that I have hiked the trail I park across the river at the intersection of N. River Road and G Road. There is a nice pull off there where you can park some what under some trees in the shade. This is the same place I park when we hike the Palisade Rim Trail. From here I walk across the bridge and walk down an old road that takes you to the former roller dam. The road is closed and there are a couple of no trespassing signs but this is the route everyone I’ve talked to takes to get to the trail. As soon as you cross below the interstate you can go up and over the train tracks, be sure to watch for oncoming trains. Once over the train tracks you will see the trail.
The trail will parallel the interstate for about 100 yards or so and then turns to the right and heads up the side of the hill. This is where the fun begins. From this point it is a healthy up hill climb that will definitely give your legs a workout. As you get higher and higher the views get better and better. The trail continues up the hill where you get views of the top of the hills across the river and clear up the valley almost to Parachute. About 3/4 of the way up the hillside you will notice a small trail that branches off to the left in the area betwen the lower and upper cliff sections. This last hike I turned at this point.
As you continue to follow the trail it will lead you along the cliffs to a small valley area that I never knew existed because you can’t see it from the upper portion of the trail or from the valley floor. The trail passes through this small valley and climbs out the other side where it follows along a portion of slickrock and continues along the cliff rim. After a short distance you will come to the upper section of the trail. The trail will slowly work it’s way towards the rim of the bookcliffs where you will have amazing views of the Grand Valley. Continue following the trail as it skirts the rim of the bookcliffs, from here it is pretty hard to loose the trail because there is really not much room between Mt.Lincoln and the cliff edge. You will see the flagpole in the distance up on the hill. You will pass through an area of sandstone and then a section of ground that is black with coal and has a distinct smell seeping from the ground. On this last trip as we came upon this area with the coal you could see smoke and steam blowing out of the ground from the smoldering coal.
Immediately after this narrow section you will see another section of trail branch off to the left. We followed this section as it took us towards the cliff edge once again. From here the trail meandered along the cliff edge dropping and weaving and eventually coming out to another section of sandstone. There is one area of this part of the trail that could be a bit spooky if heights make you nervous because the trail passes through a fairly narrow section right on the side of the cliff, but it wasn’t too bad.
As the trail reaches the bottom of the hill the flagpole is located on it becomes less obvious and harder to flollow in spots.The climb to the flagpole is a good climb as it is a steady up. Be sure to look to the East or your left as you are heading towards the flagpole because there is an old hunting blind or ruin that I assume was used by the Utes. I have read that the Ute Indians had a trail that followed the rim of the bookcliffs and I am assuming that this structure is associated with that trail.
The flagpole is the goal for most people and they generally turn around at this point. From here you can either turn back and go the way you came or continue on the trail as it travels a little farther to the west then circles around and conncts back to the main trail. I usually cut back across country towards the North and hook back up to the main trail.
Once back on the trail you can either head back or turn left or west and continue farther. If you continue following the trail west you will see a small section of the trail that branches off and heads towards a flow of “petrified looking mud”. The trail has had some small rocks placed on it that makes you think you need to follow the section that heads towards the ‘mud flow’ looking area. You can go that way and explore that area because it is a rather interesting feature. I’ve never really found a trail that continues past this “mud flow” area so in the past I just headed across country once more and connected back to the main trail and followed it as it dips and twists and ends up coming to a fence with a gate on it. The gate is the point where I turn around and head back. I think this adds an extra mile or two to the hike but I feel like it is worth it.
From here you can either turn around head back the way you came or if you have time do the StageCoach to Coal Canyon trail which is a good days hike.
The return trip follows a pretty straightforward path back to the trailhead. As long as you stay on the trail it is really hard to get off course. The trail takes you along the base of Mt. Lincoln and follows along the flat portion of the upper cliffs. Eventually the trail comes to the cliff edge where it drops off through a slot area and connects back to the actual stagecoach trail where you can follow it back to the highway and over to the parking area.
This is a nice trail which is very enjoyable. There are a few options you can do to mix things up a little. There is a herd of wild horses that frequent the area and great views of the Grand Valley and surrounding area.