Cabin Reservoir (Rapid CreeK)Date: 7/4/2011
Time: 6 Hours
Trailhead GPS Coordinates: 39° 8’0.22″N, 108°18’12.64″W
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Cabin Reservoir is located on the western end of Grand Mesa and located above the town of Palisade. To access the trailhead from the I-70 business loop and F road intersection in Clifton you will need to travel east on Front Street/F Road until you reach Palisade. Once in Palisade the road turns into G road where you will continue for just under three miles until you come to Rapid Creek Road on your right. Continue on Rapid Creek Road for just under 2 miles as it goes past the Palisade water treatment plant. Just past the plant is a parking area and the trailhead.
Cabin Reservoir is located on the last ridge of the Grand Mesa prior to reaching the rim. The reservoir is part of Palisades water supply so there are a couple little used roads that are utilized for this hike. This trail is very strenuous due to the distance and the elevation gain. During the hike up you climb nearly 2500 feet in just a few miles.
One word of warning for this hike is do not hike it alone. One reason there is a lot of wildlife and is a major thoroughfare for bears traveling between the mesa and the Palisade orchards. I was unfortunate enough to be followed up the road a ways by a rather large black bear as well as seeing a very large amount of bear tracks and scat near Cabin Reservoir. I seen more bear tracks and signs of bears on this single hike than I have seen my whole life. So be sure to bring a good can of bear spray. This hike gave me more sense of seclusion and back country hiking than any other trail I have been on.
The trail begins by following a road that leads to a few residential homes so please be considerate of their property. Once past the homes the trail continues to follow the road as it begins climbing a little then drops down to a point where you will need to cross Rapid Creek. The creek was running steady but there were some big enough rocks to allow me to cross over without getting wet. As you climb out of the creek you will come to the first gate with an actual trail marker. At this point I turned to the right and went through the gate. From this point the trail becomes a single track for a short distance until you come to a second gate. At this point you have the option of turning left which will take you up the Rapid Creek portion of the hike or turn sort of right which will take you up the Cottonwood Creek portion. Both routes connect at Cabin Reservoir so you can pick either one. I opted to go right and head up Cottonwood Creek.
As you follow the trail it goes through a meadow area then will drop down to a road. At this point you need to turn left and follow the road up the canyon. There is a trail that continues across the road and climbs the hill on the other side of the creek but I think it leads to the Palisade Rim trail or at least that area.
As you beginning climbing, the road seams to get steeper and steeper. After a couple miles you will come to a “Y” where on the left you can see where they have been grading the road and the right route will follow the creek along the canyon bottom. I would recommend taking the right fork because I took the left and all it did was climb extremely steep up then back down to the other road. It added a lot of extra up hill.
Shortly after this “Y” in the road is where the bear showed up and from that point on I didn’t care much about the scenery, I just kept walking as fast as I could.
About three or so miles from the mentioned “Y” in the road you will come to another branch as you come around the corner. Directly in front of you the dam to the reservoir will come into view and to your right will be another gate and old road that leads farther up the mountain side. I turned left and headed for the reservoir.
Once at the reservoir I followed what looked like a game trail as it skirted the lake and climbed a little hill. This short section appeared to follow a pipeline of some sort until it connected to a road. You can see the route the road takes all the way down as it follows Rapid Creek down the valley. There is another road that turns off to the left a little but it climbs higher up the hill and eventually dead ends I believe.
From Cabin Reservoir on it is all downhill which was really nice. I didn’t see many signs of bears once I began my decent down, although I did scare a herd of elk out of the oak brush. They ran off to the hillside across the valley and I could hear them bugling off and on for a while.
The road continues to drop steeply back down to the valley floor as it follows Rapid Creek where it eventually connects back to the beginning of the trail.
This could have been a very enjoyable hike if it wasn’t for the bear encounter. It is definitely not one you should do by yourself. The scenery is beautiful and the wildlife is abundant. It’s amazing how close you actually get to the top of the mesa.