Palisade Petroglyph Trail Date: 1/25/2010 Difficulty: Moderate Miles: Approx. 3 Miles Round Trip Rating: Type: Loop Trailhead GPS Coordinates: 39° 7’5.71″N, 108°19’9.17″W
The Palisade Petroglyph Trail is a short trail that climbs up from the Colorado River just north east of Palisade at the mouth of Debeque Canyon. I have never seen a name for the trail so I just call it the Palisade Petroglyph Trail.
To access the trail from downtown Palisade you can head east on North River Road for approximately 2.0 miles. Once you cross the bridge over the Colorado River turn right then immediately turn right again into the little pull off area along the river. This is the same area I park when I have gone up the StageCoach Trail. You can reach the same area by following G Road on the southern side of Palisade as well. Across the road from where I park there is a canal and small building with a sign indicating “No Trespassing”. The trailhead is to the right of this small building where the canal goes underground.
The trail goes up and around then follows above the canal for a short distance. The trail gains altitude fairly quick as it leads deeper into a small canyon. About halfway up the hill you will come to a fairly steep section with a little loose soil. As long as you are careful you shouldn’t have any problems. From this point you have two options in completing the trail. The first is bearing left and following the trail in a clockwise direction as it loops around the the point of the hill. I took this way once when there was snow on the ground and it was a little more difficult to follow because there was various game trails that kept intersecting the main trail. The second option is continuing up the more steep section and just going up and back. Either way is a great hike.
As you get higher you gain farther views of the Grand Valley as well as the top of the bookcliffs. If you bring binoculars a lot of times you can look across the valley and see wild horses on top of the bookcliffs. You can also see all the stacked sandstone that makes the beginning section of the StageCoach trail scaling the side of the bookcliffs.
If you choose to go to the left and do the loop portion of the trail you need to keep an eye out for a trail that branches off to the left and heads up towards the cliffs of Grand Mesa. This trail is at the end of the canyon that cuts its way back into the mountain and cuts across the end of a flat meadow area. I have never taken the trail that branches off, you want to go just past it and keep an eye out to the right. This is where the various petroglyphs begin. There is a faint trail that takes you right up to the rocks. Please remember not to touch the rock art because the oils in your hands can make them deteriorate more quickly. Please treat them with respect and like I read in a book, “They are like outdoor museum pieces”. I have found various examples of rock art all along the south side of the hill.
To return to the trailhead just continue to follow the trail as is gently heads downhill and away from the hill. After a while you will come upon the trail junction where you branched off if you did the loop.
I really like this trail, I haven’t seen any wildlife on it yet but there are plenty of signs. The petroglyphs are well worth the short jaunt up the hill and the climb up is enough to make you feel like you actually did something other then a easy nature hike. The views are hard to compete with and it is fairly close to town making it easy to do an hour or two quick hike.