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The Corkscrew Trail is located towards the eastern end of the Colorado National Monument and shares the same trailhead and a portion of the Liberty Cap trail and Ute Canyon Trail.
To access the trailhead from 1st and Grand Ave. in Grand Junction you want to travel west on Broadway for about 3.7 miles to the intersection of Broadway and Redlands Parkway. From here you need to turn left and travel on Redlands Parkway for about 1 ¼ miles. You will pass Riggs Hill on your right just before the turn off to Wildwood Drive. Make a left turn onto Wildwood Drive and go about .4 miles to the parking area which is on your right.
The trail starts by meandering over an open prairie type area as it gently climbs and heads towards the base of the Precambrian granite bench. There are a few little side trails that branch off and cut across country to various areas but if you stay on the main trail you will come to the junction of the Corkscrew Trail and Liberty Cap Trail. From this junction you can either go straight and utilize the Lower portion of the Liberty Cap Trail or turn left and start with the Corkscrew Trail. I turned left and went up the Corkscrew Trail.
Once on the Corkscrew Trail you will wind your way through the juniper trees as the trail dips in and out of small ravines and normally dry creek beds as it makes its way towards the base of the granite cliffs. This portion of the trail had some of the most tame wild rabbits I have ever seen. They would let you get within a couple feet of them before they would take a few hops to stay just out of arms length. I also ran across a couple lizards that had the same coloring as the Western Whiptail but rather than stripes they had spots like leopards. These strange colored lizards were the first I’ve seen.
Once you actually reach the base of the granite bench the trail begins to climb up pretty fast. This first quarter mile of climbing is the steepest section of the whole trail going up. The trail follows the rim of a small canyon as it climbs up the side of the monument. At the head of the canyon is a large intermittent waterfall that pours out of the generally dry creek of Ute Canyon. The interesting thing about this trail is that the farther up you go the more it looks like the trail disappears. If you didn’t know better you would think the trail just dead ends at the sheer cliffs towards the top.
Once you get close to those sheer cliffs the name of the trail becomes obvious. There are so many switchbacks on this section that you tend to lose count on how many there actually are. With the crazy amount of switchbacks the trail really didn’t feel very steep. There were a couple sections where the trail was fairly narrow and had some rather steep drops but even myself that has a big problem with heights often didn’t have any problems. I just kept looking at the ground when I came to those couple areas.
Once you reach the top the trail levels out and eventually meets up with the Ute Canyon Trail. From here you can either turn left and hike up Ute Canyon to Rimrock Drive which is about 5 miles or turn right and head towards the Liberty Cap trail. I of course turned right.
The Liberty Cap Trail is just about ¼ mile from this junction. Once I made it to the the Liberty Cap Trail I decided to turn left and head towards the top of the Monument to go to the Liberty Cap Formation. After a short distance along this portion of the trail I was treated to a visit by a lone and large Bighorn sheep ram. After taking a few pictures and watching him wander by I continued on until the black clouds rolled over the top of the hill and the rain and lightning started. I decided to save the Liberty Cap Formation for another day and raced the ever growing streams of water down the Liberty Cap trail.
I’ve been wanting to do this trail for some time now. It’s really not that hard and the views and scenery are beautiful. The Monument very seldom disappoints.