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I have often heard about the Fruita Dugway but was never sure exactly how to access it. The weather had finally decided to take a break from its snowy, rainy ways and become actually quite nice for a day. I jumped on the opportunity and decided to find the route that would allow me to follow the path of old cowboys and hundreds of cattle.
One of the reasons I like the Colorado National Monument so much is because of all the history it contains within its sandstone walls. The Fruita Dugway is part of that history. Back in the early 1900’s there was not a whole lot of ways to get from the valley floor to the upper reaches of Glade Park and Pinion Mesa. To alleviate that problem and give cattlemen a way to herd their cattle back and forth from summer and winter ranges, the ranchers dug and built a trail from Pinion Mesa down to the valley floor. This trail utilized portions of what is now the Black Ridge trail and continued down the base of the cliff of a small un-named canyon between Kodels Canyon and Fruita Canyon.
To access the trailhead, travel south from interstate 70 in Fruita on Highway 340 for approximately 1.4 miles. A very short distance past the Kingsview Estates Subdivision you will see a small pullout on the right side of the road. There is a small BLM trailhead sign indicating the beginning.
The trail begins by making a slight climb and then bears to the left (or South) and follows a small flat section for a short distance. The actual trail number is labeled as K1. You will want to just continue following the K1 trail as it drops down into a ravine and follows a dry creek bed towards Kodels Canyon. Shortly after climbing out of the ravine you will come to a trail marker indicating the K1/K7 junction. It’s a bit confusing here because the marker appears to be indicating the trail your on turns into K7 but the BLM map shows K7 turning right and going back the way you came, regardless, just stay on the trail you’re on and continue heading south.
A short distance past the K1/K7 junction you will come to a pole fence looking section. From here you will continue through the little fence and head towards the canyon. Take the first left hand trail and follow it as it drops down into the ravine again and begins climbing out the other side. Once you begin climbing out of the ravine the trail follows a cliff face up the side of the monument and becomes quite steep for a ways. As you reach the end of the cliff face you will come to a fence, from this point the trail appeared to just completely disappear. I don’t know what the correct way to go would be but I just turned a little right and followed the fence towards the upper cliff face. If you turn left it looks like it goes towards private property.
Following the fence a short distance you will see the trail appear on your left. Once back on the trail it becomes very easy to follow the rest of the way up as it skirts the base of the cliff along the canyon then down and around and climbs up the other side. Once you reach the top of the canyon you will see Rimrock Drive in front of you and the “Historic Trail” look out. The trial continues up the hillside and I believe comes out somewhere near the visitors center. Rather than continuing up the trail I turned off the trail and went over to the “Historic Trail” lookout.
To get back just follow the same way you came up. Be sure once you get back down that you bear right shortly after the K1/K7 junction and take the little trail that branches off and follows the ravine, otherwise you will end up farther west then you want to be and will have to go a little out of your way.
Overall I really liked the trail, it offered a little challenge due to the climb up and the views of the valley were nice.