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Prior to Rimrock Drive being completed, there were very few roads to get from the valley to the upper reaches of the Pinion Mesa area. The most well known route was Serpents Trail which was used by motorists up until the 1950’s. A lesser known route was the Old Gordon Toll Road. The Old Gordon Toll road was built by John Gordon and was originally used to transport logs from sawmills on Pinion Mesa. The road was very rough and Mr. Gordon charged a fee to use the road. Even though it cost to use it, the route shortened the distance to the sawmills considerably.
The trail head is located at the East entrance of the Colorado National Monument and shares the same trail head with Devils Kitchen, Echo Canyon, Serpents Trail and No Thoroughfare Canyon. There is a $7.00 fee to enter the Monument. Shortly after entering the Monument there is a parking area on your left where you can park. If that area is full you can try parking across the road at the Devils Kitchen Picnic area and walking to the trail head.
You can access the trail by following the Devils Kitchen trail a short distance towards the bottom of the wash. After about a hundred yards or so you will come to a fork in the trail. The right fork leads to No Thoroughfare Canyon and Devils Kitchen and the left fork will take you to Echo Canyon and The Old Gordon Trail. Follow the left fork as it drops down into the wash and crosses the normally dry creek bed. Be sure to look on my “miscellaneous” page to see what can happen in this wash in the event of a flash flood.
Once you cross the creek bed and begin climbing, say goodbye to any level ground. The trail does a steady climb up the whole way. This trail would be a good trail to test your endurance on if you are a runner. The first section is marked very well. On the large slickrock areas the trail is outlined with rocks so it feels like you are walking on a sidewalk. Where there is no slickrock there are plenty of cairns to guide you. At just a little before the halfway point you will pass in between two large sandstone hills. This point marks the beginning of the second half of the trail. I think most people probably turn around here. As you pass between the sandstone hills you should see a cairn right in the middle of the slickrock. In order to continue on the trail you want to stay just to the right of this cairn and travel along the upper middle portion of this area. Keep an eye out for another cairn a short distance up the hill. From this point the trail became less distinct and harder to follow. Between the recent rains we have had and the lack of people using this portion of the trail the route was a little harder to follow. There were various areas where the trail was washed out and I found myself needing to backtrack little bit to get back on the trail. Luckily for me there were a set of footprints from someone that was hiking the trail recently that I was able to follow.
As I followed the trail up I continued to have a hard time comprehending that this was actually once a road. There are very few signs of the old road. At the very beginning there are two rather large rock piles that looked like they could have been used to hold a gate or similar device. Throughout the whole trip there were various places where you could see where someone piled rocks up to make berms and here and there you could see were trees where cut down many years ago.
The hike up the mountain was pretty un-eventful. Even though I left early in the morning and was well into the hike by 7:30am I didn’t see any wildlife other than a lone prairie dog keeping sentinel high up on a large rock. Once I got past all the slick rock and got into areas where there was dirt I did see lots of deer tracks and what looked like bobcat tracks. The trail seemed a little monotonous to me, the steady climbing and the lack of varying scenery made the hike a little longer then it was. I didn’t care much for how the trail abruptly ended at the NPS fence either.
The return trip went much faster of course. There are plenty of areas that allow you to wander off the trail and still remain on the slickrock. There are a couple areas about halfway down where I went across and was awarded with an amazing view of No Thoroughfare canyon. A little farther down I was able to look down on Devils Kitchen. It was neat to see those areas from different vantage points.
Overall this trail isn’t one of my favorites. I would be happy to guide someone up it but I probably wouldn’t care to do it again for no reason any time soon. Knowing that I was following a road from the history books was pretty interesting and made the hike more enjoyable.