Opal HillDate: 8/27/2012
Miles: 2.6 miles as described
Time: 1 Hr
Trailhead GPS Coordinates: 39° 8.856’N , 108° 44.796’W
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Opal Hill is located just South of Fruita Colorado and near the Horse thief State Wildlife Area. The hill gets its name from the Opal that can be found scattered over the terrain. The opal found in this area is called common opal and opalized wood. Although the opal is not the colorful gemstone variety the opal found here can still be polished up to be quite nice. Nowadays you are fairly lucky to find any of the opal just lying around, the hill has been thoroughly picked through over the past years. You’ll never know what you’ll find though. Bear in mind though that Opal Hill is now part of the McInnis Canyons Conservation Area and rockhounding is prohibited.
To access the trailhead you can travel west from Grand Junction on I-70 to the Fruita exit. Turn left and travel about 1.5 miles to Kingsview Estate, there is also a sign indicating Horsethief State Wildlife Area. Turn right and drive through the small subdivision. At the turn where the road turns to gravel there is a road that branches off and travels to Snooks Bottom. Follow this road a short distance to the trailhead.
There are multiple access points to the trail all around the hill but this post describes the route from the Snooks Bottom trail head. Once you pass through the gate follow the trail to the left which leads somewhat away from the lake and towards the hill. Once at the hill you have the option of going left or right. I first chose to go right and follow the trail in a counter clockwise direction. The trail began by climbing a short distance then leveling out. As I rounded the northern side of the hill I continued following the posts that said “Lake” with an arrow. I was thinking the trail would branch off and one go to the lake and the other on around opal hill. I soon found out that due to the many little side trails heading towards the top of the hill I missed the correct turn off and ended up finding myself at a dead end. I didn’t see anywhere that this trail led off to the lake. I turned around and decided to just follow the trail in a clockwise direction. I would recommend hiking in this direction.
The trail that goes to the left (or counter clockwise) quickly turned into a very well marked trail with many rocks lining the edge and decent signs pointing you in the correct direction. I continued following the trail as it continued around the base of the hill as it made its way towards the Devils Canyon trailhead which supplies another access point to the opal hill trail.
Continuing past the Devils Canyon access the trail began to climb slightly as it began going around to the western side of the hill. Slightly down below you will see the horse trailer parking area for both Opal Hill and Devils Canyon. This parking lot supplies yet another access point for the trail. At this point I took a small marked side trail that led me to the summit of the hill. This portion of the trail is why I included the moderate rating. You don’t have to go to the top but I would recommend it for the views.
Once at the top I decided to follow the ridgeline back to where it connects to the main trail toward the north rather than go back down to the bottom of the hill. Going this route probably cut off about a mile. If you go back down to the main trail you can continue following it all the way around the base of the hill.
This is a good late spring or fall hike, this time of year it is pretty barren and dry in this area and the temperatures can get pretty high not to mention during the summer months the gnats can be really bad. This is an easy trail and would be a good one to take younger children and to let your dog get some exercise.