In 1995 the Colorado Plateau Mountain Bike Trail Association built, developed, mapped and opened the 100 mile Paradox Trail, completing the final link of the region’s Grand Loop of mountain biking. The Paradox Trail starts at the Kokopelli Trail near the La Sal Mountains and ends at the Tabeguache Trail on the Uncompahgre Plateau near Montrose. Originally the trail traveled through Paradox Valley and went through the town of Bedrock, but in 2005 COPMOBA rerouted 32 miles of the trail so that it stayed on Carpenter Ridge above Paradox Valley. The old route is still considered an optional route of the Paradox Trail.
On June 13, 2009 I set out to map a 4×4 version of the Paradox Trail. So far, mapping this trail is a work in progress. While I have managed to map out the first version of the trail, there is still much work that needs to be done. The first half of the trail (approximately 50 miles) went great, and I nailed the route on the first try. However, on the second half of the trail I ended up running into some washouts and dead ends and could not find any alternate routes that didn’t require looping back a ways to Highway 141. I will be researching all the maps I can get my hands on to try and find some alternate routes that will follow the bike trail as closely as possible.
This route can be traveled in either direction, but since most people start the loop with the Kokopelli in Loma, I decided to run this trail from the Kokopelli to the Tabeguache, even though the directions for the trail are given in the opposite direction. I will shortly describe each section of the trail starting on the Gateway-Castleton Road where it meets with the Kokopelli Trail. All sections with an * are optional or alternate sections of the route. Of the three trails, this one had the least amount of signs. If I had not done my research on this trail beforehand, I believe it would have been difficult to follow. Many of the major intersections did have signs, though.
The trail starts out by heading east on the Gateway-Castleton Road from the Kokopelli Trail until you reach the turnoff for Taylor Flat. Take a right and head south along the east side of the La Sal Mountains. This section of trail is easy, but the views towards the La Sals are great. You will eventually reach a long stretch of private property (stay on the road) and then cross Geyser Creek.
After crossing Geyser Creek the trail will soon start heading east again. At the main Y-intersection you come across, take the left fork towards Buckeye Reservoir. After a few miles you will soon reach Buckeye Reservoir. This is a popular area to camp at. There are a number of spurs off the main road that lead to campsites around the reservoir. You will follow the trail that passes the reservoir to the north.
After passing Buckeye Reservoir, the trail will make it’s way over to Carpenter Ridge. There are a number of side roads in this area, but they were all signed well and there were enough Paradox Trail signs to keep on track. Eventually the trail will get pretty close to the rim of Paradox Valley. There are a few areas to stop and overlook the valley below.
* The old route of the Paradox Trail headed down off Carpenter Ridge and into Paradox Valley. This route headed through the towns of Paradox and Bedrock. There is a small general store in Bedrock with limited items and hours if you need to stop. After passing through Bedrock, the old route crossed the Dolores River Bridge and made a left turn onto Y11. This road parallels the Dolores River to it’s confluence with the San Miguel River and takes you under the Hanging Flume before joining up with Highway 141.
Before reaching Red Canyon, you will take a left away from the Paradox bike trail and follow the canyon’s rim north to Highway 141. The trail through this section gets a little rougher with some smaller ledges and rocky roads. This area is also a historic and current mining area, and is criss-crossed with a number of roads that lead to mines. We actually passed a currently operating mine with a few tents setup and a few trucks and bulldozers. After descending towards the highway, you will join up with the bike trail again before crossing the bridge over the Dolores River.
*The Paradox bike trail drops down into Red Canyon after we turn off from it. From my research, I was unable to verify if this section of trail is drivable by a 4×4. I know this section is called the Radium Trail and is popular with mountain bikers and hikers. I decided to skip this section on this trip and may do some more research and possibly try to drive it in the future.
Mesa Creek *
This is the route I drove on my first traverse, as it follows the Paradox bike trail, however I am making this an optional loop for now as I ended up having to backtrack back to the highway when I came across some dead end roads and a washed out section of trail that my Jeep was too wide for. This section starts out on an easy maintained road that quickly ascends out of the river valley and then follows and crosses both North and South Mesa Creeks. After the first crossing the trail gets narrower and a bit more difficult.
Atkinson Mesa *
When I reached Atkinson Mesa, I tried a few different routes that I could find on my maps, and ran into some dead ends and one washed out section. With a little work, the washed out section may still be passable to 4×4’s, but it was not something I was going to attempt while I was alone. This washed out section was on the actual Paradox bike trail, so it would be nice to see if it’s still drivable sometime in the future. Since I could not find a way through, I had to head back south on Atkinson Mesa all the way back to Highway 141 again. Turn left on the highway and travel a few miles to the turnoff for Spring Creek Mesa. On the south side of the highway at this intersection, there are some kiosks with information about the Paradox Trail.
*Another possible option for this section would be to find a different connecting trail from Atkinson Mesa to Spring Creek Mesa, so that the highway can be avoided. This is something I will be looking into in the future.
Spring Creek Mesa / Tabeguache Creek
Turn left from the highway and head north. You will be following a well maintained road for a little while until you reach the Paradox bike trail again. When you reach it, you will be taking a right and heading east again. You will cross Spring Creek, cross through some private property and then Campbell Creek. Eventually you will drop down to Tabeguache Creek and cross the bridge there.
*After crossing the Tabeguache Creek bridge, the Paradox bike trail will take off to the left. I was unable to drive this section on the first traverse, so I do not know if it is driveable or not. According to my research, it looks like there are trails that should be driveable. I will be heading back to check this section out in the future. Instead, I ended up following the old route through Nucla, which connects up to the Delta-Nucla Road.
Leaving Nucla, follow the easy and well maintained Delta-Nucla Road up onto the Uncompahgre Plateau. This is a pretty easy and quick section of the trail. You will eventually join up with the Paradox bike trail again.
Hang a right onto Hauser Road and follow it east to Divide Road. When you reach Divide Road, you have reached the end of the Paradox Trail and are now at the Tabeguache Trail. Take a left to follow the Tabeguache towards Grand Junction, and a right to follow it to Montrose.
*If you want a quick way to town, you can hop back onto the Delta-Nucla Road and finish taking it to Delta.
Download the GPS Track for the Paradox 4×4 Trail:
Maps I used to plan the route
Further resources to help plan your trip
If you have any questions, suggestions or comments about the Paradox 4×4 Trail, please feel free to post them below.
This page was last updated on: 12/19/2009