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( ЯR ) The Rimrocker Trail: Montrose to Moab

Getting Lost in the West End: Across the Uncompahgre Plateau & La Sal Mountains
Friday – Sunday, June 7-9, 2024

Rimrocker Trail Marker

After having an amazing time on the river in Cataract Canyon last weekend, I wanted to take it easy and stay a bit closer to home this weekend. With warmer temperatures in the valleys and still too much snow in the high country for me, I thought this might be a great opportunity to finally take a scenic weekend drive across the Uncompahgre Plateau and La Sal Mountains from Montrose to Moab on the Rimrocker Trail, while also taking the time to stop for a few short hikes and side trips along the way. The Rimrocker Trail was created in 2016 by linking up existing roads in this remote area of Western Colorado, many of which I have already driven over the past twenty years, especially while I was working on mapping out a 4X4 route of the Tabeguache Trail and Paradox Trail. But even though I have already driven many of these roads before, it’s been a long time and I really don’t remember very much about them, so I was looking forward to the refresher on this 160 mile route. So after spending Friday evening in Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, I drove across the Uncompahgre River Valley and found a campsite near Temple Park and the beginning of the Rimrocker Trail so I could get an early start on Saturday morning.

I was up early on Saturday morning and ready to start exploring the Rimrocker Trail!

Rimrocker Trail Sign

Golden light followed me as I started driving up 90 Road.

Golden Morning On 90

To the south was a nice view of Mount Sneffels and the rest of the Sneffels Range.

Sneffels Range View

I quickly ascended the Uncompahgre Plateau on the well-maintained 90 Road.

90 Road

It wasn’t long before I entered the Uncompahgre National Forest.

Uncompahgre National Forest Sign

I stopped to walk along the shore of Silesca Pond before passing by the Iron Springs Campground.

Silesca Pond

After reaching Divide Road I took a short detour and hiked part of the Parallel Trail to PT 10,010, a highpoint along the crest of the Uncompahgre Plateau.

Parallel Trail

Although the Tabeguache Overlook was a bit overgrown, there’s still a nice view over to Lone Cone and the San Miguel Mountains.

Tabeguache Overlook

From Columbine Pass I started heading down the other side of the plateau.

Columbine Pass

A short way down from the pass I left the Rimrocker Trail and followed the Copper King Road to the beginning of the Indian Trail.

Copper King Road

I hiked the Indian Trail into the Tabeguache Area which was surrounded by lovely red cliffs. If you look very closely, you might be able to spot Tabeguache Falls through the trees.

Tabeguache Area

The Indian Trail appears to be little-used and was hard to follow in a few places.

Indian Trail

Here’s a closer look at the red cliffs above the trail.

North Fork Cliff

When I reached the North Fork of Tabeguache Creek, I bushwhacked through the thick brush and was able to reach these cascades and pools to cool off in.

North Fork of Tabeguache Creek

Tabeguache Pool

I was hoping to make it to the waterfall, but I gave up on the terrible bushwhacking and headed back to my Jeep at the trailhead and then continued to follow the Rimrocker Trail down to Nucla.

Tabeguache Area Point

After a stop for lunch and gas in Naturita, I continued to follow the Rimrocker Trail across Third Park which offered distant views of the Uncompahgre Plateau on the horizon.

Third Park

I went on another short side trip into the Tabeguache Creek Canyon.

Tabeguache Creek Road

Next, the trail wound it’s way through the rimlands of the San Miguel and Dolores Rivers with plenty desert and canyon scenery along the way.

Rimrocker Road

Rimrocker Trail

Canyon Country


Rimrocker Two-Track

Hog Point

Hog Point

The route was well marked with these signs at all the major intersections.

Rimrocker Trail Marker

Rimrocker Country

Rimrocker Country

There were also plenty of old mining relics found along this part of the trail.

Old Mining Relics

I went on another short side trip to visit the highpoint of Atkinson Mesa.

Atkinson Mesa

Atkinson Mesa Highpoint

Atkinson Mesa Highpoint

Soon the trail made a steep descent down to Highway 141.

Backroad Exploring

I hopped onto the highway to revisit a couple nearby sites, including this old coke oven that was built in the late 1800’s and was used by blacksmiths who foreged iron for the construction of the Hanging Flume.

Historic Coke Oven

The Hanging Flume was built between 1887 and 1891 and still clings to the sandstone wall of the Dolores River Canyon.

Hanging Flume

I also stopped at the overlook above the confluence of the San Miguel and Dolores Rivers before returning to the Rimrocker Trail.

Confluence Overlook

Soon I found myself driving up old mining roads to the top of Carpenter Ridge with expansive views of the Dolores River Country I had just come from.

Dolores River

There was even a nice view over Biscuit Rock from the road.

Biscuit Rock

Following the winding route across Carpenter Flats.

Carpenter Flats Road

When I reached the top of Carpenter Ridge it only required a couple small steps to reach spectacular views over Paradox Valley.

Carpenter Ridge Rim

Paradox Valley

I ended up going on one last detour this afternoon when I followed the Carpenter Ridge Road down into Paradox Valley.

On The Edge

This road offered amazing views as it switchbacked down the ridge.

Carpenter Ridge Road

Carpenter Ridge from Paradox Valley

Paradox Valley View

I followed the well-maintained road back up to Buckeye Reservoir and then closed the gap on the section of the Rimrocker Trail I had bypassed, so I wouldn’t miss any part of it.

Buckeye Reservoir

I found a campsite with a great view at just over 8,000 feet on Carpenter Ridge and called it a day, about an hour before sunset.

Carpenter Ridge

I ate dinner and watched the light dance across the landscape far below.

Paradox Sunset Spotlight

I slept very well on Saturday night and was up early again on Sunday to continue my journey along the Rimrocker Trail as it entered Utah and would take me around the La Sal Mountains to Moab.

At times I had a good view of the La Sal Mountains catching the first light of the day through the trees as I made my way back past Buckeye Reservoir.

La Sal Mountains Sunrise

Early morning reflection at the Buckeye Reservoir.

Buckeye Reservoir Morning

Leaving Colorado and entering Utah.

Crossing the State Line

The views really opened up as I drove across Pine Flat.

Driving Around the La Sals

The view of Mount Tomasaki from here was outstanding!

Pine Flat

Dusty Morning Drive

Dusty Morning Drive

As the trail winds its way through Willow Basin to Canopy Gap, I caught this reflection of Mount Peale, which is the highest peak in the La Sal Mountains and San Juan County.

Roadside Reflection

There were nice views of Mount Peale & Mount Tukuhnikivatz as the trail circled around the southern end of the La Sal Mountains.

Mount Peale & Mount Tuk

Below the La Sals

After circling around on the Coyote Springs Road, which was a bit rougher and blocked by many cows along the way, I reached this ridge where the trail started it’s descent back into the desert.

Green Ridge

Leaving the La Sals

After leaving the La Sals behind, the route followed the Black Ridge Road and Pole Canyon Road down into Spanish Valley and then Moab. I filled up my gas tank, grabbed a bite to eat and headed home. Even though it was a bit warm at the lower elevations of the trail, I had a pretty great time on the Rimrocker Trail!

>> The Rimrocker Trail Photo Gallery

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