Head out of Grand Junction to the west and climb up to the Bangs Canyon Trailhead. The parking lot is large, with areas for trailers and unloading. It also has a clean pit toilet. In case you left your trusty paper map at home, there is signage and maps you can take a picture of using your phone.
The real trail starts after a quick drive across a “normal” section of road by heading onto and following down a big sandstone fin. There is a great picture opportunity at a decent-sized cliff near the start of the slickrock.
Following the slickrock fin down you quickly come to the legal Play Area where many challenging lines will allow you to push your rig, or your heart-rate.
After the end of the slickrock, the trail becomes more like rock gardens with some steep climbs. Sandy, high speed transitions abound in between climbs. Look out for posers rock on the left as you work your way up!
The trail then climbs to nearly 7,000ft, which is much cooler than the valley floor below. The forest changes and becomes more dense. Brushing against the vegetation is a possibility, as is the ability to gain some free Colorado Pinstripes!
In later parts of the season you can encounter mud, snow, or even ice up on the top of the trail. There are a few off-camber sections with questionable traction (especially when it’s wet) that will test your nerves in non-ideal conditions.
There is also a section of private property near the top, so be sure to stay on the trail.
The final third of the trail is a very chill run down to the river, with some thrilling views. Once you emerge from the dense forest, there are a few good spots for lunch or breaks along the way with great views out across the valley.
When you complete the trail there is a large parking lot across the highway from the trailhead – a perfect place to air-up. After that it is an easy return to Clifton and then on to Grand Junction.
It will feel like you hit nearly every climate zone in Colorado. You will also definitely hit many types of obstacles and surfaces: slickrock, sand, clay, mud, rock gardens, off-camber, rollercoasters…
There is very limited dispersed camping available along the route – much of the area is day use only. Very little water will be available along the route – plan on no water being available. Cell coverage is also spotty in areas.
Head to the Best Western in Clifton – you will start and stop at the same point. The Best Western is much less expensive than most of the hotels in Grand Junction proper, while providing a free, basic hot-breakfast. If you want more, a full home-cooked breakfast is a minute drive down the road at Randy’s. There are numerous gas stations, a grocery store, auto parts store, fast food and great Mexican food within walking distance as well. Everything you need!