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Living on the edge...of Palisade
Overview: This double loop trail is steep and offers great views of the Grand Valley and of the lower end of DeBeque Canyon, along with rock art and steep views down to historic coal mines.
Warning: There is no water and lots of serious exposure on parts of the hike. Take plenty of water (3 liters+), don't hike in thunderstorms, and be aware of edges and overhangs.
Hike: The hike begins on US 6, just east of Palisade proper and near the banks of the Colorado River. This is a popular mountain biking area, so the parking area, alongside the road, can be crowded with bikers, hikers, and cars.
The hike climbs up slowly at first, around an irrigation canal and then to the north side of a low butte. From here the trail follows the slope, switchbacking occasionally, along the edge of a small drainage that gets progressively deeper the higher up the trail you go. At the head of the small drainage, the trail switchbacks away to the west, towards the main Palisade rim. There are occasional views of the valley but for the most part the trail is obscured as you wander through pinyon-juniper woodlands.
At about the one mile mark, the trail divides. This is the start of the lower loop. It does not matter which route you take, as the upper loop connector is pretty much exactly halfway around the loop. Staying to the right will give you spectacular views of the Grand Valley, while the left includes some steep sections and views of hoodoos. Both ways end up at an interesting series of Ute petroglyphs on the backside of the butte that the trail is circling.
At the petroglyph panel (about 1.5 miles from the trailhead) there is a connector trail that branches off to the south and is marked with a carsonite sign. The trail is well traveled and easily visible. The trail parallels a draw, rounds its head, and then switchbacks up a low ridge overlooking a minor hanging canyon. The trail switchbacks again when it reaches the Palisade Rim, offering spectacular views of the Grand Valley. This is a great spot for photographs or just a breather as the trail levels out for a little bit as it follows the rim.
At about 2.4 miles from the trailhead, the trail splits again. This is the anchor point to the upper loop (and is marked with a carsonite sign). As before, the left-hand route climbs more steeply than the right-hand section. There are some spectacular views across the canyons from the higher (left-hand) portion of the trail, while the rim-edge section brings those views closer. Much of the rim of the upper loop is actually the rim of a side canyon. It is steep, deep, and has a historic coal mine, but the views are actually restricted compared to the upper section and the rim of the lower loop. Use caution along the rim, as there are steep drop-offs, hidden fissures, and unstable overhangs.
Several other hiking websites have listed this trail at ~7 miles. Two independent GPS tracks on different models show that between 8.2 and 8.5 miles is closer to the actual mileage. Be aware of this when considering elevation gain, starting time, and your physical condition.
Water Sources: None, bring your own.
Check out the Official Route and Triplog.