Only open in winter (Dec 1 - April 30). The next higher section of the trail is closed Dec 1 to April 30 for wildlife protection.
Need to Know
At the parking lot on the west side of Hwy 6 there's a delightful spot to get down beside the Colorado River. There's also garbage cans and an outhouse.
This trail is designed for mountain bikers plunging down from the Grand Mesa from May 1st through Nov 30. Narrow sections and blind corners may mean stressful encounters with bikers coming along at high speeds. So we opted to skip having to worry about jumping out of the way, by hiking during the Dec 1 to April 30th seasonal closure. Bikers can use this same portion of the trail during this time but they'd have to ride uphill first.
The trail enters the canyon floor to the north of the Palisade Rim Trail
. A sticker on the trailhead sign indicates "Palisade Plunge". The trail starts by following the canyon floor so this stretch can be shaded and icy in the winter. Two of the three of us wore ice cleats on our boots. This part of the hike includes some scrambling up boulder slabs. At about 1/4 mile from the start, the trail makes a sharp right turn that is easy to miss. It is at a natural water pour-off, so keep an eye out for this turn. We were not the only ones to miss it.
At times when we missed a turn we'd taken false guidance from the presence of boot prints. That just shows that others miss turns and they too needed to back-track to relocate the trail.
There are signed spots where connector trails let you leave the Plunge and move over to the Palisade Rim trail. The signs are set up for bikers coming downhill, so it pays to look at both sides of the signs to interpret the direction arrows correctly.
At about 1 1/2 miles from the start the trail pops out of the canyon. Soon the switch-backs and climbing start in earnest. At times the trail clings to the side of a steep slope. Not giving you much option for safely getting out of the way of a biker coming downhill at speed.
The views get grander the higher you get: Mt Garfield, Mt Lincoln, the orchards of Palisade, snow covered Book Cliff mountains, and far above you Lands End.
Dec 1 to April 30th: Be sure to turn back after reaching the ridge line for the 2nd time as the wildlife seasonal closure starts just above that spot. Deer and elk struggle to find enough food in the winter, please give them a break by obeying seasonal closures even when on foot.
The Town of Palisade is one of several websites with information about The Plunge
Flora & Fauna
We spotted lots of deer and elk footprints on the trail, especially when we got close to the ridge line.
Shared By: Janice Shepherd