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Kokopelli's Trail
(ride proposed by Morgan Bearden,
completed Oct 1-5, 2000)

Recently, the president of the Rolla Area Touring Society (a bicycle club) requested that members suggest organized rides for the upcoming bicycle season. In response to that request, I started gathering the information that I have casually collected over the past several years on Kokopellišs Trail: a guide book, a trail map, and a Bureau of Land Management brochure.

I mentioned the trip to a few friends and received some very positive responses. Consequently, I am further investigating the feasibility of organizing a trip to Kokopellišs Trail, a bicycle trail trail that runs from Loma (near Grand Junction), Colorado to Moab, Utah. The trail is approximately 145 miles in length and traverses a very remote and scenic area of the Colorado Plateau.

A trip from Rolla to Kokopellišs Trail will take up to ten days and, depending upon the number of participants, would cost from $300 to $400 per person.

Kokopellišs Trail is comprised of back country roads, off road vehicle (ORV) trails, and some singletrack. According to the available guides and maps, there are no towns or services (including water) on the trail.

The preliminary plan is to rent a large passenger van to drive to Loma and serve as a support vehicle. There are several primitive campgrounds along the trail that are accessible to a two wheel drive vehicle. The van will meet the cyclists every afternoon at a predetermined campground with food, water, fresh clothes, lawn chairs, fresh produce, and firewood.

I have not been on Kokopellišs Trail but I have traveled through the area several times, most recently in the summer of 1998 while doing some field work for the USGS. The area is one of the most spectacular in the U.S. Several national parks and national monuments are in the area including: Colorado National Monument, Canyonlands National Park, and Arches National Park .

The trail itself crosses the Colorado River, goes in and out of several valleys, and finally ends in the slickrock area of Moab, UT. The trail is rated from easy to very difficult. By planning to traverse the trail in five days, we can expect to average thirty miles per day - leaving plenty of time to explore side trails and enjoy a relaxed pace.

Time required for trip - 8 to 10 days
Time on trail - 5 to 7 days

Leave Rolla and drive to Grand Junction, CO motel (1070 miles)

Drive from Grand Junction motel to Kokopellišs Trail trailhead in Loma (14 miles)

Bicyclists travel Kokopellišs Trail (5 days)

Bicyclists arrive in Moab, UT - stay at Moab motel

Leave Moab, UT and drive to motel in Hays, KS (675 miles)

Leave Hays, KS and drive to Rolla (490 miles)

Support Vehicle

It looks as though we may already have a "wheel man". An acquaintance of ours (Pat Emmett) has expressed an interest in going on the trip and not cycling, but driving the support vehicle from campground to campground. Another friend (Mark Coppersmith) has volunteered to navigate and drink beer - his services will probably not be requested. If a full time driver cannot be found, the trip participants will have to trade duties with the support vehicle - flip coins, draw cards, do paper, scissors, rock (someone will have to explain that one to me).

All expenses for a full time driver of the support vehicle, other than food, will be covered by the other trip participants. Thus, it will be a free trip through one of the most scenic areas in the world for a full time driver of the support vehicle.

If you know someone who may be interested in such an arrangement, keep them in mind. We might need to approach them if our current prospect has to pull out.


A trip on Kokopelli's Trail is a serious undertaking. From the guide book "Kokopelli's Trail" by Peggy Utesch I have taken the following passages:

Segment 1, mile 11.7 - The route climbs a steep embankment then continues ascending in the form of a deeply rutted ORV trail as it travels toward Porcupine Rim.

Segment 2, mile 16-20 - The first 1.5 miles are challenging, combining water ruts with large rocks, steps, loose rock, and sand.

Segment 3, mile 3.0 - The trail is very steep, even for a motorized vehicle, with large loose rocks that also make hiking difficult. Fortunately this hill is only 0.2 miles long.

Segment 3, mile 14.8 - Begin a very steep, rocky and technical descent along the side of the canyon. Most riders should walk here as a fall would be disastrous.

Segment 4, mile 0 - The portion of the segment directly north of Dewey Bridge consists of 4.5 miles of very deep sand, so that a rider can barely travel downhill on a 30 degree slope - most cyclists walk their bicycles through this area. Profuse cattle droppings in this area have also helped make travel along this stretch of trail unpleasant.

Segment 6, mile 11.0 - Singletrack begins again and climbs through the steep, maroon shale slopes of the Morrison formation, high above the Colorado River. This stretch is rated difficult with a good deal of exposure.

BUT...having said all that, the guide book also states:

Section 1, mile 8.9 - A spectacular formation of sandstone spires comes into view ahead of the climb out of Rill Canyon. An arch will also soon become visible in the end of an eroded slickrock dome.

Section 2, mile 22.6 - The beautiful panorama of upper Fisher Valley is visible from the top of the hill. Coyote and puma tracks are not uncommon, although seeing one of these largely-nocturnal animals is rare. The coyote talks at night, however, so be listening for his conversation while sitting around the campfire or dreaming through the desert night.

Section 3, mile 6.0 - Stop to eat and drink here while enjoying the spectacular view that includes the Entrada slickrock of the Dolores River Canyon.

Segment 4, mile 0.0 - Unfortunately, this miserable stretch passes some of the most beautiful Entrada sandstone bluffs in Utah! There are also several arches in the area. See Segment 4, mile 0.0 above.

Segment 5 - The route travels across grassy plateaus above the Colorado River, past two beautiful sandstone monoliths called Castle Rocks, then travels along McDonald Creek into Rabbit Valley.

Segment 6, mile 14.4 - Horsethief Canyon and the Colorado River are visible below.

So there it is: some good, some bad, and other than the cow poop, no ugly. A description of a multi day trail that can be difficult, a little dangerous, but very beautiful and rewarding.

The guidebook rates the trail as: Easy - 25.4%, Moderate - 50.7%, Difficult - 20.5%, Awful (4.5 miles of deep sand, which may be by-passed) - 3.4%. These percentages were based o the old 134 mile route. The route now is closer to 145 miles. In 1990, due to the concern of a railroad company that has an active track adjacent to the trail, the route was realigned to avoid potential liability for both the railroad company and the Bureau of Land Management.

The weather in the Grand Junction-Moab area is best during the spring and fall. Summer temperatures regularly exceed 100 with little or no shade. In conversations with potential participants, we have decided that early fall would be the best time of the year to go on Kokopellišs Trail. I am tentatively scheduling the trip for late September-early October. Personally, my only restriction is that I an not willing to miss my daughteršs thirteenth birthday on October 12 - she'll turn into a teenager only once.

Back to the weather and time of year. According to the climatic data that I have been able to gather, the weather that we could expect to greet us would be very mild:


Grand Junction
(5 year average)  44.2            78.4             0.0

(2 year average)   41.5            79               0.0

Arches Nat'l Park
(15 year avg.)      42               73               1.15

Another benefit to scheduling the trip in the fall is that snowpack, flash floods, and creek crossings will be of little concern.

Approximate Cost*

Rental Van (one week)** 475 Cost of van for one week

Rental Van (daily rate)** 30 Daily rate beyond one week

Days beyond one week 3 Number of days van needed beyond one week

COST OF ADDITIONAL DAYS 90 Cost of van beyond one week

Free Van Mileage 1100

Van Mileage Rate 0.2 Twenty cents per mile beyond 1100 miles

COST OF ADDITIONAL MILEAGE 380 Cost of van beyond 1100 miles

COST OF VAN (ten days) 565 Cost of van and excess mileage charge


Total Mileage** 3000 Total mileage on van

Gas Mileage** 15 Miles per gallon for van

Cost of Gas** 1.35 Cost of gas

TOTAL COST OF GAS 270 Total cost of gas

Motel in Grand Junction** 50

Motel in Moab** 50

Motel in Central Kansas** 50


INDIVIDUAL COST (including motel cost for wheel man)

SIX 377


TEN 286


* These are tentative figures based upon a couple of telephone calls and assumptions regarding : gas mileage, cost of gasoline, cost of motels, time on the trail, etc.

**Over the next few months I will obtain more detailed cost figures. If you disagree with these assumptions, please let me know.

Also not included in the above cost estimate: tax on van, motel tax, and cost of maps and books for planning purposes. Remember, food is not part of the estimate.

Cost Comparison

Looking over the results of a search on the web, I have found that commercial outfitters charge from $575 to $1000 for a five day Kokopellišs Trail trip. Of course, this usually includes food and a guide, but you also have to pay to get yourself to Grand Junction first.....I wonder what the $1000 trip is like?

Web Resources

There are many, many web pages describing Kokopellišs Trail. Some of them are commercial sites and some are travelogues. Here are two that I have found interesting and worthwhile:

This page has a brief trail log that is really more like a trail guide.


This page is very interesting due to the fourty-two photographs that can be found under the "Photos" link in the upper right portion of the page. Donšt be put off by the "radical dude" verbiage (or some of the photographs), it looks like this whole site is geared towards the folks who take Mountain Dew commercials too seriously - but the photographs are worth looking at, the best I have see so far.

Whatšs Next?

If this sounds like something you may be interested in, then do the following:

A) Let me know of your interest.

B) Get in shape and hone your off road skills - Mill Creek, Berryman Trail here we come.

C) Schedule some time off of work.

D) Put aside a little recreational cash.

If there is a positive reaction to this proposal, I will start to put together more details and will shoot for the first of July to have all costs and logistics in place. I will eventually have to obtain some serious commitments and deposits by mid-August.

If you have any questions, suggestions, or comments please contact me:

Morgan Bearden
573-364-1695 - home
573-308-3591 - work

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visits since March 17, 2000