The city of Grand Junction, in western Colorado just a few miles from the Utah state line, is an amazing locale for the off-road enthusiast. Within an hour and a half are some of the most scenic and most challenging 4x4 trails in America. The Grand Junction-based Grand Mesa Jeep Club is one of the most active in North America, and with the playground it has, there’s good reason for that. Since 2008 the club has showcased the trails in the area with its annual Rock Junction event. It’s always the Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday before the first Saturday in June. Saturday is always reserved for a huge Off-Road Expo and vehicle show.
For 2017, the club leased 22 acres west of Grand Junction near Fruita, Colorado, to stage the event. For the first time, camping was included with registration for out-of-town off-roaders. Every evening a free BBQ was part of the social activities. This year, 131 people and 75 vehicles preregistered for guided trails that were rated easy, moderate, difficult, or challenging (for rockcrawling buggies only). Every morning 15 trail rides departed between 7:30 and 9:00. This year the weather was perfect, with blue skies and mild temperatures.
21 RoadWe had heard a lot about the Grand Mesa Jeep Club’s efforts with the BLM to keep what is locally known as 21 Road open, so it was the number one trail ride on our list. Almost all of the driving had us negotiating a boulder-strewn creek bed. It was nearly constant technical driving, challenging drivers over, around, and between boulders. We did encounter one section of creek bottom that we had to climb out of to avoid the habitat of the Great Basin Spadefoot Toad, known locally as the 21 Road Toad. The club had erected signage and barriers to guide us, and because of these efforts the road/trail remains open. It took us six hours to drive 10 miles to the large cove at the end of the road. For some reason the trip back to camp seemed to go faster than the drive up the canyon, and soon we were swapping stories with other participants.
Peach Valley—Gunnison River GorgeThis was an easy and scenic trip for our second day of Rock Junction trail rides. We started south of Grand Junction near the community of Montrose. This road was suitable for stock 4x4s, and one of the participants was a woman in a stock Ford F-150 bearing a handicap permit, reminding us that what we do also provides access for people with disabilities. The road was a twisty climb up to the western edge of the Gunnison Gorge Wilderness Area. The view of the gorge and mountain peaks from the top of the ridge was classic Colorado eye candy. It was another wonderful day and ended with another delicious Rock Junction BBQ.
The Calamity Mesa Loop RoadOur last trail ride of Rock Junction 2017 followed old uranium mining roads near the tiny community of Gateway. After the uranium industry died in the 1970s, the mining roads were abandoned and left to nature’s erosion. In 2008 members of the Grand Mesa Jeep Club worked to reopen this road. We’re glad they did. The mesa top provides a view of the San Juan Mountains to the south and the La Sal Mountains to the west. The trail has 11 named obstacles and a few unnamed obstacles, giving it a difficult rating and causing the drivers and passengers a lot of emotion along the way.
The Friday Evening BBQThe Friday night meal was a special event sponsored by Bestop. It was during this social hour that BFGoodrich and its partners—4 Wheel Parts, United Four Wheel Drive Associations, Blue Ribbon Coalition, and Off-Road Business Association announced the Grand Mesa Jeep Club as the recipient of the 2016 Outstanding Trails Award. An oversized check in the amount of $4,000 was presented for the club’s work to keep 21 Road open. It was the second time the club has won an Outstanding Trails Award and everyone was pretty excited.
The 2018 Rock Junction event is scheduled for May 30, 31, and June 1. Keep this in mind when you are scouting around for 4WD events to attend. The Grand Mesa Jeep Club Website is gmjc.org.