Wild mustangs have created a true legacy. Even in their small numbers, they have become an image synonymous with the adventurous spirit that lives in the West. Horses are marvelous creatures, and while it is plenty common to see domesticated horses, it is much rarer to see them roaming freely in their serene and peaceful natural habitat.
Since the Little Book Cliffs Wild Horse Area is one of only three wild horse reserves in the nation, it is an amazing opportunity to see these beautiful creatures up close and personal. Over 100 wild horses are roaming through the rugged landscape above Grand Junction. Seeing these animals can be a once in a lifetime experience, it's certainly a must for anyone visiting Grand Junction.
Traveling in bands between two and ten, horses traverse the high plateaus lush with sagebrush and pinon-juniper, which provides perfect pastures for grazing in Grand Junction’s pleasantly temperate climate. The area is undeveloped, so it will greet you with a sense of solitude and a peaceful silence only interrupted by the sounds of nature.
Experiencing this gorgeous slice of the countryside is a treat for any animal lover, and is a perfect day trip for hikers, bikers and horseback riders alike. Whichever way you plan on traveling the trails, make sure you bring a camera because these horses are truly photogenic. From the caramel-colored Palominos to the Copper Bays, and even a few speckled Appaloosas, horses here tend to be much less skittish than others as they are used to people visiting them. In addition to the namesake horses, you may see elk, turkey, quail, bighorn sheep, and a whole host of other animals who call this area home.
So, what are you waiting for? You can access the Little Book Cliffs Wild Horse Area in several different ways. A popular outing involves hiking up the famed Mount Garfield trail, which covers over 2,000 feet in elevation gain in just under two miles.
You can also reach the horse area via Coal Canyon, just travel east on Interstate 70 and take the Cameo Exit (No. 45) in De Beque Canyon. Travel east for a short distance, crossing the Colorado River in front of the Halliburton Energy Services area. Go passed the Energy Service building and follow Bureau of Land Management signs to the Little Book Cliffs Wild Horse Area and Coal Canyon trailhead, about 2.2 miles from the Interstate on a dirt road. Almost any vehicle can make it up to the dirt road to the Coal Canyon Trailhead.
The dirt road will lead you to the Coal Canyon Trailhead where there are restrooms and ample parking. From December to May, you will only be able to access the Little Book Cliffs Wild Horse area by foot or horseback as the road that leads you up behind Mt. Garfield is closed to protect wintering wildlife and foaling areas. During summer and fall months (June - November), take your four-wheel-drive vehicle up passed the trailhead where you'll follow a long dirt road skipping most of the hike if you wish.
The Coal Canyon and Hoodoo Trails both follow an old dusty road for about three miles before the trails split. Indian Park is one of the best places for wildlife viewing. You can get there from the Winter Flats and Dry Fork roads, which begin near De Beque about 30 miles east of Grand Junction on I-70.
The best time to visit is early morning or evening as the horses are more likely to be out while it is cooler. It is not recommended to travel to the Wild Horse Area if rain is forecasted.
Things to keep in mind when visiting the Little Book Cliffs Wild Horse Area:
- Bring a pair of binoculars to help you spot all the wildlife!
- Wear comfy and sturdy shoes.
- Bring plenty of water as it can be hot in the summer months.
- For isolated camping, please follow the practices of “low impact camping.”
- Remember that wild horses are protected by law. Please respect them and do not chase or try to capture them!
Contact the local Bureau of Land Management for information regarding current road conditions, herd movements, and more.
Check out the Grand Junction Adventure Guide.