The Grand Loop | Ford Explorer Forums - Serious Explorations

  • Register Today It's free!

The Grand Loop


Elite Explorer
October 12, 2010
Reaction score
Littleton, CO
City, State
Littleton, Colorado
Year, Model & Trim Level
'97 XLT
The local overlanding club ( planned a trip to do the Kokopelli Trail and Paradox Trail which is also known as the Grand Loop.

The Kokopelli Trail is a very popular trail in the MTB world, but most of it is done on 4wd trail with only a few places that is MTB only. Utilizing the long holiday weekend, we met up on the west side of Denver on Thursday morning and caravanned out to Exit 2 off I-70 near the Utah border to meet up with a retired couple that drove a Pinzguaer out the day before (it's very slow- especially in the mountains).


But when we got there, his camp was still set up and he decided that they were going to skip out on the trail and stay put. Being retired certainly has its advantages.

5 of us hit the trail. A white Rubicon with an RTT and 35s, a stock red Rubicon, a blue Rubicon with a Hemi and 37s (and suspension and who knows what), a fairly stock Taco and my 2nd gen.


With the recent heavy rains in the area and me being the only one on A/T tires, I was put in the middle of the pack.

The terrain in this part of the country is very desolate but yet very beautiful. The clouds kept it from being too hot.

Everyone was a little surprised by the trail itself. We were all expecting a dirt road with a few rocks here and there. Instead it turned out to be more of an actual 4wd trail in spots. Nothing was technical but an offroad tire and a slight lift really kept you from scraping in spots.

Here you can see the MTB trail go along the rim of this canyon:

A look back from where we came:

This type of cloud never seemed far the entire trip:

Our camp spot the first night was on the other side of some private property that we found while trying to navigate around an MTB only section. It was right on the edge of a small canyon. The entire area was sand. I worried that if the wind picked up, my tent wouldn't stand any chance of staying put since the tent stakes were in the dry sand.


This was on the way to a MTB only section that forced us to backtrack. Some of this trip was actual exploring and route finding.

Lunch day 2:


Random canyon:

Random group poser shot:

Those clouds that seemed to always be following us occasionally produced some lightning. Some really close lightning at times. We came around a corner and saw smoke off in the distance. As we got closer we could tell it wasn't a camp but instead a tree that had been struck by lightning. Even though the brush density is pretty low out there, we decided we should go do something about it. 4 of us hiked over and threw dirt on it and scraped the hot coals from the branches and buried them.


It took awhile but we finally got it out. Didn't get a picture of it actually out.

On the way over to the burning bush, this water fall was flowing much better than it was when we came back:

The Hemi Rubi going by an interesting formation:

Below is Dewey Bridge. It's one of the major landmarks along the trail:

The original Dewey Bridge was burned down by a kid playing with fire:

From there we decided to go up Top of the World.

The required pic of the rig on the cantilevered rock are coming- it's not on my camera. Scariest thing I've ever done behind the wheel is to drive out onto that rock......

Camp 2 was set up on the Kokopelli Trail just passed TotW. The Hemi Rubi and Taco decided to leave the group here to bypass the upcoming Rose Garden Hill:

Day 3 started with a bang. The trail immediately climbed up some small ledges and along some steep shelf roads. You can see one such shelf road across the canyon here:

Unfortunately I didn't get any pics of one particularly hairy section. It was off camber along a washed out section of shelf road. My rig is very tall and very soft. And the downhill side was just off the driver side. One person slowly spotted me while the 3rd hung from my passenger side sliders to help add ballast. There are pics and I'll get them as soon as they become available. And this was like 20 minutes from camp. Nothing like starting the morning with a huge adrenalin dump.

Some cool towers as we approached Rose Garden Hill:

Rose Garden Hill is the toughest part of the Kokopelli Trail. And it's all because of this drop:

The white Rubi got over it with a little dragging but no issues other than that.

The stock red Rubi got hung up on it for over an hour. It was completely turtled out- the front 2 wheels were in the air and the back had very little weight on them. I got to use my winch for the first time. Looking back up where the red Rubi is about to get stuck:


We stacked rocks, we jammed in MaxTrax, we jacked him, we winched him until finally we found the right combination of traction to get him to drag his rig down the ledge.

I went down without a problem.

If you've ever wondered what Top of the World looks like from below, here it is:

It's tough to see that cantilevered rock, but it's up there. Straight vertical drop- it's got to be close to 1000 feet.

From here we took the Onion Creek road out to the highway. This is a very fun road that crosses the creek several times but all in such a fashion that they are all smooth and quick.

We drove into Moab via the highway and met up with a couple more people. The Taco and Hemi Rubi decided they had enough fun and were heading back home. We picked up a new generation of 4runner and an 80-series Land Cruiser to our group.

Camp 3 was soggy. It was raining most of the night and may have even snowed a little.

Just some of the mud we encountered:

I'll continue with Day 4 next.

Join the Elite Explorers for $20 each year.
Elite Explorer members see no advertisements, no banner ads, no double underlined links,.
Add an avatar, upload photo attachments, and more!

After we left Moab, we headed out to get on the Paradox Trail. Again, this is a MTB trail done along 4wd trails. For the most part, this trail was more like what we were expecting: fairly easy dirt roads with the occasional rock here and there. It made logging some miles pretty easy.

This valley was really beautiful.


The white Rubi heading down one of the more tame shelf roads:

We got into an area with a lot of copper. The dirt on the hills was green:


And the mud on the trucks was green too:




Camp 4 was nice.

I had to be home by a certain time so I left the group after we broke camp while they continued on towards Montrose where they were going to call it quits. I had a great drive from about Naturita over to Montrose, through Gunnison, Salida, Buena Vista, Fairplay and home. The remaining group did not reach Montrose until about 10pm. I haven't heard the story yet, but tracking the APRS signal, it looks like they had to do some back tracking. There was a big storm in the area that might have played a role.

I further update this post when I get pics from other cameras that are worth sharing.

That looks like such an awesome trip! I wish my wife was more outdoorsy. Lol.

I have been looking forward to this thread since you posted about doing the trip. If you are able, can you post a GPS track of the entire route?

Looks like a great trip. I'm glad you ran with the Jeeps to keep them out of trouble ;):burnout:

Nice write up! :thumbsup:

That picture at the bottom of Top Of The World is cool, thanks for sharing that. It seems so much higher from up top, looking down! LOL
If you go to that link in the start of the first post, he has GPX files that we ran largely from. Occasionally if we were on a boring road and the maps showed other trails that connected up with where we needed to go, we'd do that. But for the most part, we followed the GPX.

I'm getting teaser pics from the group after I left that involved LOTS of mud. Like entire wheels appear to have been submerged. Which is fairly rare for this part of the country. I can't wait to hear actual details!

Nice! Rose Garden is scary even on a dirtbike...

We had some mountain bikers head down while we were there. All of them were walking their bikes.

And some dirt bikers approached from the south but turned around at the bottom and went back up the hill you can see in the distance.

What an awesome trip!! Thanks for sharing. :biggthump

Great scenery!! The pic from the bottom of Top of the World puts a new view on it. :D

Nice writeup! Looks like a fun trail!

I'm so jealous. Lol.