Beauty, history, and choosing your own adventure

Montrose, Colorado and Moab, Utah. Two vibrant western communities surrounded by a limitless world of outdoor recreation. These are places where the tie to public lands is palpable to even the casual visitor. The iconic Canyonlands, Arches, and Black Canyon National Parks are prominent forces in both communities. In places with such expansive playgrounds, seasons are not referenced by name but rather, by activity. Visitors and locals alike build schedules around powder days, elk tags, stonefly hatches, and river flows.

Weaving an adventurous connection between these two destination communities is the Rimrocker Trail. This 160-mile route leads travelers through some of the most diverse and scenic country the west has to offer. As expected, the route features the high elevation alpine forests and wildflowers for which Colorado is known. The unexpected is revealed as the route winds through the redrock canyons and desert valleys that make this part of Colorado unique. On the Rimrocker, there is no need to choose between sandstone vistas or mountain meadows. It’s all included.

Travel on the Rimrocker is open to off highway vehicles “OHVs” (including dirt bikes), 4-wheel-drive vehicles, bicycles, pedestrians, and horses. Choose your preferred ride and get ready to head out. One indispensable companion for your trip is the official Rimrocker Trail Map (available at the Downtown Montrose Visitor Center). Within walking distance of the center, you will find an ample supply of gear stores, bike shops, and any other amenity that you need to prepare for your trip. If you’ve just returned from a long ride, the same area offers top-notch options for all the food and drink you’ll need to recharge.

Once you embark on your trip, be prepared to undertake an adventure. Travelers will encounter rough roads, ledges, creek crossings, remote areas (blissfully) devoid of cell phone service, and an overwhelming sense of “awesomeness.” As an added bonus, users may experience snow, bears, snakes, cacti, and a strong desire to stay an extra week or two. Don’t worry, these feelings are normal.

The unique feel of the Rimrocker is not solely attributed to the world-class scenery. The history of the Montrose area is on display as you make your way along the route. In fact, the name “Rimrocker” is actually a nod to the quirky history of Montrose County’s west end. At the beginning of the 20th century, “Rimrockers” was a local term used to describe an eclectic mix of miners, hermits, cowboys and yes, outlaws, that frequented and in some instances hid out in the rimrock country of Montrose County. Today’s rimrockers share a commonality with their predecessors in that they are still looking to get away, albeit, not necessarily from a bank heist.

The importance of mining and ranching in the Montrose area is readily apparent to travelers as they encounter grazing cattle and remnants of old mines along the route. These physical reminders make it easy to understand the pioneering spirit of those trying to strike it rich on a mining claim in the Old West. Rising dust from mule trains and the steady metallic ring of pick axes was the norm in this area and still seems to linger just around the next bend. The sheer grit of people that worked these remote places is incredible. There is no better way to get a sense of this hardscrabble existence than to stand where they stood and observe the imposing natural environment that afforded opportunity and struggle.

The natural environment that once drew those seeking their fortune continues to draw visitors. At the western end of the Rimrocker, the beauty of the Moab area draws visitors from around the world. This abundance of interest means that enjoying many Moab area activities requires doing so as part of a crowd. This is not the case on the Rimrocker. The rugged character of the route allows travelers to experience the same spectacular scenery minus the company.

The small effort it takes to get off the beaten path rewards those willing to do so with a more personal experience and sense of adventure. Looking down on a river as it carves through a serpentine sandstone corridor is mesmerizing. The chance to have such a view to yourself or shared with just a few close friends is rare. This is exactly the type of memory that the Rimrocker will provide.

Since the establishment of the Rimrocker, one of the more common questions that has been posed is, “How long does it take to complete the route?” The answer is a firm: “It depends.” It depends on whether you stop to hike, raft, explore a side trail, camp, take some photos, cast a fly, or take a nap. It depends on whether you do part of the route and then head back to Montrose to resupply for an adventure elsewhere. If the journey is the destination, you can travel the route in a day. If you’re easily distracted by incredible opportunity to explore everything that the Montrose area has to offer, it may take a lifetime.