The Hungate Trail in the Palisades

By Jaana Hatton

I stumbled across the Hungate Trailhead by surprise on a trip to the Palisades. I had not seen this trail listed anywhere before — online or in guidebooks — but there it was with a clearly marked sign pointing to the start of  the trail.

Coming from Highway 28, the Hungate Trailhead is about nine miles down the Palisades Road, on your right side. The gravel parking spot is small, large enough for only a few cars.

The trail leads you through tall sagebrush, almost a sage forest. You will see posts along the way marking the way and leading you toward the hills.

About a hundred yards along the path, the sudden sound of water will probably surprise and delight you. That will be the background noise for the rest of the trip. The trail follows the trickle of a stream which gradually becomes a more pronounced creek and suddenly delivers you to a small waterfall.

It may seem that the trail ends at the falls, but if you are willing to make your way through the thick riparian growth and climb a few rocks, you discover this is only the beginning of your trek. The path occasionally disappears, but by following the creek you will not get lost.

As you go, the terrain keeps changing. One portion is a tricky landslide with loose rock. I was glad to have my walking stick along. You will walk across meadows and grassy spots that are an invitation to sit a spell and enjoy both the quiet and the occasional birdsong.

After about an hour’s hike at a brisk pace, I came to a gated barbwire fence. There was no sign saying “No Tresspassing”, only one asking visitors to close the gate. I took that as encouragement to continue beyond the fence. Instead of trying to pry open the gate, I simply stooped down a few feet to the left and slipped under the fence.

I did not go all the way to the end of the trail. When I turned around, the trail was still following the creek farther uphill. On the return, I did not take the trail directly back to the waterfall I had come from. Instead I followed a path on higher ground until I reached the edge of the hill overlooking the Palisades Road. Here, a narrow path covered with loose rock led back through the sagebrush to the parking lot.

All of this was a delightfully varied trek and during my April visit the flowers were spectacular. I recommend wearing hiking boots that offer good ankle support, a walking stick, water, and snacks. Snakes might be a concern later in the spring and summer, so pay attention.

Trail note: This trail is tricky in places and not suited for young children. 

Leave It Better than You Found It. This should be every user’s goal. Do no damage and pick up trash left by others.

Disclaimer. Treat this information as recommendations, not gospel. Conditions change and those contributing these reports are volunteers–they may make mistakes or not know all the issues affecting a route. You are responsible for yourself, your actions, and your safety. If you won’t accept that responsibility, you are prohibited from using our information.

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2 Responses

  1. Jim Breezely

    I had an opportunity to do a moderate backpacking trip into upper Hungate in early April, where I camped for two nights and did a very enjoyable 10-mile loop into and back out of Petrified Canyon on the in-between day. Very scenic steppe country, with lithosol plant communities on the high ridges which will interest the botanically inclined. A considerable abundance of wildlife, too. It would be an almost perfect early spring trip, except that BLM allows these canyons to be terribly overgrazed by cattle, and there are occasional barbed wire fences to navigate as mentioned. Finding a potential campsite that wasn’t inches deep in last year’s cowpies was a challenge.


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