Heading west on I-70, just past Colorado National Monument, you’ll find one of the best places to recreate in western Colorado. McInnis Canyons National Conservation Area is a little-known sandstone paradise where Grand Valley residents go to raft, hike, bike, climb, drive ATVs and jeeps, ride horses, and camp. It’s also a fabulous area to watch wildlife, go bird-watching, and view various desert ecology. McInnis Canyons was preserved by U.S. Congress for the public enjoyment and protection of its many natural wonders, including desert bighorn sheep. Managed by the Bureau of Land Management, McInnis Canyons NCA Is the heart and soul of Grand Valley’s recreational opportunities.
Perhaps the most impressive site in McInnis Canyons is Rattlesnake Arches. Don’t worry too much about the name, as you probably won’t see a rattlesnake. However, you will see the second highest concentration of natural sandstone arches in the world. This collection of natural arches is stunning and off the beaten path.
TO GET TO RATTLESNAKE ARCHES
From Grand Junction, take I-70 west to the Fruita exit 19. Turn left at the off-ramp and follow the signs to Colorado National Monument. Enter the Monument and travel 11 miles to the Glade Park turnoff at 16.5 Road on the right. Go 0.2 miles to Black Ridge Access Road on the right. (there will be a kiosk and signage for McInnis Canyons National Conservation Area). It is 13 miles to the trailhead. CAUTION: a high clearance vehicle is mandatory and 4-wheel drive is highly recommended. The last 2 miles are very rough. The roads are impassable when wet. Weather permitting: The upper access road is open from April 15 to August 14. The lower road is open from August 15 to February 14. Motorized travel is prohibited from February 15 – April 15. IMPORTANT: the trailhead and trail are day-use only. Overnight camping is prohibited.
This issue of Relocating to Colorado’s Grand Valley features three articles highlighting some of the best adventures in McInnis Canyons National Conservation Area. Colorado Canyons Association (CCA) is excited to share this place with you and as the “Friends” group for the Western Slope’s three NCAs we ask that when you are visiting your public lands please practice “Leave No Trace” principals and pay close attention to your own health and safety in this wild desert landscape. Consider contacting CCA to become a volunteer educator or join us for an educational adventure in McInnis Canyons National Conservation Area. Visit www.coloradocanyonsassociation. org for more information.