McInnis Canyons National Conservation Area delights adventure seekers

The wide open spaces and the opportunity to enjoy a range of activities make McInnis Canyons National Conservation Area inviting to adventure seekers.

The Out Cove in Mee Canyon, part of the McInnis Canyon area.


Take your time ... in the morning

■ Trail through Time — Blast into the past on this 1.5-mile interpretive trail. Discover an ancient cache of dinosaur fossils in the rocks and imagine being in the area when those lumbering giants roamed Earth, 140 million years ago.

Look and touch all you want, but leave things how you found them. To get there from Grand Junction, go west on Interstate 70 and take Exit 2 at Rabbit Valley. Turn right into the parking lot.


■ Pollock Bench Trail — Make some time for this moderately-challenging, but worth the work 5.4-mile loop trail. The trailhead is located about 2 miles past Devil’s Canyon’s entrance. The walls of Devil’s Canyon rise to the south and the trail leads to views of the Colorado River.

■ Mary’s Loop — Mountain bike your heart out. Locals and visitors rave about this 8.5-mile, moderately challenging loop along the Kokopelli Trail. Enjoy sweeping views of the Colorado River from high above. Mary’s Loop is one of a network of trails in this area that caters to all biking abilities and levels.

To get there, take Interstate 70 to Loma’s Exit 15. Head south over the interstate then west onto Hawkeye Road before bearing left at the dirt road. Follow it to the parking lot.


■ Without a lick of whitewater, floating Ruby Horethief Canyon on the Colorado River can make for a casual family float trip. The 25-mile journey can be completed in a day or up to three days, depending on how much camping is involved. Do some online research to find the trip length that would be best for you. Shuttling to the take out at the Utah state line, an area called Westwater, takes about 45 minutes.

The river’s put-in is off Interstate 70 at Loma’s Exit 15. Head south over the interstate, then east onto the frontage road and down to the river.


Rosa Brey is the outreach coordinator with the Colorado Canyons Association, the community group that provides stewardship for McInnis Canyons.

“I would take my friends or family to the Devil’s Canyon cabin, get a really great view and a great piece of local history,” Brey said.

The area also is dog friendly, which Brey appreciates.

“My family are big dog people,” she said. “We want our dogs to be out there having fun with us, too.”

To get there, exit Interstate 70 at Fruita, Exit 19, and turn south on Colorado Highway 340. About 1.5 miles down the highway, turn right at Kings View Road. Follow the dirt road, veering left at the fork for about a 1/2 mile until you reach the trailhead. To hike Devil’s Canyon and to locate the cabin, take D1 to D3 on this loop.

Relax. Unwind. Discover a new trail or plan a weekend float trip.

The wide open spaces and the opportunity to enjoy a range of activities in the McInnis Canyons National Conservation Area are a delight for adventure seekers.

The 123,000-acre swath of public lands in Fruita’s backyard and west of Grand Junction along Interstate 70, is one of the area’s best-kept secrets for those seeking any number of rugged, outdoor escapades.

Opportunities in the vast expanse of sandstone cliffs, rock bridges and sheer canyon faces include camping, rafting, hiking, biking, horseback riding, hunting and investigating dinosaur fossils.

If you only have a few hours, wake up with the sun and head to Devil’s Canyon. This trail system offers some of the area’s best bang for your hiking buck as visitors can soak in stunning red rock canyons and have a good chance at spotting wildlife. Keep your eyes peeled for a rustic, preserved mining shack.

Or, take the leisurely route. With a little more planning, linger on one of the calmest stretches of the Colorado River along the Ruby Horsethief Canyon. Gather your friends, rent a boat and pack some meals. Get to the river put-in early and sign up for a campsite.

Being a conservation area means this U.S. Bureau of Land Management land is managed to accommodate a multitude of uses, but will never be used for commercial drilling.

“It’s kind of a haven for recreation,” said Joe Neuhof, director of Colorado Canyons Association, a friends-of-public-lands group that includes McInnis Canyons. “There’s something Wild West about the area that you don’t get when there’s a visitor center.”

The McInnis Canyons area also accommodates livestock grazing and motorized vehicle use in some areas.

The Rabbit Valley area, accessible from Exit 2 off Interstate 70, is popular with off-road vehicle users.

A conservation area is managed differently than a national park or monument in that it does not have official signage, government structures and some limits on the land’s use.

Bring binoculars and your camera as area wildlife include big horn sheep, peregrine falcons, antelope, deer and elk.


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