Devil’s delight

Even if you're not an avid hiker, you can enjoy Devil's Canyon

Members of the Rocky Mountain Outdoor Writers and Photographers Association gathered in Fruita last week for a four-day conference on writing and photography. They found themselves fascinated with the flora and fauna of Devil’s Canyon, in particular the colorful collared lizard.

One of the easiest canyons to access in the “front country” of McInnis Canyons National Conservation Area, Devil’s Canyon is home to desert bighorn sheep, peregrine falcon, collared lizards and mule deer. It offers spectacular scenery with stunning rock sculptures, spires and natural alcoves and is also known for its fascinating paleontological resources.


Devil’s Canyon

Drive time and distance: 20 minutes, 14.3 miles.

Length: Up to 12 miles.

Hiking Time: Zero minutes to five-plus hours.

Difficulty: Easy to moderate.

I don’t know what the devil got into me, but I took a bunch of folks who are not used to such things hiking into Devil’s Canyon and the Fruita Paleontological Area.

Turns out, it was OK.

No one got lost. No one fell. No one overheated.

They liked it.

Folks from Missouri, Georgia, Denver — weird places like that.

Folks not used to the magnificent canyon country just outside our front doors.

The Rocky Mountain Outdoor Writers and Photographers Association met in Fruita for a four-day conference last week, and they had a blast in the canyons. I know, it’s strange people from Georgia and Missouri belong to the Rocky Mountain Outdoor Writers and Photographers Association, but they love the Rockies, so that’s OK.

Being early risers, they all tripped to the top of Colorado National Monument for three or four sunrise photograph sessions. Many of them could also be found in the canyons as the evening sun set to the west.

They were mesmerized, and it took them no time at all to discover the best times of day in these canyons are the mornings and evenings.

Of course, they are photo buffs and discover the best lighting at those times of day. Also, they’re pretty smart. They don’t want to fry in the middle of the day in the hot, high-altitude, desert sun.

Wildflowers were blooming, the crimson red claret cup cactus were just starting to show their gorgeous blossoms, and the prickly pear are not far behind, all benefiting from the glorious rains we’ve seen this past month.

They should still be quite showy this Memorial Day weekend, and this is a great place to breathe deeply, enjoy this beautiful country and remember our veterans.

To reach the Devil’s Canyon trail head from Grand Junction, take Interstate 70 west to Fruita (Exit 19), travel south over the Colorado River to Kingsview Estates (1.3 miles) and turn right. Go through the subdivision, and when the pavement ends veer to the left around the gravel pit and go six-tenths of a mile to the Devil’s Canyon turn and parking area. Please don’t park at the far end of the parking lot. That wide, rounded end is for horse trailers to turn around.

You’ll share the multiple trails in this area with other hikers, photographers, dog walkers and horseback riders. This trail is dog friendly, as long as you’re a responsible pet owner. Here, dog owners are required to pick up after their pooches. Easy-to-use scoops are provided in a handy-dandy dispenser at the trail head.

Those outdoor writers and photographers agreed that taking a dog into the great outdoors is one of the pleasures of pet owners. Dogs protect us by warning us of danger, whether that danger comes from a mountain lion or a leaf blowing through the trees. They are loyal, as long as there’s not a dog in heat nearby. They’re good listeners and rarely talk back.

Yet, even a dog on leash can be tough to handle in wildlife country. A dog running loose on the trail is certain trouble. (I realize your dog is perfect. It’s those other dogs and dog owners who are out of control.)

The folks at BLM are smart enough to know not every pet owner will keep that pet on a leash the entire trip. Every now and then, Fido needs to stretch it out. However, BLM asks those dog owners to be considerate. Keep the leash ready when approaching others or when in the vicinity of wildlife such as desert bighorn sheep or mule deer. Pets really stress (and distress) wildlife.

The BLM also asks that pet owners keep their beloved companions out of the few water sources in the area, and remember they’re wearing fur coats. Keep ‘em out of the heat. Hike early or late in the day.

Devil’s Canyon lies within the BLM’s 122,750-acre McInnis Canyons National Conservation Area. It provides habitat for mountain lions, desert bighorn sheep, elk, deer, eagles, collared lizards and other critters dogs like to chase.

The outdoor photographers didn’t need to chase any collared lizards. They found plenty of lizards who apparently loved posing for the cameras.

The writers and photographers were also fascinated to learn about a variety of prehistoric fossils at the nearby Fruita Paleontological Area, just down the road from the Devil’s Canyon parking area, and at Dinosaur Journey Museum in Fruita.

Of course, they were just a bit early for the newest, most fabulous exhibit yet at the Dinosaur Journey Museum: the SuperCroc. Way cool!

They did, however, hike through Devil’s Canyon where the dinosaurs once roamed, and they loved it.

No one got lost, no one fell, and no one got overheated. I loved that!


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