Out of the woods: Where to hike during hunting season

If you want to hike during hunting season around here, it’s a good thing to carry a rifle and wear a blaze-orange hat and vest. That way, no one will bug you.

However, here’s the question: Where you hike during big game hunting season?

If you’re hunting, you might as well hike where the deer and elk are located. You know, “up in them there hills.”

Generally, big game rifle hunting seasons around here run from around Oct. 10 (this weekend) to Nov. 15. So, anywhere you find deer and elk, you’ll find hunters.

If you don’t want to hike where hunters are, however, don’t go near deer and elk. Around here, that means hiking in the desert, or on the Colorado National Monument, or along the Colorado or Gunnison rivers — anywhere but up in the hills.

Sure, you’ll find a few deer and elk in the desert and along a river, but hunting is not allowed on the Colorado National Monument, there aren’t many elk out in the desert, and the rivers attract too many people and scare big game animals, and hunters, away.

There remain plenty of places in this part of the world where hikers can hike and horseback riders can ride without putting themselves in the field with hunters.

Both Colorado National Monument and BLM’s McInnis Canyons National Conservation Area are located just west and north of town. Within the national monument, there are several well-established trails, such as Serpent’s Trail, Liberty Cap and Corkscrew trails, Ute Canyon, Monument Canyon, the Alcove Trail, the trail to Otto’s Bathtub and Old Gordon’s Trail.

It’s pretty hard to get lost on the monument, but it can happen. Get a map at a local sporting goods store or at the visitor’s center at the top of the monument.

Between the monument and McInnis Canyons, there are a few parcels of private property. It is your responsibility to know where you are. Get the BLM’s Grand Junction Resource Area map, which shows private and public property. The BLM office is on H Road across from the airport.

Remember the law of the West: Leave gates the way you found them. If they are closed when you go through, shut them behind you. If they are open, leave them that way. If they say “No Trespassing,” don’t.

If you’re headed to McInnis Canyons, check out the trails on Pollock Bench, and hike or ride into Pollock Canyon, Rattlesnake Canyon, Flume Canyon or Devil’s Canyon, or trek along the Colorado River (before waterfowl hunting season starts up again.)

To reach the Pollock Bench trail head for most of these trails, go west from Grand Junction on I-70 to Fruita (Exit 19).

Travel south across the river for 1.3 miles on Colorado Highway 340 to Kings View Estates Subdivision, located directly across the road from Rimrock Adventures. Turn right (west) and go through the subdivision. When the pavement ends, veer to the left around the new Fruita Open Space area and follow the signs toward Horsethief Canyon State Wildlife Area.

The Pollock Bench trail head parking lot is 3.3 miles from the subdivision. You’ll pass the Devil’s Canyon trail head on he way and you’ll also pass the Fruita Paleontological Area, with its excellent information displays.

The Pollock Bench trail head is on the south (left) side of the road just before you enter the main section of Horsethief Canyon. This parking area is large enough for numerous horse trailers, as this trail is accessible to both hikers and horseback riders. Mountain bikes and motorized vehicles are not allowed.

A vault toilet is found at the trail head near an excellent information kiosk and a sign-in register. It’s important to sign in, not only for safety reasons, but to allow the Bureau of Land Management to keep tabs on use in the area.

Trails here are managed as “designated trails only.” Open trails are assigned with white arrows on brown carsonite posts. If a trail is not marked with a white arrow, the trail is closed. The BLM is closing and rehabilitating excess routes. Recreationists are asked to stay on designated trails because cross-country hiking and horseback riding impact fragile desert soils.

You could also travel south of town to Dominguez Canyon, our nation’s newest wilderness area. To reach this area, travel 21.5 miles south of downtown GJ on Highway 50 past Kannah Creek to the Bridgeport Road at mile marker 52. This is the largest BLM roadless area in Colorado, at 68,505 acres, and about 67,000 of those acres lie within the wilderness area.

It’s a fabulous canyon and although there are desert bighorn sheep here, you don’t have to worry about deer or elk hunters — only the coal train that goes down the track near the parking area a couple of times a day.


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