McInnis Canyons welcomes all who seek adventure

One of many arches in McInnis Canyons.

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One of many arches in McInnis Canyons.

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

Read: If you like the outdoors, you’re going to love this place.

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 range from camping, rafting, hiking, biking, horseback riding, hunting and investigating dinosaur fossils.

In 2011, the area celebrates its 11th year as a conservation area.

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 from a national park or national 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 wildlife in the area includes big horn sheep, peregrine falcons, antelope, deer and elk.

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SEE it, Do It

Where to hike:

• Trail Through Time — Tour 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 the lumbering giants roamed the Earth, 140 million years ago.

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

• 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 of spotting wildlife. Keep your eyes peeled for a rustic, preserved mining shack.

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, take D1 to D3 on this loop trail.

• 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 the 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.

Where to bike:

• Mary’s Loop — Locals and visitors rave about this 8.5-mile, moderately challenging, clockwise 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 cater 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.

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