Rattlesnake Canyon

Useful Information

Location: Fruita, CO 81521.
(39.137128, -108.833471)
Open: no restrictions.
Fee: free.
Classification: GorgeGorge
Light: n/a
Guided tours: self guided
Photography: allowed
Accessibility: no
Address: Rattlesnake Canyon, McInnis Canyons NCA, 2815 H Road, Grand Junction, Colorado, 81506, Tel: +1-970-244-3000.
As far as we know this information was accurate when it was published (see years in brackets), but may have changed since then.
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Rattlesnake Canyon is one of numerous similar canyons in this area. They are protected by the McInnis Canyons National Conservation Area, which is managed by McInnis Canyons NCA of the Bureau of Land Management. Unlike National Parks, there is actually no tourist infrastructure. But there is a trail through the canyon and a trailhead of sorts at each end.

We listed this site as a gorge, although it is actually not a spectacular gorge, and a visit requires a long hike, and probably a 4WD. The reason why we listed it is the fact that it has the second-largest collection of natural arches in the world. It is second only to Arches National Park. The most spectacular ones are the Centennial Arch, East Rim Arch and the Cedar Tree Arch. In total, the canyon contains 35 natural arches. Cedar Tree Arch is the largest and spans 23 m with a vertical opening of 13 m.

In the north, at the Colorado river lies the Rattlesnake Camp site, which is a campground for children. It seems to be the "official" location, though it is actually not a good starting point. It is frequented by groups which use boats to float down the Colorado river. The arches are best seen on the Rattlesnake Arches Trail though, which is at the upper end of the side canyon. This loop trail starts at the car park, which is located at the end of Rattlesnake Arches Road.

And it's quite a drive to get there, the road is at the end pretty poor, and even normal 4WD are not enough, a vehicle with high clearance is essential. The drive starts at Grand Junction, CO, turn south from the main road CO-340 onto Monument Rd, after 7.2 miles turn left to Glade Park Store 5.7 miles. Turn right on S 16 for 3 miles, then left on B 1/4 road, which is a gravel road. From here its 11 miles on single-lane gravel and dirt roads to the trailhead. All in all, it's probably a 2-hour drive, and then there is a hike on a not very well-maintained trail. Its sometimes steep and requires surefootedness. Use a good map or Goggle, and we strongly recommend getting info from the McInnis Canyons NCA office at Grand Junction before you go. They also offer online maps with the trails.