Colorado Canyon Country

Back in November 2015, I backpacked in a delightful canyon.  A truly memorable place.

My original plan to also hike in a parallel canyon was shelved.  Mainly due to the icy conditions and a semi-technical stretch that would have been dicey.

With some time off coming to me and spring weather here, it was time to explore this other canyon in the Black Ridge Canyon Wilderness.

Two problems:

  • My vehicle was at the mechanic. It was not ready until 9:30 AM Friday morning. I would not be at the trailhead until 2:30 PM.
  • The access roads to the canyon TH were closed down.  I’d have to link single track and jeep track and make an out and back. The trip total was ~40 miles.

No matter.

Any time off is precious. And this other canyon has been calling to me for a while. I would make do.

When I finally reach the trailhead, it was a place where I had been previously. Cutting through single track to reach my final destination was a touch longer than hiking on a jeep road the entire way, but more scenic.

I soon left this well-known area and started walking the jeep road that would lead me to the main canyon’s entrance. Based on a register entry and the tracks, some mountain bikers had a similar idea.

I reached a high point and could see the city of Grand Junction along with the Colorado National Monument below.

The day was getting late. But my water was running low. I could see the water beckoning into the canyon.  I knew I’d have just enough daylight to get to the canyon bottom.

Older ladder no longer suggested to be used by the BLM.

The canyon was stunning in the light of the setting sun.

The crux of the canyon was reached. A short scramble on a narrow ledge. My good camera had to be stowed. With a traditional (heavier!) pack, I could see where this ledge would be cause for concern. With a light pack and paying attention to my feet, it was just a quick walk on some dry sandstone.   With thirty minutes of daylight left. 🙂

The canyon bottom was reached. And a suitable campsite was found.

I love any time spent in the outdoors. But a solo trip in prime three-season conditions will always be my favorite outdoor activity.  Setting my own pace, the simplicity of the gear, planning, and logistics, and being immersed in the wild places on an intense level seems to happen best for me when solo backpacking.

Solo backpacking is not just something I enjoy.

It is something I need.

And being at the bottom of a canyon on an early spring night, with the sound of the nearby stream, and the night sky above? Bliss.

The following morning, I briefly made my way up the canyon to explore a large alcove.

After admiring the expanse carved out by water and the wind, it was time to head downstream to the Colorado River.

Sights both subtle and grand were enjoyed.

The Colorado River was soon reached. Time to relax and just enjoy the sound of the river.

I soon saw some rafters. I gave a wave, and some others soon pulled into a nearby river camp. Alas, no one offered me a beer. 😉

I turned around and made my way back to the climb out of the canyon.

Another camp was made near my exit point.

The following morning was a brilliant day for being above the canyon.

Even the sandstone formations were intriguing.

My climb out of the canyon was complete, and the rim was reached. I could now be on autopilot. Just trails and jeep track to follow.

The desert wildflowers were starting to bloom.

The jeep track was quiet and felt remote during this time of closure.  I could savor the views that most people probably did not notice when traveling in a vehicle.

The popular area near town was reached again. With the red rock formations, easy to see why.

Before I reached my vehicle again, I had to pause and enjoy one last batch of desert wildflowers.

The trip was over. Some comfy cotton was changed into, a suitable watering hole was found in the nearby town of Fruita, and I made my way home.

I love canyon country this time of the year.  Maybe I can squeeze in another trip before it gets too warm?

I hope so.

All the photos…


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7 years ago

Awesome photos! It’s really pretty country out there.

I lived in Fruita many (many!) years ago and would take kinda/sorta day hikes (long story) up around the Monument to a place we called ‘The Sugar Bowl’.

7 years ago


Really enjoy your trip reports. I am planning on hitting this area this weekend (4/8) since the forecast is looking good so far.

I was wondering if you could share what sort of temp difference to expect sleeping at the bottom of the canyons? Fruita and GC are forecasting some relatively warm nights, so I’m debating which sleeping bag to bring…


7 years ago
Reply to  Paul Mags

Thanks for the quick reply! Also trying to decide between this and a hike out to rattlesnake arches via pollock. If someone put a gun to your head and made you choose, which was the more enjoyable trek? Eye-candy, solitude, and working hard for it all appeal to me.

7 years ago
Reply to  Paul Mags

Awesome thanks again. If the mountains cooperate and I can drive over, I’ll follow in your footsteps on one route or the other!

Travis Briles
6 years ago

Hi Paul. I really enjoy your website. I was wondering if you had any idea on water quality here? I’m assuming it’s not a pristine as an alpine lake but is the water in these canyons pretty clean in general? Would a sawyer squeeze be ok?.

-Travis Briles