Mesa County Weekend – Two short jaunts; one long weekend

Some much-needed backcountry time in the canyon country outside of Fruita and Grand Junction, CO.


After the Winter OR, being on call and then having car problems, my weekend excursions have been limited.

I was craving some backcountry time.

A chance to sleep on the ground, be immersed in nature for more than a day’s excursion and to really enjoy the outdoors.

someone more or less said that I had to get out as well since I was becoming too grumpy!

I immediately thought of a trip to one of my favorite places: The Colorado Plateau.   Canyons, red rocks, sage and ancient paths. It was calling.

So, over the past holiday weekend, I took advantage of the mild weather and drove out Fruita, CO and went to the Black Ridge Canyon Wilderness.

I timed my trip to (mainly) avoid the I-70 ski traffic. The trip I did was more of a quick overnighter in terms of total mileage (~25 miles total perhaps), but it was enough to give me some needed outdoor time.

I had been to Black Ridge Canyon Wilderness back in 2002, but I’ve been meaning to go back for a while now.

I arrived mid-afternoon, parked my car and went up the trail and enjoyed my first view of the weekend.

Soon gained the ridge and enjoy the views into the canyon below.

This wilderness area was much more developed than I had remembered. The junctions were very well signed for example.

I soon climbed out of one canyon and ascended to the top. The Colorado River was far below.

The Rattlesnake Arches were soon reached.  Supposedly the highest concentration of arches outside of Arches National Park.

It was getting towards dusk. Time to move on down the trail and away from the arches.

I found a nice spot overlooking the canyon below.

The following morning, the weather was glorious. Perfect for showing the beauty of the reds, greens, yellows and blues that are found in canyon country.

The wind-shaped rock formations also stood out in sharp relief.

I soon came to the wilderness boundary. I was amused by the NO STROLLERS sign. I am guessing this area is indeed more popular since 2002…

The first quick trip was over.

But I was not done yet.

The Colorado National Monument was literally up the road.

My someone and I had enjoyed this place in the past. And I’ve taken hikes on my own there, too. But there was one canyon I wanted to see: No Thoroughfare Canyon.

I would not have the time to do the whole canyon, but I wanted to at least explore the lower part of it.  A free backcountry permit  was just the ticket.

I made my way up Rim Rock Road at a leisurely pace and enjoyed the scenery and made my way to the visitors center.

Procured my backcountry permit and enjoyed the views from both the visitors center and the pullouts along the  road.

By mid-afternoon, I was at my trailhead..conveniently located near the Grand Junction, CO entrance station.

I quickly made my way up the canyon and reached the first pool.

The trail became somewhat rougher but easier to follow.

The first waterfall in the canyon was reached.

From this point, only a non-maintained trail would lead further into the canyon.

I climbed up along a social trail and was now above the waterfall.

The light of late afternoon sun reflected on the canyon walls.

I even spotted a desert big horn above.

On the way up the second waterfall, I ran into a backcountry ranger leading a rescue mission for a young man who cliffed himself out. About 20 SAR folks were making their way down the canyon.  The ranger said that getting to the area above the second waterfall could be a little tricky.

As it was nearly 5 PM, and only about an hour of daylight left, I figured this area was good as any to call it a night.  The SAR folks, partially, joked that one rescue a day was enough. 🙂

And with a view into the canyon such as this…why go any further?

I turned around and walked perhaps .25 miles down the canyon again to a flat spot with a commanding view nearby.

I settled in for the night. Made dinner and relaxed with a hot cup of tea.  A hot drink in hand, the stars above and the sound of the nearby stream made me as content as I have been in a while.

The following morning, I walked down the canyon again to close up the trip and head back home.

One last look was made towards the pool.

Soon the canyon mouth was reached and shortly thereafter the trailhead.

My latest outdoor excursion was over.

At the trailhead, I saw the same ranger I saw yesterday in the canyon. He was pleased I called it a night where I did.  We chatted a while.  I said it was regretfully time for me to head back.

He said : “Time to head back to reality.”

I smiled, remembered what  thru-hiker told me long ago and said “As one person once told me: No..THIS is reality.”

The ranger gave a hearty chuckle, smiled and wished me a good rest of the weekend.

I enjoyed my time in the real world.  Hope to head out to again soon.


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Karl Gottshalk
Karl Gottshalk
9 years ago

Is there any water on the way out to Rattlesnake? Probably heading out there for an overnight this week or next.