The McKinnis Canyons National Conservation Area (NCA), near Fruita, is another special slice of nature in Western Colorado.
When you visit, you’ll find sandstone canyons, natural arches including the Black Ridge Canyons Wilderness, which is home to the second-largest concentration of natural arches in North America, spires, and so much more.
With all of this land to explore, there is an abundance of outdoor activities to enjoy. Here’s your guide to hiking, biking, camping, paleontological sites, and more in McKinnis Canyons.
Rabbit Valley is part of the NCA and it’s worth an entire trip of its own. Get the scoop on hiking, off-roading, camping, and mountain biking in Rabbit Valley here.
Hiking opportunities are plentiful in McKinnis Canyons, and the hardest part will be picking one to start with. If you’re comfortable with route-finding, even more opportunities are available throughout the canyons.
Arguably the most popular trail, and for very good reason. Rattlesnake Arches is a moderate hike that can last 6.2 to 8.2 miles. Don’t worry, if you aren’t able to make it through the entire hike you can still get an eyeful of gorgeous arches as you’ll pass eight within the first two miles.
Note that the Rattlesnake Arches trailhead is only accessible between April 15 through February 15 of the following year, unless the road happens to be closed for another reason. If you’re game for a strenuous hike, you can access the arches via the Pollock Bench Trailhead.
Getting to Lower Sieber Canyon requires a difficult 4.8-mile trek and some trail finding, but you’ll be rewarded with well-preserved petroglyphs and stunning canyon scenery. If you’d like to try this hike, follow these directions from Grand Junction’s favorite trail experts.
Mountain bikers from around Colorado and beyond flock to the trails here because many of Fruita’s most well-known trails can be found in or near the NCA.
The famous Kokopelli Loops are the perfect ride, and you can view the different trails on REI’s MTB Project website as well. If you’re a beginner and aren’t sure where to start try Rustler’s Loop. If there’s a trail that will get you hooked on mountain biking this one.
One of the greatest parts of camping on BLM is the freedom — dispersed campsites are free and plentiful, you just need to be aware of private property boundaries and follow a few simple rules:
Most importantly, always pack out everything you bring in. Litter is becoming more of a problem every year throughout Colorado, so let’s all do our part to keep these public lands pristine for everyone to enjoy.
If you’re looking for an established campground or a spot for your RV, try one of the campgrounds around Rabbit Valley.
Keep in mind that the McKinnis Canyons area is as large as it is diverse and beautiful. A short guide can get you started, but the true magic is found when you head out into this desert wilderness with a good map and an eye for exploration.