Go Play: Grand Valley trails stay open to hikers all year | PostIndependent.com

Go Play: Grand Valley trails stay open to hikers all year

Sharon Sullivan
A view of the Gunnison River from near the bridge, between Bridgeport and Big Dominguez Canyon within the Dominguez-Escalante National Conservation Area.
Submitted photo |

One of the great things about living in the Grand Valley is the easy access to canyon country and being able to hike year-round. During the winter, just wait for the sun to be up awhile and the hiking will be wonderful.

“The nice thing about winter recreation out there is you can have a relatively warm sunny day, and then the next day or week it could be snow-covered and you’re wearing snowshoes,” said Joe Neuhof, director of Colorado Canyons Association, a nonprofit organization that fosters community stewardship of Colorado’s National Conservation Areas.

The Bureau of Land Management manages the NCA as part of the National Landscape Conservation System — where, unlike national parks, hikers are allowed to bring their dogs. It’s not unusual to see horseback riders on the trails as well.

One fun place to try is McInnis Canyons National Conservation Area — a 123.43-acre area of sandstone canyons, natural arches and spires on the Colorado Plateau, located west of Grand Junction.

To reach the Devils Canyon trailhead, drive west from Grand Junction about 10 miles on Interstate 70, then take Fruita’s exit 19. Turn south (left) and travel 1.5 miles on Colorado Hwy. 340 to the Kings View Estates subdivision. Turn right into the subdivision (Kings View Road) and follow the signs to McInnis Canyons NCA. Continue driving after the pavement ends for about another half-mile until you see the sign and Devils Canyon trailhead parking area on the left. At the trailhead, check out the interpretive sign showing a map of the trails. You might want to also pick up a map at the Bureau of Land Management office, 2815 H Road. Or visit the BLM online for a brochure.

There are numerous trails in and around Kodels and Devils Canyons, and the trails are clearly marked.

The trailhead to Flume Canyon (gorgeous in the fall!) and the Pollock Bench trail system is just a little further down the road, or for a long hike you can walk there from Devils Canyon trailhead.

If you get off the trail, avoid stepping on the black, crusty cryptobiotic soil that is common throughout the area. This soil is alive with organisms such as algae, fungi and lichens, and crucial in supporting desert ecosystems. It stabilizes sand and dirt, allowing other plants to grow. Cryptobiotic soil is easily destroyed when stepped on and can take more than a century to come back.

Down in the canyons near streambeds, you’ll find cottonwood trees growing. Pinon pine and juniper trees, as well as cactus, rabbit brush and sagebrush also thrive throughout the area.

About three and a half miles from the trailhead within Devils Canyon, there’s an old cabin built by cowboys, who used to tend cattle in the area.

Also within McInnis Canyons NCA are Mary’s Loop and Rustlers Loop, located on the Kokopelli Trail that begins near Loma.

“These are beautiful rim hikes,” overlooking the Colorado River, Neuhof said.

For a quiet experience, avoid weekends. Kokopelli is a popular mountain biking and hiking trail.

The Kokopelli trailhead is located 15 miles west of Grand Junction. To get there take the Loma exit (15) off Interstate 70. Turn right, south of the overpass. Go west and just before the truck weigh station south of I-70, turn left on the frontage road, go over a cattle guard and go about three-quarters of a mile to the trailhead. Maps are at the trailhead.

More information can be found at the Bureau of Land Management website: http://www.co.blm.gov/mcnca/devils.htm.

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