Black Ridge Canyons Wilderness on the northwest flank of the Uncompahgre Plateau is characterized by the high, east-west trending Black Ridge dissected by seven major red rock canyon systems, draining into the Colorado River. Canyons vary in length from several miles to twelve miles in length and may contain interesting side canyons. Geological features in these canyons include spires, windows, giant alcoves and desert patina. Canyons may reach a depth of almost 1,000 feet, forming spectacular redrock cliffs. Spring runoff and summer thunderstorms create glistening waterfalls and plunge pools. The area contains the second largest concentration of natural arches in the world. Vegetation in the meandering canyon bottoms include pinyon-juniper, grasses, and cottonwoods, willow and box elder. The upland mesas contain a dense stands of pinyon-juniper with some sagebrush parks. Cryptobiotic soils are well developed in the upland area. Wildlife viewing may include deer, mountain lion, desert bighorn sheep, along with golden and bald eagles.

This is a poorly marked trail. If you start from the Pollock trail, the beginning is well marked, but about half a mile after splitting off toward Rattlesnake Arches you start hitting exposed rock areas. Other reviews mentioned cairns...they are great where they haven't been knocked over, and a knocked-over cairn is just a pile of rocks that is indistinguishable from the surrounding scree. I was clearly not the only person to have difficulty following this trail because those rock areas have several well-worn, false trails leading away in different directions and all you can do is pick one, follow it until ends, then backtrack and pick a new one. This wastes a huge amount of time...in the desert sun.

This trail (as I hiked it today) was potentially dangerous. If you bring enough water for a 14 mile hike and spend several hours (cumulative) searching for the right path, you could be in serious trouble.

I made it half way through this trail, and had to turn back because I was running low on water. Maybe next time I will drive in the back way.

mountain biking
3 months ago

THIS DOES NOT HAVE TO BE MORE THAN A 5M HIKE!!!! While you will probably have trouble getting to the trailhead (definitely need a 4WD..we drove an Xterra and still had to park .4m from the trailhead and walk because it got so bad. Also, the spiderwebbed roads are not well marked until you get past the confusion) it is very much worth it! We hiked to the first arch or arch overlook (.5m). Climbed down, and then through the arch...hit all of the other arches and then turned around and backtracked (back through arch). Climbing down/up the arch is very doable however, I would not recommend doing so without another person with you. There are spots where we had to boost one another but there is also plenty of places to get your footing. If we had not parked the car where we did, we only would have hiked 3.5-4 miles. Once you past the last arch...you are just hiking around and up the canyon so we just turned around. Trail got hard to follow once or twice, just hug the canyon and pay close attention! We almost missed one!! So much better than Arches National Park if you ask me, totally secluded but just as breathtaking. Plus, if you tell them where you are headed they will not charge you a fee. Do your research before going (always)!

backpacking
4 months ago

Splendid hike! Camping was simple and peaceful. Make sure to bring plenty of water!

We did the hike from the Rattlesnake Arches Trailhead... get there by driving into Colorado National Monument and turning onto Black Ridge Road taking you out of the NPS park and into the Black Ridge Canyons Wilderness area. The dirt road you take to get there is pretty rough at certain points definitely requiring 4x4 to get past some of the obstacles in the road. We actually parked about a quarter mile from the trailhead because there was a huge rocky obstacle we didn't want to go over in our SUV. Nevertheless we made it to the trailhead and it's 5 miles total out and back from the trailhead instead of doing the whole 14 miler from Fruita. The hike was on flat ground most of the way right to the big eye candy arches and formations that are truly amazing to walk alongside with just as cool formations in the canyon behind you. Bring water and sunscreen!!

backpacking
4 months ago

My Wife, dog, and I made this trip an overnight backpacking trip. Solid info was a bit hard to find and a little ambiguous. From Fruita, you can access the Pollock bench trailhead by following 340 until you get to Kings View rd, turn right and follow this road until you get to the Pollock Bench trailhead. Entering at this trailhead is the 15.5 mile out and back version of this trail. From the start, follow P1 (Pollock) until you see R1 (Rattlesnake), this is the split towards Rattlesnake Canyon/Arches. The trail is not that hard to follow as long you know how to look for cairns and to realize when a false trail is blocked off by rocks or logs placed over them. This version of the trial is 5 miles until you reach the 'loop' for the arches. We set up camp 5 miles in and then hiked the 2.2 miles (one way) to the arches. There are some class 2/3 scrambles to navigate, but nothing too intense. The last mile to mile and a half (before the arches loop) is steep UP and where the majority of your elevation gain comes from. The arches loop is fairly flat and easy. We started at 8am on Saturday and finished around 10am on Sunday. As other have said, there is no water, so bring it all with you. We each carried 5.5 liters and the dog carried 2. This was enough, but would not have wanted any less.

There is also the 5 mile round trip version of the trail to see the arches, this is accessed by Rimrock dr (via the National Park) and then following Blackridge road to the rattlesnake arches trailhead.

hiking
5 months ago

Lovely Sunday morning hike! Pretty easy hike and pretty views!

backpacking
5 months ago

Did this as an overnight backpack trip with 7 women. Requires removing packs and handing them down at the final drop down into the bottom of Pollack, and then some removing and handing up on the ascent a half mile later. Great camp spot opportunities at about mile marker 4, between some large rock formations. Dropped heavy packs there and continued on to the arches.
The "short cut" through the last arch "Rainbow" is rather challenging and not for the feint of heart. It requires steep rock climbing. The only saving grace is the grippy sandstone. With 7 women of varying heights, it took lots of shoving, pushing, and pulling each other up to make it to the top. That being said, it felt amazing once we did, and the ability to cut off a mile from the return trip was great. Warning: if you take the short cut, at the top TURN RIGHT for the short cut. If you turn left you will follow the ridge and add back on the mileage. Happy trekking.

I wasn't in love with this trail the trail was clear not many signs got lost 3 times I never did see the aches maybe I'll fly in so I can. Most definitely do not take a baby on your back

This was a wonderful hike with many beautiful views.

Amazing. Definitely recommend camping out there. BLM asks you camp about 200 paces from the trail. It is about 7mi from pollock bench TH to the arches. The trail is flat for the first mile or 2, then begins to descend and then is flat again until you reach Pollock Canyon which is a steep in and out and back up on flat for a bit until more intense incline up to the last part which is all flat. This is about 5 mi in where the trail stops inclining and it's a 2mi walk to the arches. I camped in this area... A few points of consideration:
1. Study the map before going as the trail is hard to follow and there are many "false trails" created by people who have gone astray
2. Don't forget this app will show your location on the map-even in airplane mode. This will help you check and even find your way back to trail.
3. Bring enough water- obviously
4. Once you get into Pollock Canyon, and are trying to find your way out, there are 2 brown tall and skinny signs showing you where to go to take the trail out and continue towards the arches. Note, if you find yourself heading down the canyon looking for the signs you've gone too far.
5. Just pay attention to the trail ahead and any trail markers (signs, stacked rocks, juniper logs blocking a false trail, etc.) and you'll be good. Don't just stare down at your feet or you will easily follow "false trails"

This is well worth the effort and is an amazingly scenic and diverse adventure.