General Trip Planning Information
Access into the BRCW generally begins from Grand Junction, CO. Visitors can drive to the upper elevations or float along the Colorado River to begin a trip.
The Black Ridge Canyons Wilderness offers outstanding opportunities for solitude or primative and unconfined recreation.
The Rattlesnake Arches area is home to the second largest concentration of natural arches in the world. Spring and Fall weekends can be somewhat crowded at this destination, and visitors seeking solitude are encouraged to visit during the week to avoid crowds.
The Colorado River, which serves as the north boundary of the wilderness, offers rafting, canoeing and kayaking opportunities. Visitors floating the river have access to Rattlesnake, Mee, and Knowles Canyons. Permits for day and overnight use of the Ruby-Horsethief river corridor will be required in 2012.
Located only a few minutes from the Town of Fruita, the Urban-Wilderness interface offers a chance for people to "get away from it all" without having to travel more than a few minutes. Devils Canyon is a popular destination and visitors looking for a wilderness experience are encourage to start their hike at the Pollock Bench Trailhead to avoid the crowds. Both trailheads offer easy access for equestrian users with large areas of trailer parking available. Both of these areas receive heavy use during spring and fall weekends and the opportunity for solitude is somewhat reduced.
The Western portion of the Wilderness, accessible from the community of Glade Park, offers outstanding opportunities for solitude and a primitive or unconfined type of recreation. Visitors to the upper reaches of Knowles Canyon are treated to great views and access to the rolling uplands of the Black Ridge Canyons Wilderness, while the Jones Canyon trailhead offers access to rims of Jones Canyon and open expanses of the mesa tops with beautiful views of the canyons below.
Climate and Special Equipment Needs
The elevation ranges from 4,300 feet at the river to a high point of 7,130 feet. Summers are hot and there are very few sources of potable water in the Wilderness. Due to the heat and lack of shade on most BRCW trails, visitors should be sure to carry plenty of water as well as a wide brimmed hat and sunscreen. Summer thunderstorms can make the dirt roads that access the Wilderness impassible - several vehicles were stranded by sudden storms in 2008. Be prepared for rapidly changing conditions!
Winters are cold, with temperatures are usually below freezing. Warm clothing is important. In general, the area does not get into extreme temperatures in either direction. The higher elevation access points are not usually accessible during wet weather, as the roads become muddy and slick and include several steep sections. A visitor must plan ahead because a sudden storm can strand them for days.
Fire pans (or the equivalent) and portable toilets are required for the river corridor. These items are available for rental from many permittees in the Fruita and Grand Junction area.
Safety and Current Conditions
*** FOR CURRENT CONDITIONS CALL THE GRAND JUNCTION FIELD OFFICE AT (970) 244-3000 ***
Conditions as of January 10, 2013:
Winter has arrived. Most of the wilderness is covered with snow, and temperatures are cold. Access to the lower portions of the Black Ridge Canyons Wilderness is available via the Devils Canyon and Pollock Canyon Trailheads. The upper portions of the wilderness are not typically accessible during the winter. The roads to Rattlesnake Arches open on April 15th (weather permitting).
During the summer, the B.S. Road usually offers 2WD access to Knowles Canyon Trailhead. The next four miles to Jones Canyon Trailhead typically requires high clearance but may be passable by 2WD vehicle. The Rattlesnake Arches lower access road is open for the season and is suitable for high clearance vehicles. The last two miles of the road are rough and rocky and require high clearance 4WD vehicles. The Rattlesnake Arches road is impassible when wet. If the road is wet 4WD will not allow you to leave the area. Carry extra supplies (food, water, warm clothing) at all time. This road may be closed at any time depending on weather and road conditions. Contact the BLM office for current status.
* Be prepared for hunting season in Western Colorado - make yourself visible while hiking and be alert for hunters in the area.
* Cryptobiotic soils are common in the higher elevations. These delicate crusts are formed by living organisms and their by-products, creating a surface crust of soil particles bound together by organic materials. Soil crusts are important members of desert ecosystems and contribute to the well-being of other plants by stabilizing sand and dirt, promoting moisture retention, and fixing atmospheric nitrogen. Please avoid disturbing it by using existing trails when available.
* During wet weather, the dirt roads that access the higher elevation trails may not be driveable and may be gated. Use caution when traveling wet roads and be sure to carry extra food, water, and warm clothing in case you get stuck.
* Canyon country is not conducive to cell phone service and it is spotty in most portions of the Wilderness. Do not count on being able to use your cell phone to call for help - be prepared to help yourself!
* Summer temperatures may approach triple digits, so be sure to carry extra water. There are few natural water sources available in the higher elevations.
* For current conditions (i.e. extreme temperatures, fire danger and possible restrictions, road closures, etc.), call the Grand Junction Field Office at (970) 244-3000.