Discover Hidden Gems of Colorado: Hike Rattlesnake Arches, Witness 8 Natural Wonders

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Located within the McInnis Canyons National Conservation Area near Grand Junction, Colorado, Rattlesnake Arches boasts some of the best canyon country to explore in the U.S.

Outside of Utah, this area has one of the largest concentrations of natural sandstone arches. Since hiking to Rattlesnake Arches is quite the trek, you will likely encounter fewer crowds, which offers an incredibly remote backcountry experience in the Black Ridge Canyons Wilderness.

The Rattlesnake Arches hike via Pollock Bench trail can be done in one day or as a backpacking trip. We’ll share how to experience eight arches along the sandstone cliffs in Western Colorado!

Hiking to Rattlesnake Arches in McInnis Canyons National Conservation Area

Hiking to see the sandstone arches along the Rattlesnake Arches trail makes for an awesome Colorado backcountry adventure.

A few years ago, Pablo, my husband, and I hiked here on Valentine’s Day. The area had not had much snow all winter, and we could see from afar that the plateaus and mesas in the area didn’t have snow either. So, we decided to go!

We are happy we did. This is one of the best hikes near Grand Junction we have ever done. After reading this article, we hope it inspires you to add Rattlesnake Arches to your Colorado adventure list.

In mid-February, when we hiked, the weather was perfect. The morning started off cool, but it was long-sleeve weather by the middle of the day.

We hiked the route that begins at the Pollock Bench Trailhead on the south side of the Colorado River between Grand Junction and Fruita.

We were the only ones on the trail for most of the day. It was so awesome!

The trail was well-maintained and well-marked for the most part, with signs pointing to Rattlesnake Arches.

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View along Rattlesnake Arches Trail

Rattlesnake Arches in Colorado: Trail Rating

We rated this trail as difficult and hard for a few reasons:

  • First, the route is over 15 miles (total there and back), which is a nice long trek to complete in one day. You definitely want to be in good shape.
  • Second, there was some significant rock scrambling down and up a large canyon. There are some steep sections along the trail.
  • Third, it is a good climb in elevation from the river bottom to the top of the mesa where the arches are located.
  • There is no water and limited shade – bring all of your water.

You’ll hike through the Pinon-Juniper woodlands and sagebrush and be surrounded by incredible arid west sandstone geology along the route.

The Black Ridge Canyons Wilderness Area and McInnis Canyons National Conservation Area are breathtaking. In our opinion, it is backcountry hiking at its finest. All along the trail, there are panoramic views of the Grand Valley.

This is one of our favorite places to explore.

“If everyone in the world took care of each other the way folks do out on the trail, and if everyone approached each day with as much hope and optimism as hikers do, the world would be a better place.”

– Jon Tullis

McInnis Canyons National Conservation Area Map

To be on the safe side, we recommend bringing or studying a map so you know your hiking route and the surrounding area.

We have National Geographic map #208.

You might also want to download the route on a cell phone or GPS from AllTrails that zooms in closer.

Rattlesnake Arches Trailhead Details from Pollock Bench

  • Trail Name: Rattlesnake Arches (R1) via Pollock Bench (P1) Trail
  • Difficulty: Difficult + hard
  • Distance: roughly 15 miles per BLM
  • Time: About 6-8 hours
  • Parking: Plenty of parking at the Pollock Bench Trailhead
  • Water: None. Bring your own and plan at least one gallon per day per person.
  • Restrooms: Yes, at the Pollock Bench Trailhead
  • Dogs allowed: Yes, leashed
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One of the arches along the trail

How to Get to Rattlesnake Arches Hike via Pollock Bench Trailhead

From the Pollock Bench trail (marked as P1), follow the P1 trail until you see signs to fork and follow the Rattlesnake Arches trail (marked at R1). You’ll follow the Rattlesnake Arches trail until you get to the top of the mesa – the trail leads right past the arches. You cannot miss them!

Backpacking Rattlesnake Canyon

It is totally doable to hike from Pollock Bench to Rattlesnake Arches in one day, but it is a long day.

If you’d like to take your time, enjoy canyon country, and backpack the area, you can do that as well. Please keep in mind that camping within .025 miles of Rattlesnake Arches is not allowed.

Be sure to do some research to plan your trip.

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Natural sandstone arch

Best Time of Day to Hike to Rattlesnake Arches

Since the hike is roughly 15 miles, we recommend starting at sunrise. You’ll want to plan to hike for a full day which is likely to take six to eight hours.

This time estimate includes stopping for breaks, snacks, photos, and enjoying the arches! We enjoyed a picnic near the large arches.

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Magnificent sandstone arch

Best Time of Year to Explore Rattlesnake Arches

There is not much shade along this trail, so hiking in the late winter, spring, and fall will be really enjoyable since the Grand Junction area can be pretty hot in the summer.

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Enjoying the views along the trail

Is There Cell Phone Reception?

We did this hike in 2015, and the cell phone reception was hit-and-miss. I probably wouldn’t count on having cell phone reception (the entire time).

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Cave along the trail

Read more about what to wear hiking here!

Backcountry Hiking Safety Tips

Check out our page for more information and resources on practicing environmental stewardship in the desert backcountry.

Please practice Leave No Trace and help teach others new to the outdoors, too!

Final Thoughts on Hiking to Rattlesnake Arches

Rattlesnake Arches is a great hike for outdoor adventurers looking for something new and exciting to explore in Colorado. This canyon offers beautiful scenery and a chance to see some amazing geological formations, including eight natural arches.

Make sure you bring plenty of water, snacks, and sunscreen; the hike can be pretty strenuous.

We hope you have an epic hike to Rattlesnake Arches from Pollock Bench near Grand Junction, Colorado.

Be safe and happy hiking!

Ashlee & Pablo


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Ashlee Fechino

Ashlee Fechino is an outdoor recreation and travel writer sharing the best-kept secrets that aren’t in your typical guidebook. Her goal is to inspire people to travel with a sense of adventure by sharing hidden gems across the U.S. and beyond. She is married to an expat Argentine, Pablo. They camp in their Aliner often and love wandering the world. Follow their latest adventures on Instagram @thehappinessfxn.

4 Comments

  1. William B Randall on May 1, 2021 at 11:09 pm

    Someday I would like to hike this, as I used to live in Colorado !!

    HAVE FUN, guys !!

  2. Cristina Sala on April 27, 2021 at 3:36 pm

    Hola Ashlee, Estuve mirando LOS ARCOS DE SERPIENTE DE CASCABEL, en Pollock Bench quede maravillada
    Me encanto lo que expresa Jon Tullis, sobre los excursionistas.
    Son realmente admirables esos arcos de arenisca natural
    Claro, ustedes han vivido en Grand Junction, que tuve la suerte de conocer.
    Las Fotos son espectaculares.

    • Ashlee Fechino on April 28, 2021 at 8:00 am

      ¡Hola Cristina! Gracias por leer y comentar 🙂

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