Epic Hike Rattlesnake Arches via Pollock Bench Trail

Rattlesnake Arches, located within the McInnis Canyons National Conservation Area near Grand Junction, Colorado, boasts some of the best canyon country to explore in the USA. 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. Discover how to experience eight (8) magnificent arches along the sandstone cliffs in Western Colorado!

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One of the many arches along the trail

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Hiking to Rattlesnake Arches in McInnis Canyons National Conservation Area

Hiking to see the magnificent sandstone Rattlesnake Arches makes for a beautiful Colorado backcountry adventure!

A few years ago, Pablo and I hiked it 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 give the hike a try! 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 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.
  • 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; bring your own water.

You’ll hike through the Pinon-Juniper woodlands, 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 in the USA at its finest. 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 this one – #208! We love the National Geographic maps.

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 (1) 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.

If you’d like to take your time, enjoy canyon-country, and backpack the area, you can do that as well! However, camping within .025 mile 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 (6) to eight (8) 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 via Pollock Bench Trail

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

Check List Before You Go

This is a long trek! Below is what we pack in our day packs to help you plan your adventure.

Get Gear!

Women’s Hiking Boots

Men’s Hiking Boots

Backcountry Hiking

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

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

If you are road tripping or coming from out of town, don’t forget to protect your trip with travelers insurance!

Be safe and happy hiking!

Ashlee & Pablo


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Are you planning on hiking in the Grand Junction area? Are you road-tripping through Colorado and Utah?

You might also enjoy our other articles to plan your next trip:

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top left photo, bottom left photo, bottom right photo: natural sandstone arches along the rattlesnake arches trail, top right photo: man enjoying the views while hiking

We would love to hear from you!

Did you hike the Rattlesnake Arches Trail? What did you think?

About The Author

Ashlee Fechino

I’m a travel and outdoor recreation writer with dreams to inspire happiness through an outdoorsy lifestyle. I want to help people live their best life by sharing free adventure guides. The USA has been my backyard most of my life, and it’s the place where you’ll find most of our escapades! I’m married to an expat Argentine, chihuahua Mom, and am passionate about the environment. I hold a BS degree in Biology and MS in Environmental Policy & Sustainability. We camp in our Aliner often, love road trips, hiking, and SUP’ing!

4 COMMENTS

  1. Cristina Sala | 27th Apr 21

    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 | 28th Apr 21

      ¡Hola Cristina! Gracias por leer y comentar 🙂

  2. William B Randall | 1st May 21

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

    HAVE FUN, guys !!

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