Backpack in the Black Ridge Canyons Wilderness

Rate this Adventure Rattlesnake Arches Trailhead

Head out to the Black Ridge Canyon Wilderness and backpack under the stars of Western Colorado. Camp out looking over the natural cliffs and be in almost 100% seclusion as you relax and take in the incredible views.

If you're looking to backpack outside of the highly publicized areas of Colorado (aka the Rockies), head out to Western CO for some amazing experiences. Located 4 hours west of Denver along I-70 is the McInnis Canyon National Conservation Area (NCA). Overseen by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), McInnis Canyon is home to over 120,000 acres of natural wilderness. Within this sprawling land is Black Ridge Canyons Wilderness. One thing you must know going into this area though is that there is no access to water. There are no streams nearby nor are there any water stations. Be sure to pack enough water for the length of your stay!

To access these BLM lands, you first have to head through the Colorado National Monument which is operated by the National Park Service. Once you enter the park, you'll need to drive along Rimrock Dr. for about 20 minutes. CAUTION: drive slow along this winding road as it quite literally hugs the sides of the red rock cliffs. After about 11 miles, you'll take a right onto Black Ridge Rd.

From here, you'll head down dirt roads which are best handled by 4-wheel drive vehicles. Follow the signs and head to the Rattlesnake Arches Trailhead. You'll encounter some steep grades, gravel and sand roads, so make sure your vehicle has a high enough clearance and that you are also comfortable traversing this type of terrain.

Once you arrive at the trailhead, park your car, grab you pack and supplies, and head onto the trail. While on the trail, spot an area that you like and head about 100 yards from the trail (a requirement in certain "day use areas" only). From there, set-up your camp, get your dinner cooking, sit back, relax and enjoy the incredible views laid out in front of you.  

Pack List

  • 4-wheel drive vehicle
  • Capable hiking boots
  • Tent and stakes
  • Jetboil propane cooking system
  • Bowls, plates, cups, utensils
  • ~55L capacity backpack
  • Fire pan (or turkey pan) is a MUST if you are planning a fire
  • Grovel for digging a cathole
  • Garbage bag or gallon ziploc bag for garbage and waste
  • Flashlights or camp lanterns
  • Freeze dried food
  • Bug spray
  • Camera gear and tripod
  • 35-degree or higher-rated sleeping bag
  • Inflatable sleeping pad and pillow
  • Water, water, water and more water!
Show More
RT Distance 4.2 Miles
Elevation Gain 1000 Feet
Activities Chillin, Camping, Photography, Backpacking, Hiking
Skill Level Intermediate
Season Spring, Summer, Autumn
Trail Type Loop


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