McDonald Creek | Grand Junction

Hiking McDonald Creek - Grand Junction Hiking McDonald Creek

Grand Junction

Overview

RATING: Easy / Moderate Hike

Sat

Mostly sunny, with a high near 99. East northeast wind 5 to 10 mph.

99 | 67

Sun

A slight chance of showers and thunderstorms after noon. Sunny, with a high near 96. North northeast wind 5 to 10 mph. Chance of precipitation is 20%.

96 | 66

Mon

A slight chance of rain showers after noon. Sunny, with a high near 96.

96 | 65

Tue

A slight chance of showers and thunderstorms after noon. Sunny, with a high near 98.

98 | 66

Wed

A slight chance of showers and thunderstorms after noon. Sunny, with a high near 100.

100 | 67

View Full Weather Details
SEASON: Any, hot in the summer. If hiking in the summer, start early and bring plenty of water.
GEAR: Standard Hiking Gear
WATER: Filterable at the Colorado River, but bring all you need.

Sat

Mostly sunny, with a high near 99. East northeast wind 5 to 10 mph.

99 | 67

Sun

A slight chance of showers and thunderstorms after noon. Sunny, with a high near 96. North northeast wind 5 to 10 mph. Chance of precipitation is 20%.

96 | 66

Mon

A slight chance of rain showers after noon. Sunny, with a high near 96.

96 | 65

Tue

A slight chance of showers and thunderstorms after noon. Sunny, with a high near 98.

98 | 66

Wed

A slight chance of showers and thunderstorms after noon. Sunny, with a high near 100.

100 | 67

View Full Weather Details
The Colorado River and railroad tracks at the bottom of McDonald Creek.

The Colorado River and railroad tracks at the bottom of McDonald Creek.

McDonald Creek, part of the McInnis Canyon National Conservation Area, is a lovely hike that meanders down to the Colorado River. This is a fairly diverse hike, starting up in the open flats and slowly working down through sandstone layers before reaching the Colorado River in the picturesque Ruby Canyon. En route, a very short slot and a couple of rock art sites, adding cherries to the top of an already great hike.

Note: The area around McDonald Creek has grown immensely in popularity in the last few years, leading the BLM to limit camping to designed sites in the Rabbit Valley that is near the trailhead. Sites can be reserved on via the recreation.gov website at https://www.recreation.gov/camping/campgrounds/10227416. No camping or fires allowed in the canyon.
The short slot section not far below the trailhead.

The short slot section not far below the trailhead.

Getting There

The trailhead is reached by taking exit 2 (Rabbit Valley) off I-70 just inside the Colorado boarder. This is about 25 miles west of Grand Junction.

Once off the highway, head south. Stay on the main dirt road heading south. It has a few side roads branching off to camping areas, but is generally easy to follow the main road. It turns a bit southwest, and dips down to the McDonald Creek trailhead at 3 miles from the highway. The trailhead has a pit toilet and parking area.

Rock art in McDonald Creek.

Rock art in McDonald Creek.

Route

Rock Art and Historic Site Etiquette
Rock art and historic sites are fragile, non-renewable cultural resources that, once damaged, can never be replaced. To ensure they are protected, please:
  • Avoid Touching the Petroglyphs: Look and observe, BUT DO NOT TOUCH!
  • Stay on the Trails: Stay on the most used trails when visiting sites, and don't create new trails or trample vegetation.
  • Photography and Sketching is Allowed: Do not introduce any foreign substance to enhance the carved and pecked images for photographic or drawing purposes. Altering, defacing, or damaging the petroglyphs is against the law -- even if the damage is unintentional.
  • Pets: Keep pets on a leash and clean up after them.
  • Artifacts: If you happen to come across sherds (broken pottery) or lithics (flakes of stone tools), leave them where you see them. Once they are moved or removed, a piece of the past is forever lost.

From the trailhead, head down canyon on the well-worn social trail. It is easy to find and follow. It cuts corners where shorter. About 0.35 miles from the trailhead (less than 10 minutes), look for a pictograph on the left (looking down canyon) side of the canyon. Part of this pictograph looks like a sun. The panel is where the canyon curves right and begins to deepen, easy to spot from the trail.

Continuing down from the panel just a few minutes, the floor of the canyon cuts into the sandstone and a dry fall and short slot section. The very short slot is easily bypassed on the left, and fun to hike back up from the bottom.

Below the slot, the canyon is wide and continues to deepen with great scenery. It is about 2 miles to where McDonald Creek reaches the Colorado River in Ruby Canyon. Easily spotted by both the river and the railroad tracks that cross the bottom of McDonald Creek and continue along the Colorado River.

From the bottom of McDonald Creek, as you head back up the canyon, keep an eye out on the right side of the canyon (lookup up canyon). Less than 10 minutes up from the river is a short side canyon with a large dry fall at the top. Just up this on the left (looking up canyon) is a small pictograph panel.

Return the way you came.


Maps

Route / 3.89 miles / Elevation Range 3,873 - 4,478 ft.
Printable Maps:
Trailhead

12S 669857mE 4336207mN

N39° 09' 31" W109° 02' 03"

Sun Petroglyphs

12S 670359mE 4335972mN

N39° 09' 23" W109° 01' 42"

Dryfall

12S 670395mE 4335719mN

N39° 09' 14" W109° 01' 41"

Pictograph

12S 670787mE 4334295mN

N39° 08' 28" W109° 01' 26"

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