MESA COUNTY, Colo. - Western Colorado's scenic canyon country is exemplified in the McInnis Canyons National Conservation Area. I met up with Troy Schnurr, lead park ranger for the conservation area at the Devils Canyon Trailhead.
“A lot of people utilize this area as a gateway into these canyons,” Schnurr said, detailing paths to each of the major canyons in the conservation area: Kodells, Devils, Flume, Pollock, Rattlesnake, Mee, Knowles and Jones Canyons.
There are plenty of paths to take in and around Devils Canyon itself. Now public land, the area was private back in the 1980s, but the Bureau of Land Management slowly acquired larger parcels and opened it to the public.
“A lot of people come out to visit because it’s so close to town,” said Schnurr.
It's very popular with hikers and horseback riders.
“This year, alone, we’ve received over a hundred thousand visitors that have come out to just hike and walk their dogs. The other user group that we manage for out here are the horseback riders and we roughly this year received about ten thousand visitors.”
Historically, the areas was used primarily for ranching and that evidence still exists in the area today in the way of fence lines and an isolated shepherd's cabin.
“There’s an old family that had a lot of this country and they based their operation working with sheep. So, a lot of this was sheep country.”
You may even catch a glimpse of the area's original inhabitants. Schnurr showed me a petroglyph panel along the trail in the lower canyon.
“This is a panel that we have in the Devils Canyon area. They’re kind of far and few between, so they’re very unique. You can see that this piece here has been [vandalized] to the point where somebody was actually going to try to take that whole thing out of here.”
Luckily, the panel survives and with a sharp eye, you might be able to spot it. Just be sure to look and not touch!
“It’s such a tremendous treasure for them to be able to go right out their back door onto public lands and get away and explore what we have in our back yard,” Schurr said.
Those hiking in the area will find the lower canyon laid out like a rock garden. If you're feeling more adventurous, the upper canyon bears a striking resemblance to the nearby Colorado National Monument, with high sandstone cliffs and monoliths. There's a loop trail that takes you through the benches of the upper canyon and at the apex, you may come across a nice historical surprise!
“It’s a wonderful, wonderful way to get away from the hassles of work and come out for an evening or a morning run or walk and just enjoy your peace and quiet,” said Schnurr.
And finally, I leave you with one of my favorite things about Devils Canyon. In the upper canyon, there's a stone monolith that almost seems to watch you as you hike the trails on either side of the canyon. It’s easy to imagine it being one of the statues from Easter Island or even the Devil himself. But despite the hot and rugged nature of this canyon, a lot of people might consider it heaven and one of the Wonders of the Western Slope.
The Devils Canyon Trailhead is located off of Kingsview Road, about three miles south-southwest of Fruita.
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