Canyon PintadoType: Scenic/Picnic/Historic
Miles From Grand Junction: 90 miles One way (To Rangely, CO.)
Access: Passenger Car Friendly
GPS Coordinates: 1st site (Waving Hands): 39° 50.418’N , 108° 44.335’W
Canyon Pintado is located approximately 10 miles south of Rangely Colorado along Hwy 139. There are hundreds of archeological sites located within a 17 mile stretch of highway currently named the Canyon Pintado National Historic District. The BLM has done a great job constructing trails and signage on 8 different sites along the way.
To access the area from Grand Junction Colorado travel west on I-70 for approximately 10 miles until you come to Loma Colorado. Turn right at exit 15 and continue to follow CO-139 which is also called 13 road as it passes through the little town of Loma. Once through Loma remain on CO-139 for another 51 miles or so until you come to the first site called Waving Hands Recreation site. From this point on the remaining sites are dispersed at various intervals along the way. Each official BLM site has a sign indicating which area you’re at. You can also print out a nice map with descriptions I got from the Rangely Chamber of Commerce by clicking the following link. Canyon Pintado Rock Art Map. This map was invaluable. There are numerous sites along the way that aren’t marked as well so keep an eye out as you go along. This post describes the route traveling north coming from Loma Colorado.
The first site you come to is “Waving Hands” at mile post 53.5. Upon pulling into the parking area you will see why the name is appropriate. Straight ahead is a small panel of pictographs and if you take the right hand fork of the trail you will see a figure high on the rock face. I noticed what looked like more rock art under an overhang to the south west of the main ones. I didn’t see any trail to them and I didn’t feel like trudging through all the cheat grass to get a closer look.
The next site just up the road and on the left is “Canyon Pintado Site” at mile marker 56. There is a pull off on the right hand side of the road and some information signs. This site has a cool pictograph of Kokopelli and a few other neat pictures.
Moving along you will come to “White Birds Site” mile marker 56.5. This site has a small pull off on the left and a somewhat steep trail that climbs to the cliff face higher up. It is well worth the slight climb to get to the cliff face as you will be surprised at what you find.
After “White Birds Site” the next stop is “Cow Canyon Site” mile marker 57.8. This site is the farthest one from the highway but is worth the little side trip. Turn right onto the gravel road then take your 1st right and follow the road along the base of the hill for a little less than a mile. You will see the information sign and fence along the south facing cliff.
Next stop is the “State Bridge Site” mile marker 59.7. Pull off the highway into the little parking area and follow the short trail to the cliffs. This site has some Fremont looking petroglyphs.
“East Four Mile Site” is the next stop at mile marker 61.3. This is probably the biggest and best area in the district. There is a covered picnic table and restrooms at the trailhead. This area has a mild 1 mile or so trail that goes around the small canyon. At this site is the popular “Sun Dagger” Pictograph along with an old pioneer line shack, an excavated site called “Hanging Hearth” and various other archaic phenomena including somewhere a little south of the parking area is what some believe in an astronomical calendar with holes drilled into the rock similar to the one at “Lookout Point”
“Lookout Point Site” is located near mile marker 67.6. This one is kind of easy to miss. There is a small entrance on the left hand side of the road but it has a wire gate strung across the entrance. The gate is easy to open and close so don’t hesitate. The easiest way to spot this location is to watch for the very steep but short trail that goes straight up the middle of the buried pipeline. This site is well worth the short climb to the top due to what some believe is a calendar that is drilled into the rocks and the great views. The BLM suggests that the holes are pole supports. What do you think? This was one of my favorite stops.
The last stop is the “Camel Ridge Site” at mile marker 70.5. This site is actually just outside of the Canyon Pintado Historic District and it is really easy to miss. There is a small road and a small sign placed back off the road and kind of behind the bushes. I didn’t make it to this site but it supposedly has camel shaped figures along with some sort of carved tracks along the north facing cliffs.
After the last stop you can go the couple miles into Rangely and get yourself a cold drink or something to eat then turn around and either head back the way you came or explore more features in the area.
This was a really fun trip and great for kids and adults of all ages. I would recommend doing it either in the spring or fall because the temperatures and gnats can get pretty bad during the summer months.