Difficulty: Moderate – Strenuous
Miles: Approx. 4.5 Round Trip
Time: 3hrs 15min
Trail Head GPS Coordinates: 38°59’19.32″N,108°37’3.03″W
I’ve wanted to do Rough Canyon for a few years now and finally got the chance. It was well worth the wait. It was a very nice hike that offered a slight challenge in places but wasn’t hard enough to make me nervous.
Rough Canyon shares the same trail head as the Mica Mine trail and the Clarks Bench trail. To access the trailhead from Grand Junction, travel west on Grand Ave from 1st street and turn left onto Monument Road. Travel about 1/4 mile and take another left onto D road which turns into Rosevale Road. About a mile take a right onto Little Park Road and continue travelling for another 5 miles or so. Shortly after a fairly tight turn to the right there is a road to the left with a sign indicating “Bangs Canyon Staging Area”. Follow this road the short distance to the parking area. The trailhead is straight to the west of the parking area.
The trail begins with a slight decent into the bottom of a small canyon. There is an area at the beginning that has some fairly large ledges that you must step down but are generally very manageable. Once at the bottom of the canyon there is a sign indicating the Mica Mine to the right and Rough Canyon to left. I of course took the left route.
The trail follows the generally dry creek bed the entire distance of the hike. If you hike this trail in the spring, be prepared for some fairly serious hiking. During the spring run off, you are not able to walk down the creek bed and must navigate your way over and around large boulders, rockfalls and trees and bushes which makes the hike quite strenuous. The area tends to get quite a bit of use, some people follow the actual trail and others appear to just walk down the creek bed. The trail begins by dropping down lower and crisscrosses the creek bed numerous times. Towards the beginning where the canyon turns west there is a small panel of very old petroglyphs carved on the north wall of the canyon. Unfortunately some disrespectful miscreant sprayed something all over the rock wall recently. Please respect these types of historical items and don’t vandalize them.
Once past the petroglyphs the trail continues in a southerly fashion as it follows between the creek and the cliff wall. After just over a half mile you will come to a rather large water fall and the canyon opens wide. The trail crosses the creek just above the water fall and continues along the west cliff edge. This is the point where I think most people turn around. If you have small children or don’t feel up to a little more adventure I would recommend turning back here.
The trail climbs up the side of the cliff slightly then follows a narrow ledge a short distance before it begins to drop to the bottom of the canyon. This area could cause some considerable pain if a person was to slip and fall over the edge, so be very careful through here. Once past the ledge and at the bottom of the canyon the trail becomes mostly level. From this point the trail becomes hard to follow consistently. As long as you pick your way through, around and over the boulders and continue to work your way downstream you should be alright. There were a few places that required some very careful foot placement and some jumping off of small waterfall type places. There are a lot of loose boulders that could cause you to slip and get injured so be careful.
The trail eventually comes out at the “Lower Rough Canyon Falls”. There is a jeep road that passes the falls at this point. You can either turn around and head back up the canyon, which I think would be quite challenging or follow the jeep road back to the parking area. I just followed the road back most of the way and then towards the top is an old trail that follows the rim of the canyon that I followed the rest of the way.
The walk back up the road was pretty strenuous. It is uphill the whole way. The road basically follows slick rock the whole way so it was similar to walking up a paved road uphill. The jeep road is actually a quite fun road to drive. I have driven it in our jeep years ago and portions of it can be quite challenging. One reason I walked back on the road was to inspect it and see if it has gotten worse.
Overall this was one of the more fun and interesting hikes I have done lately. I was a little disappointed I didn’t see any wildlife but kind of expected it in this area. If you want a shorter hike with a little more challenge this would be a great trail