Main Canyon Date: 2/14/2011 Difficulty: Moderate Miles: Approx. 7 miles round trip Rating: Type: In-out Time: 2.5 hours Trailhead GPS Coordinates: 39° 9’48.90″N, 108°20’30.05″W
View Main Canyon in a larger map
Main Canyon is one of about four larger canyons located in the Little Bookcliff Wild Horse area and is nestled behind Mt. Garfield just north of Grand Junction.
To access the trail head from exit 37 in Grand Junction Colorado, merge onto I-70 and travel east for about 8.3 miles until you come to the Cameo exit. From here the road passes under the highway and heads towards the Excel Energy Cameo Power Plant. As you cross over the river the road leads you right next to the large power plant. This portion of the road always makes me feel like I’m travelling right through the middle of the plants’ operations. Continue on the main road as it bears to the right. The road is graveled and is suited for most any vehicle, although I would be a bit cautious bringing a low car on it as there are a couple small washes you have to pass through. I think during the summer when there is a lot of traffic the road is worn down a lot more. It looked like there has been quite a bit of traffic on it when we went but given the time of year it was pretty muddy and had a few ruts. After about two miles you will come to a large parking area and the trailhead.
The Main Canyon trail is about a 10 mile round trip hike. The trail follows the canyon in a westerly fashion as it passes Spring Creek Canyon and junctions at Cottonwood Canyon. Due to time restraints we didn’t quite make it to Cottonwood canyon.
This was the first time that I have hiked Main Canyon and I found out that there are a couple ways to access it. Immediately in front of the parking area there are two gates. The one on the left leads you into Coal Canyon and the one on the right will lead to you to Main Canyon. Straight north of the parking area you will see a road that leads up and over the ridge. At the top of the ridge is another gate which has a pedestrian gate on it as well. Hiking into the canyon we took the road up and over because I didn’t see the other trail in front of the parking area until we returned. Hiking up the road and into the canyon was a little easier going but it did add an extra half mile or so to the trip.
As you drop down the other side of the ridge the trail meanders along among sagebrush and sparsely located juniper trees. The main trail follows along a creek bed which I could hear running water under the ice. The trail crosses the creek many times throughout the canyon so springtime would probably not be the best time to hike this trail. I have heard that Main Canyon is also prone to flash flooding, so you might keep that in mind as well.
One of the main attractions of the canyon are the wild horses. There are a fair number of them that share the canyons and mesas on this end of the wild horse area. Unfortunately we didn’t see any on this day. There are other opportunities for wildlife viewing also, such as bighorn sheep, bald eagles, mountain lions and I’ve heard there are bears farther up.
Late spring or early fall would be my guess to be the best times to hike this trail. During the summer months temperatures can get quite hot. When we started out the temperature was in the low 30’s and the ground was fairly frozen still, by afternoon on the way back the temperature had climbed to the upper forties and the ground was thawed and had become quite muddy in most places which made going a little rougher. All in all this is a nice hike, I hope to be able to do it again later in the year and go farther.