Devil's Canyon D3 Trail

Rating: 
Round Trip Distance: 5.8 - 7 miles
Difficulty: Moderate +
Elevation: 4600 - 5245 feet
Cellphone: 3-5 bars
Time: 3 hrs.
Trailhead: Devil's Canyon
Fee: none
Attractions: Scenic canyon, cowboy line shack




The D3 trail is located in the Devil's Canyon Area of the McInnis Canyons National Conservation Area near Grand Junction and Fruita, Colorado. The trail begins off of the D2 trail where it enters the lower wash of the canyon which it follows upstream into the confines of the main Devil's Canyon. As the walls of the canyon rise higher and the trail reaches the black precambrian granite that forms its belly the trail splits and begins a loop. For this post we follow the loop in the counterclockwise direction, tackling the longer route on the west side of the canyon first, to an old line shack that sits at the apex of the loop, where we hike down the east side of the canyon and back out to the trailhead. The D3 trail by itself is about 5.8 miles while getting to and from the trailhead brings the total round trip distance up to 7 miles.


The hike begins by passing through the gate west of the parking area and following the D1 trail. If you are new to the area you can use the Google Map to find your way to the trailhead.


Follow the D1 trail over a small hill and as you come around the corner Devil's Canyon can be seen in the distance. Stay left at the D1/D5 fork, straight at the D1/K8 fork and at the D1/D2,D3,K1 fork leave the D1 trail by taking the left fork. From there stay on the D2 trail until it crosses the bridge and then take the right fork that leads into the lower end of Devil's Canyon. This is the beginning of the D3 trail and it is about 6 tenths of a mile from the trailhead.


The lower end of Devil's Canyon is a fun hike all by itself. A poplar short family hike is to follow this route to the D4 trail at the mouth of the main canyon and take D4 back around to the D1. The D4 trail junction is about 1.2 miles from the trailhead by this route.


There are a couple of places in the lower canyon where it becomes narrower and a little scrambling over the rocks is required. There is usually water running in the canyon during the spring months and after a heavy rain. If you bring your dog be sure to pack plenty of extra water during the normally dry times.


As the trail enters the mouth of the main canyon it crosses into the Black Ridge Canyons Wilderness Area.


Just before the 1.5 mile point from the trailhead the trail splits and the loop begins. The shorter but steeper route is to the left. Our personal preference is to hike the longer leg of the loop first by taking the right fork.


The climb out of the base of the canyon is steep at first but lessens somewhat as the trail progresses.


The sheer beauty of the canyon and its desert ecosystem works its magic to draw your attention away from the physical effort being exerted and onto the wonderment of the canyon itself. The points of each towering wall that juts into the canyon are wrapped with tall finger like pinnacles of sandstone that envelop them like the pipes of an organ. Each point projects itself consecutively along the length of the canyon as a sentinel of stone guarding the passage of all that pass below. The only sounds that are heard are those coming from the birds flying above on the drafts of air the canyon creates and an occasional lizard rustling through the dry grass.


The Division of Reclamation, Mining and Safety of the State of Colorado has bricked up an old mine entrance off to the side of the trail. Coming out of the Wingate Formation we can only speculate that they would have been digging for uranium but without looking up the claim that is only a guess.


The trail on the west side of the canyon doesn't take a very direct route. As it approaches each side canyon the trail travels around the drainage until it comes to a shallow enough place to cross. The frequent descending and ascending in and out of the washes increases the amount of effort you can expect to expend.


An old cowboy line shack presents itself at the point the trail reaches the southern end of the loop and crosses over to the east side of the canyon. The door is always open but treat it with care so we can always have it as a reminder of times past when cowboys pushed their herds from winter pasture in the lowlands around Fruita, to the canyons in the springtime, and then on up to the aspen and pine forests above Glade Park in the summer months. Stories of the time tell us that grass once grew as tall as your stirrups back then.


The trail along the east side of the canyon is much more direct but every bit as scenic.


The sentinel of the east side of the canyon is a large boulder perched on an outcrop of rock. The captivating boulder looks a bit like one of the rock moai statues on Easter Island.


Portions of the trail along the eastern portion of the loop are covered with scree that can interrupt your footing if care isn't taken. The descent back into the base of the canyon where the loop began is a bit steep in places and the difficulty is compounded by loose dirt and rocks.


As the trail reenters the lower end of the canyon the option comes up to take the D4 route back to the trailhead rather than staying on the D3. We have both routes and both ways have their own appeal. If you haven't been on that section of the D4 it has some nice views from its vantage point above the wash.



The D3 trail into Devil's Canyon is sure to satisfy any hikers hunger for kicking up red dirt in the desert southwest. Many hikers like to linger around the line shack, sitting on one of the basalt boulders nearby, take in the scenery and eat their lunch. There is a trail that continues past the cabin that extends up to the Black Ridge trail as well as one into a side canyon before that point. Be sure to take plenty of water for this hike and be well prepared so you can get the most out of the experience of hiking in Devil's Canyon. If you want to see it for yourself then all you have to do is 'Take a hike'.