Rattlesnake Arches Upper Trailhead

Rating: 
Round Trip Distance: 7 miles
Difficulty: Moderate +
Elevation: 5419-5856 feet
Cellphone: 3-4 bars
Time: 2 hrs. 45 mins.
Trailhead: Rattlesnake Arches
Fee: none
Attractions: Forest hike, deer, elk, turkeys



View Rattlesnake Arches Upper TH in a larger map

The Rattlesnake Arches trailhead is remotely located within one half mile of the Rattlesnake Arches which makes it a lot shorter hike than the one beginning at the Pollock Bench trailhead which requires hiking 15+ miles round trip. A high clearance 4-wheel drive vehicle is required the last 2.4 miles from the Mee Canyon parking area to the Rattlesnake Arches trailhead. We were driving a Jeep Wrangler and the only times we put it into 4-wheel drive were on two snow packed hills on the way out. Alternatives to a 4-wheel drive could be a mountain bike, 4-wheeler, dirt bike, horse or a little more hiking. We had a hard time finding a map to the trailhead other than the BLM kiosk located at the turn off on Black Ridge Road. That is where our adventure began. I left my GPS on for the drive out from the Rattlesnake Arches trailhead to the Black Ridge road turnoff on 16 5/10 Rd. Now we have an accurate map of the lower ridge road.


We drove up the monument from the Fruita side and turned right onto 16 5/10 Rd. Just after crossing a cattle guard the pavement ended and became a graveled road. Black Ridge road was almost immediately on the right. There is a BLM kiosk at the turnoff onto Black Ridge Rd with a map of the roads leading to the Mee Canyon and Rattlesnake Arches trailheads. There are two roads that lead into the area, the upper ridge road and the lower ridge road. The upper road is only open between April and August and both roads are closed between February and April. The map shows a distance of 7.4 miles for the lower road. We measured 8.6 miles with our GPS. The map doesn't show a distance from the Mee Canyon trailhead to the Rattlesnake Arches trailhead but we measured the distance at 2.4 miles with our GPS. We measured the entire distance from the turnoff on 16 5/10 Rd. to the Rattlesnake Arches trailhead at 11 miles. The drive out took us 45 minutes.


The trailhead was located on top of the ridge about one half mile from the arches. You have to hike 2.7 miles from the trailhead to see all the arches.


We hiked down the trail a half mile to a fork in the trail where we hiked another half mile to an overlook of the first arch. A lot of these arches have more than one name and it is hard to find an official name for each one. This 'First Arch' is most commonly called 'Cedar Arch'. We hiked around the area for a while looking down at one other arch before heading back to the main trail.


Once back on the main trail we followed it down the fairly steep hill to the trail that leads around the bench area along the Entrada sandstone cliffs where the arches are found. The spot where this picture was taken is about 1 mile from the trailhead. It is another mile to the area above Rattlesnake Canyon where the arches begin.


Once around the bend at Rattlesnake Canyon the arches start appearing in rapid succession. This arch is known as 'Hole in the Bridge Arch'.



Centennial Arch, aka Rattlesnake Arch.


We continued hiking along the cliff passing several more arches along the way. At least one of them isn't viewable without leaving the main trail. The last arch on the trail is 'Cedar Arch'. You know you are there when you get to the 'End of Trail' sign. Once you reach the end of the trail you have to hike almost 3 miles back to the trailhead even though it is just above you on top of the cliff.


There are lots of other interesting rock formations and peaceful settings along the trail. Daniel, who is home on leave from Iraq, is taking in a view of Rattlesnake Canyon. We hiked the 3 miles back to the trailhead at a pretty fast pace trying to stay warm. The outside temperature was in the low 20's. The entire hike took us less than 3 hours and that was with a lot of climbing around and stopping to take pictures.


There is a Day Use pullout along the road before the Rattlesnake Arches trailhead where you can look across the canyon and see Finger Arch. A pair of binoculars comes in handy to get a better look at it. The arch is formed vertically on the side of the cliff. There is a big hole in the ridge of the cliff above and to the right of the arch.

Although camping isn't allowed in the area of the arches there are several places along the road coming in where you can camp. I would highly recommend not making the trip down the road in wet weather. We saw a herd of deer and a herd of elk on the drive in and there were bighorn tracks in the vicinity of the arches. If you would like to see Rattlesnake Arches without hiking in from Pollock Bench and you don't mind a little four wheeling then this is a good place for you to 'Take a hike'!