Rough Canyon Loop

Rating: 
Round Trip Distance: 5.3 miles
Difficulty: Strenuous
Elevation: 5475 - 6200 feet
Cellphone: 0-3 bars
Usage: Hiking - Dogs
Time: 4 hrs.
Facilities: Vault toilet
Trailhead: Bangs Canyon Staging Area
Fee: none
Attractions: Scenic canyon, petroglyphs
 


View Rough Canyon Loop in a larger map

Rough Canyon is located within the BLM Bangs Canyon Management Area near Grand Junction, Colorado.  We already have posts for the Rough Canyon and the Rough Canyon Petroglyphs trails. Our feedback tells us that most people after hiking Rough Canyon from the top all the way down to the waterfall can't bear the thought of turning around and hiking back up the canyon the same way they came. We don't blame them. We have actually only done that once or twice ourselves. It is much easier to follow the Bangs Canyon Road/Tabeguache trail back to the staging area so this post shows what that route looks like.


The Bangs Canyon Staging Area is located just off of Little Park Road about 7 miles from where you turn onto Monument Road from Broadway. The trailhead provides access to the Mica Mine, Rough Canyon, Bangs Canyon and Billings Canyon trails. All 4x4 enthusiasts are asked to begin, or stage, here when accessing the infamous Billings Canyon Jeep trail.


The trail begins behind the kiosks on the west side of the parking area.


The trail follows an old jeep trail that passes through a rock staircase cut in the sandstone cliff to where it splits with the Mica Mine trail. Take the left fork to follow the Rough Canyon trail.


The trail drops into the drainage and begins following it down the canyon. In a short distance the canyon makes a sharp right hand bend. If you want to stop by the Rough Canyon Petroglyph site on your way you should follow the higher trail on the right instead of the bottom of the wash. The petroglyphs are on the cliff behind a large boulder.


As you come down the canyon you will encounter much more slickrock where numerous pools of water collect until they either evaporate or soak into the sandstone. Between here and the big spillover that is coming up you will find the best routes if you stick to the left side of the canyon. A little scrambling will be required in one or two spots.


Most hikers don't venture beyond the spillover. To continue down the canyon ascend the trail that climbs around the hill on the right side of the spillover.


The trail follows a rock shelf that slopes down the side of the cliff to where the rock meets up once again with the dirt. Continue down a well constructed trail until you are back in the bottom of the canyon. At this point some hikers like to hike up to the base of the spillover and lounge around before returning back to the trailhead the same way they came.


From this point on the trail becomes less and less distinct until you reach the point where you find yourself hunting for the best routes around boulders, fallen trees and more spillovers. Many obstacles will have only one practical way to get around them.


It won't take too long before you begin appreciating the name of the canyon. You might even think of an adjective or two to add to the name like 'very' or 'ridiculously'.


At one point you will come to a rockfall that comes down from the right that you will have to carefully climb over in order to proceed. Test your footing carefully as there are many loose rocks in the pile.


There is another rockfall on the left side of the canyon near a bend. If the water in the pools is low enough then this area is easy to get around. If the pools are very deep then you find yourself having to do a little scrambling around the boulders and over the muck pile to continue. Once you get around the corner the rest of the way down the canyon will seem almost like a picnic.


At the mouth of the canyon you will find a large spillover named 'Rough Canyon Falls'. From here look for a trail on the left that leads up to the road and the lower Rough Canyon trailhead.


It is an uphill climb pretty much all of the way back but the road is much easier than hiking back up the canyon.


The road passes through a slickrock area that many 4x4 enthusiasts have dubbed the 'playpen'. There are multiple shelves of varying difficulty for jeeps to test their metal on. Compared to the Billings Canyon Jeep trail they are all pretty tame but nonetheless quite fun.


That is pretty much all there is to it. There should probably be a merit badge or something for anyone that completes the full length of Rough Canyon whether you do an out and back or follow this post and do it in a loop. Whichever way you choose give yourself a pat on the back when you are done unless you are too tired that is. If you would like to see it for yourself then all you have to do is 'Take a hike'.