Pollock Canyon

Rating: 
Round Trip Distance: 10.1 miles
Difficulty: Strenuous
Elevation: 4481 - 5267 feet
Cellphone: 0-3 bars
Time: 6 hrs. 30 mins.
Trailhead: Pollock Bench
Fee: none
Attractions: natural arch, cowboy line shack




The Pollock Canyon trail is located in the Flume/Pollock Canyons Area of the McInnis Canyons National Conservation Area near Grand Junction and Fruita, Colorado. The trail begins off of the Rattlesnake Arches trail and travels up the east fork of Pollock Canyon where it passes an old cowboy line shack that sits on a grassy knoll above the streambed. From there the trail climbs the Old Ute Indian trail to get back out of the canyon where it comes to an end at the Flume Canyon F2 trail. As the trail climbs out of the canyon there is an option to follow a spur trail that leads to Pollock Arch.


The hike begins at the Pollock Bench trailhead. To get there drive south out of Fruita on Highway 340 toward the Colorado National Monument. After crossing the Colorado River turn west onto Kingsview Road. Follow the paved road for a half mile and bear left when it turns to gravel. Continue for another mile or two to the Pollock Bench trailhead. The road is easily passable by passenger cars although it can be washboardy at times.


From the parking area follow the P1 trail. After a half mile the trail passes through a fence and continues its steady climb up to the Pollock Bench area.


For this post we begin a loop at the 1.7 mile point by following the right fork that heads toward Rattlesnake Arches and Pollock Canyon. The direction of travel is completely arbitrary and depends on whether you prefer hiking down a steep rocky slope with loose dirt and scree or up it. And whether you prefer scooting down a couple of short cliffs on your fanny or climbing up them. The trail to the right is the scoot on your fanny and climb steep rocky slope route.


As the hike approaches the 2 mile point the trail begins its first descent into a branch of Pollock Canyon.


As the trail leaves the rim there are a couple of ledges to descend that depending on your knees and balance can be taken either standing up or on your fanny.


After the initial descent the trail travels around the sandstone cliffs on a bench that is below Pollock Bench but above the floor of Pollock Canyon. The trail continues around the picturesque entrada cliffs until it gets to the point where it drops over the final rim and descends into the belly of the canyon.


At this point there are a couple of short but almost vertical sections of cliff to get down. There are just enough footholds and handholds to make scooting down them on your fanny a practical method of descent. If you slip you probably won't tumble to your death because it isn't a sheer drop off but breaking a bone or hitting your head might still be a possible outcome.


After making the descent and crossing the wash the trail continues in the direction of the head of the canyon. This is just over the 3 mile point of the hike from the trailhead.


As the trail continues up the canyon the Rattlesnake Arches route departs on the right after another quarter mile or so.


For the next several miles there isn't really a consistent trail to follow but the route is obvious as all it does is follow the base of the canyon. At times there may be pools of water to work around and an occasional small spillover but for the most part it alternates between clumsy rocky sections and easier sand and gravel stuff. Be sure to bear to the left when the canyon splits between its east and west forks.


Just before the trail leaves the basement of the canyon there is an old cowboy line shack standing above the streambed on the west side of the canyon. The shack reminds me of some houses when I was growing up that didn't have any insulation and you could see right through the walls between the slats.


The trail leading out of the wash and out of the canyon is only a short distance past the line shack and it is a little hard to spot. We put up a small cairn as a marker. After thinking about it we probably should have built a really big one and placed it above the flash flood line. The trail becomes much more obvious after following it 20 feet or so and it is the only good route out of the canyon. Before leaving the wash you might want to check out the black precambrian cliffs just ahead.


As the trail climbs out of the canyon it levels off just a little at the point where the spur trail to Pollock Arch begins. The out and back distance of 1.8 miles is included in our round trip distance of 10.1 miles.


The first part of the spur trail is cairned and easy to follow. After crossing a small granite bottom wash the route all but disappears. Pollock Arch is visible from this point but because it sits parallel with the canyon its opening isn't so you can't tell that it is an arch at all from here. What you want to do is cross the hump on the right between this point and the main streambed of the canyon and get back into the wash that is now above the precambrian cliffs that were near the line shack. From there the best route is to continue up the wash and head toward the arch.


If you stay in the wash long enough you will end up directly below the arch. At this point the wash is almost at a high spillover so you will have to either hike back down the wash or climb out of it at that point up a very steep hillside.


This is what the side of the hill opposite the arch looks like.


The other, and probably better alternative, is to leave the wash at an earlier point and take a more gradual route up the hill that is opposite the arch where you will be treated to a view similar to the one in this picture. As you can see Pollock Arch is a freestanding arch which like Delicate Arch in Arches National Park is a lot rarer.


After viewing the arch and retracing the route back to the main trail the climb continues up to Pollock Bench. The climb isn't quite as steep as the picture makes it out to be thanks to the indirect route it takes and there isn't anything particularly hazardous to worry about other than the usual loose rocks. This is actually a part of an Old Ute Indian trail that continues all the way around the east side of the Colorado National Monument. Different sections of it are now what we call the F2, D1, K1 and Bench trails. Early settlers in the area may have had to blaze trails for their wagons but when they weren't encumbered by such things there were already plenty of Indian trails to follow.


The trail comes to an end near the 8 mile point of the hike at the Flume Canyon F2 trail. The quickest and easiest route back to the trailhead is to the left via the Pollock Bench trail. Following the F2 trail to the right and taking the F1 trail back to the trailhead is also a good option but a little more effort is required going that way.


At the point where the F2 trail meets the Pollock Bench or P1 trail be sure to go to the right for the shortest route to the trailhead. Going to the left and dropping down onto the bench and following it around Pollock Canyon is another option though.


From Pollock Bench there are several places where you can look back at the canyon and see the rocky outcrop that is Pollock Arch. Keep in mind that the arch sits at such an angle that it isn't apparent from here that it is an arch.


The hike down Pollock Bench follows an old double track and it is the easiest part of entire hike.


Sometimes you can tell a lot from a look at a trails profile. Nothing is quite as vertical as the profile makes it look but it is still relative. Again, the slideshow should fill in most of the gaps.



Pollock Canyon isn't a casual hike. The country is very rugged and parts of the trail require basic rock climbing skills even though you might be doing those parts on your fanny. There should be enough pictures in the following slideshow to give you an idea of what you can expect. Take plenty of water for you and your pet and don't count on being able to find any in the canyon. It never hurts to print out a map and take it along. So, if rugged country and a heck of a good workout are what you like in a hike then the Pollock Canyon trail is a good option. If you would like to see it for yourself then all you have to do is 'Take a hike'.