Round Trip Distance: 0.2 miles
Difficulty: Easy w/scramble
Elevation: 4889 - 4949 feet
Cellphone: 1-3 bars
Time: 30 mins.
Trailhead: I-70 MM 57.1
The De Beque Canyon Petroglyphs are located next to Interstate 70 between Grand Junction and De Beque, Colorado. The rock art panel has always been well known by local residents in the town of De Beque while thousands of others speed right past it everyday on the interstate unaware of its location.
A short distance past mile marker 57 on the eastbound side of the interstate is one of the last washes that feeds into the Colorado River before the highway comes out of De Beque Canyon. Nestled near the top of the ridge on the north side of the wash is a boulder covered with a coat of dark desert varnish that contrasts with the lighter colored rocks that surround it.
From the side of the Interstate a faint trail passes through the tall thick sagebrush in the barditch.
Walk 20-30 feet after climbing out of the ditch staying to the right of the large boulder in this picture.
Looking up at this point you should be able to spot the boulder with the petroglyphs on it. Note the powerlines at the top of the hill as a reference. Also note the juniper tree to the left.
Most of the images show up pretty well from the bottom of the hill. A pair of binoculars and a zoom lens would be very helpful from this vantage point.
A bit of scrambling is required to get up the hill for a better look. Most fit people will have little trouble with the short climb but others will have to settle for the more distant view from the bottom of the hill.
As you can see there is no shortage of graffiti on the boulder. The dates of 1833 and 1900 carved into the boulder indicate that at least some of the graffiti was made quite some time ago. The 1833 is a birth date but it is unlikely that the person that it applied to was all that old when he carved it. Remember that it is illegal, and highly unethical, to deface or vandalise cultural or archaeological sites in anyway. Do not touch the petroglyphs with your hands and don't make chalk outlines of them.
We outlined some of the images on our computer, using red for animals (except a turkey track? that we did in white) and blue for people, to make them standout from the graffiti. As you can see the general motif is a hunting scene. Canyons make natural choke points where hunters can lie in wait to pick off game that their companions herd past them. One of the images is a bear paw which might be a clan symbol.
The animals look like they were made by at least two different people or at least one person who changed styles over time. Notice how the hoofs on some are divided while others aren't. There are also other differences in head and body styles.
Imagine the landscape without the interstate and railroad tracks and you can get an idea of how it looked from the side of the hill hundreds of years ago.
Great care must be taken anytime when parking along a busy highway like Interstate 70. Be sure to pull well off of the road and be careful when getting in and out of your vehicle. There isn't a pull out at this location and there is no official trailhead or even an actual trail to follow. While we have never seen a rattlesnake in this wash we have seen quite a few about a mile away. If you would like to see it for yourself then all you have to do is 'Take a hike'.