Black Ridge Trail, Black Ridge - Alcove Nature Trailhead, Colorado National Monument, Colorado

Black Ridge Trail - 11.2 miles

Black Ridge - Alcove Nature Trailhead

McInnis Canyons National Conservation Area from the Black Ridge Trail (GPS: N39 5.071 W108 44.012)

McInnis Canyons National Conservation Area from the Black Ridge Trail (GPS: N39 5.071 W108 44.012)

Round-Trip Length: 11.2 miles
Start-End Elevation: 5,815' - 6,535' (6,800' max elevation)
Elevation Change: +720' net gain (+1,370' total roundtrip elevation gain)
Skill Level: Moderate
Dogs Allowed: No
Bikes Allowed: No
Horses Allowed: No
Related Trails:

Black Ridge Trail - 11.2 Miles Round-Trip

The Black Ridge Trail offers visitors a chance to escape the red-rock canyons and experience the green-topped mesas and pinyon-juniper pygmy forests of the upper Colorado Plateau. This trail follows the Old Fruita Dugway, a pioneer-era road built in the 1880's used to drive cattle between the nascent towns of Fruita and Glade Park. 

The trail follows Black Ridge, whose elevation affords brilliant views in almost every direction. Visible from the ridge are the Bookcliffs formation, Grand Mesa, Canyonlands National Park in Utah as well as the San Juan Mountains over 80 miles to the southeast.

Starting from the trailhead across Rim Rock Road from the Visitor's Center, the trail begins a brief yet sharp ascent up the Old Fruita Dugway, now a gravel fire road.

At about .5 miles, the trail levels out as you leave Colorado National Monument and enter land controlled by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). This boundary is marked by a signed fence letting you know that you are no longer in the park.

Shortly after entering BLM land, the trail heads west up a sandstone bench lined with Juniper trees. The Juniper trees' long, thick roots grow directly out of and into the sandstone, illustrating their amazing resilience to harsh climates. Views of the Bookcliffs and Grand Mesa are particularly good along this stretch.

At the 1.1 mile mark, the trail levels out and enters a Juniper - Pinyon Pygmy forest. In this area, Juniper and Pinyon Pine trees grow very short, thus the name 'pygmy' forest.

At 1.5 miles, the forest opens up to reveal wide open grass plains dotted with Sagebrush, Juniper and Pinyon Pine trees. These grasslands and sage flats are a welcome contrast to the red-rock that dominates the lower canyons of the park.

Shortly after the land opens up, at 1.8 miles, the McInnis Canyons National Conservation Area is visible to the west. Controlled by the BLM, this area greatly illustrates the striking landscape of Colorado canyon country. Multi-hued sandstone fills this gorge and it is worth stopping for a moment to spot for wildlife.

Continue hiking past the McInnis Canyons overlook. After crossing a white sandstone bridge, you re-enter the beautiful, wide-open grasslands of the Colorado Plateau.

Climbing steadily now, 'badland' formations begin to reveal themselves at the 2.7 mile mark. Red and green hued sediment appears to be breaking out of the grassy hillsides creating formations similar to those found in Badlands National Park.

At 2.9 miles (6,520') the trail re-enters the Colorado National Monument via a chained gate. Steps are provided to hop over the wooden fence, or a linked chain can be unwound to open the gate.

At 3.5 miles (6,560') you reach the trail split for the C.C.C. Trail (C.C.C. stands for Civilian Conservation Corps). This is a short trail that connects Monument Canyon and the Black Ridge Trail. Views are brilliant to the northeast from this point.

At 4.2 miles (6,800') the trail begins the descent down to the south trailhead. The landscape quickly returns to its desert appearance, becoming noticeably warmer, drier and quite rocky.

At 4.9 miles the trail becomes an easy fire road, marking the final .7 mile descent through colorful rocky outcrops. At 5.6 miles (6,535') the trail comes to its terminus at Rim Rock Road, with the Liberty Cap Trailhead located across the street.

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Worth Noting

  • The Black Ridge Trail is the highest trail in the park, cresting at an elevation of 6,800'.

  • The Black Ridge Trail goes in and out of BLM land.

  • Pets are not permitted on any trail in Colorado National Monument. Never leave pets in your unattended vehicle, as high temperatures can kill pets within minutes. Violators of pet regulations are subject to very severe fines.

  • Mountain bikes are not allowed on any trails in Colorado National Monument.

Camping and Backpacking Information

Saddlehorn Campground

  • The Saddlehorn Campground is located near the Saddlehorn Visitor Center, four miles from the west entrance.

  • $20 per site per night (in addition to the entrance fee). $10 per site per night discount for holders of Inter-agency Senior or Inter-agency Access Passes.

  • There are 80 sites available on a first-come, first-served basis with a self-registration kiosk at the entrance.

  • Sites accommodate tents and RVs, with some pull-through sites (length limit is 40' for RVs).

  • Restrooms have flush toilets and water available during the summer. Each site includes a picnic table and charcoal-only grill. There are no electric hookups or showers.

  • Wood fires are not permitted anywhere in the monument.

  • 7 person per site limit, 3 tents per site, and two 2 vehicles per site.

  • Generator use is prohibited from 8 p.m. to 8 a.m.

Backcountry Camping Regulations




  • Backcountry Camping Permits are required in Colorado National Monument. Permits are free. The permit must be in your possession while traveling in the backcountry.

  • Group size is limited to 7 people.

  • Campers must camp 1/4 mile or more from any road or developed facility and 150' from any trail. Camping is not permitted in streambeds.

  • Fires are not permitted, with the exception of gas or alcohol camp stoves.

  • Pets, bicycles, motorized equipment, and devices such as radios, generators, etc., are not allowed in the backcountry.

  • In any calendar year, backcountry campers are limited to 14 overnight stays, whether accrued consecutively or in any combination of separate visits. Single trips are limited to 7 nights.

  • Water is not available in the backcountry, even during the spring runoff. Springs, streams, and pools may contain harmful substances like selenium or bacteria like Giardia.



Fishing Information

There is no fishing on the Black Ridge Trail.

Rules and Regulations

  • It is illegal to move, remove, or enter historical artifacts unless explicitly stated. Abide by all current regulations, which are updated on the National Park Service Website.

Directions to Trailhead

The Black Ridge Trail is located directly across the street from the Visitor's Center, 4.0 miles from the park's west entrance on Rim Rock Road. Park in the Visitor's Center parking lot and simply walk across the road to the well marked Black Ridge Trailhead sign.

East Entrance from Denver Grand Junction: Take Highway I-70 to Grand Junction, and take Exit 31 (Horizon Drive). Follow signs through Grand Junction to the east entrance.

West Entrance from Denver to Fruita: Take Highway I-70 to Exit 19 (Fruita) and go south on Highway 340 to the west entrance, which is approximately four miles from Fruita.

East Entrance From Utah to Grand Junction: Take Highway I-70 to Grand Junction, and take Exit 31 (Horizon Drive). Follow signs through Grand Junction to the east entrance.

West Entrance from Utah to Fruita: Take Highway I-70 to Exit 19 (Fruita) and go south on Highway 340 to the west entrance, which is approximately four miles from Fruita.

Contact Information

Colorado National Monument
Fruita, CO 81521-0001

By Phone
Visitor Information

By Fax

Trip Reports

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