Monday, February 6, 2012

Rattlesnake Canyon Arches

Denver got blanketed in snow, but the ski areas received very little.  What to do?  Go to the Rattlesnake Canyon Arches!

More photos here.

I just loved this place.  Despite it's relative proximity to I-70, various circumstances have conspired to keep it isolated - the trail is a little too long (14 miles round trip) for a day hike, and the road is notoriously bad when wet (and closed from February 15-April 15).

There are good descriptions of the trip online, including the BLM's fine map/directions, so I'll add only a few points: 

-The arches are on a bench about 500 feet above the floor of Rattlesnake Canyon.  The bench itself is both relatively narrow (a few hundred feet at its widest) and short (50-60 feet).  So you observe the arches from a comfortable natural amphitheater, but whenever you turn around your eyes have to adjust to this sweeping panorama out into canyon country.  The opposite wall of the canyon is itself dotted with sandstone towers, vaults, and an arch or two.  While wonderful to view in person, the forced "close up" make the arches somewhat difficult to photograph.  Even professional photos strain to "back up" enough to capture the full effect.  I'm sure someone has solved this through aerial photography (which I haven't seen). 

-The arches bench faces southwest, maximizing the winter sun.  I am confident this was one of the warmest spots in the area this weekend (although it dropped into the teens at night).

-Really you come to see the big Akiti Arch.  It's pretty stunning:

But my favorite view was from on top of the bench looking down Horsethief Canyon.  Here it is again:

For me, canyon country begins at the Loma boat ramp (although I admit this is arbitrary - if you live in Phoenix, canyon country could begin at the Mogollon Rim.  The Colorado River and I-70 rush out of the Rockies, and past Grand Mesa/Lands End.  Then it lingers in Grand Valley, bordered on one side by fine farmland and the endless Book Cliffs, and on the other by Colorado National Monument, a prelude of the canyons to come.  Then at Loma, the highway can't follow the river anymore, the river drifts into Horsethief Canyon, and a clear line between regions is drawn.  On one side of Loma is the Rockies and Colorado.  On the other side is Utah, sandstone, and the Colorado Plateau.  And I could sit at this vantage between the two - very nice.

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