Rustle up some good views of the Colorado River
Overview: The Rustler's Loop is a short but popular mountain biking trail in McInnis Canyons National Conservation Area that is also used by hikers. It follows a portion of the Palisade-to-Moab Kokopelli Trail, with interpretive signs, mountain biking hints, and views of the Colorado River.
Warning: There are areas of steep exposure along the Colorado River and no water along the trail. Be aware of edges and bring all the water that you need.
Hike: The trail starts at the end of a BLM road off of the Loma freeway exit. The parking area is small, so often times people are parked on the shoulder along the road or at overflow areas nearby, especially during peak seasons. From the trailhead, the trail quickly climbs up to an old river bench in the first 0.2 miles (a gain of about 100 feet) and then splits. The trail is well marked towards the left-hand fork, though it is possible to complete the trail by following the right-hand path.
The trail is generally a single-track across the sagebrush flats above the Colorado River for the first half of the trail. Although there is no shade or shelter, the views out into the Grand Valley, Colorado National Monument, and Grand Mesa in the distance are spectacular. If you are hiking, keep a sharp ear and eye out for mountain bikers. This trail is heavily used by them, and they can come up on an unsuspecting hiker quite rapidly.
A little bit before the halfway point, the trail reaches the rim of the Colorado River canyon. Below is smooth slickrock, formed 199 million years ago during the Late Triassic and Early Jurassic periods by giant sand dunes. The views, again, are spectacular. For approximately the next 0.5-0.75 miles, the trail follows the rim with many scenic resting points, stops, and view areas.
The trail curves away from the river around 1.7 miles into the hike, and by 1.8 miles you are following the trail around a shallow slickrock drainage that marks the geologic contact between the Wingate and Kayenta Formations. The views to the west of Rabbit Ears Mesa and the deeper portions of Ruby Canyon are visible along this stretch.
Around the 2 mile mark the trail splits. One portion rises to the right, up a slope, while the other portion stays lower and to the left. Follow the left branch of the trail, as this is the actual Rustler's Loop trail. The trail continues away from the river and towards the Entrada Sandstone cliffs to the north. At around 2.6 miles into the hike, the trail jogs back to the northeast and begins approaching and then following the cliffs. At one point there is a sign describing the Entrada Sandstone as being 135 million years old; in fact it is no younger than 160 million years old.
The trail follows the cliff through pinyon/juniper scrub until it comes to another junction at about 3.3 miles into the hike. Staying right will put you back on the loop again. Stay left to descend the short canyon back to the parking area, a quarter mile away from the junction!
Water Sources: None; bring all that you need.
Camping: Camping is allowed in McInnis Canyons NCA but certain areas may face permanent or temporary closures or restrictions. Check at the trailhead kiosk for more information.
Check out the Triplog.
WARNING! Hiking and outdoor related sports can be dangerous. Be responsible and prepare for the trip. Study the area you are entering and plan accordingly. Dress for the current and unexpected weather changes. Take plenty of water. Never go alone. Make an itinerary with your plan(s), route(s), destination(s) and expected return time. Give your itinerary to trusted family and/or friends.