The McDonald Creek Cultural Area lies within the boundaries of the Bureau of Land Management's McInnis Canyons National Conservation Area west of Grand Junction. The scenic area encompasses 122,300 acres, 75,500 of which are in the Black Ridge Wilderness, and is home to some of Colorado's most stunning rock art.
To reach the McDonald Creek area from Grand Junction, follow I-70 west for 29.7 miles to the Rabbit Valley exit (Exit 2). Turn south at the stop sign. Cross over the highway and a cattle guard. Stay on the main road going straight (southwest) for about three miles. At times, you'll be in the creek bed. There are numerous ATV tracks in this multi-use area, so it's difficult at times to follow the main road.
The road is narrow in several places and has a couple of blind corners. Toward the end of the road, you'll find two parking areas with restrooms. The trailhead enters McDonald Creek from the lower parking area.
A 4x4 vehicle is recommended to reach the trailhead. Once you reach it, no motorized vehicles or bikes are permitted into the cultural area, which is open to hiking and horseback riding only. Horseback riders should note, however, that McDonald Creek is very rugged.
The area is dog-friendly, but BLM and other users respectfully request you keep pets on a leash and pick up after it. Beyond the McDonald Creek parking area and trailhead you will not find many signs pointing you to the locations of four examples of ancient rock art. At McDonald Creek, the BLM wants you to experience the canyon just as it was when Native Americans lived here and to be an explorer feeling the excitement of discovering a remnant of the past. Follow the instructions on the information kiosk at the trailhead and enjoy your explorations, but be gentle on this fragile environment.
Some hints to discovering McDonald Creek's rock art:
Imagine where you might have found shelter from the elements if you were a Fremont Indian 1,000 years ago. Those places, such as cliff or rock overhangs, are the best places to look. The sites and rock are very fragile. Resist the temptation to touch them. The oil in your hands can destroy them or can cause the soft sandstone to crumble. The first rock art panel is about 400 yards down the stream bed from the parking area on the west-facing canyon wall. Look up about 15 feet, and you will see red painted pictographs.
There are a total of four panels from the first one down to the mouth of McDonald Creek (about 1.5 miles). Two of the panels are just below the drop-off. On the east side of the canyon is pecked panel (petroglyphs) and some historic names and dates, and on the west side is a painted panel. The last panel is high on the wall in a large alcove near the mouth of the creek.