Colorado National Monument
One of the biggest surprises that I had on my road trip to the Utah National Parks was the Colorado National Monument. I had never even heard of this place and it turned out to be one of the most beautiful spots I have been.
Located in Western Colorado between Grand Junction and Fruita and just a short drive from I-70 this convenient park is great to break up the drive. I entered from the Fruita side so that is where my references will be from.
I loved Independence Monument. It is the first overlook after the visitor center and it is anchored by a giant spire that kind of gave off a “Leaning tower of Pisa” vibe. The solo spire sits by itself in front of a large mesa. It almost looked like the trunk leading an elephant through water.
This is a cool spot and the first main pull-off that you can see if you enter from the Fruita Side to Colorado National Monument. Definitely a great stop.
Coke Ovens Trail
The Coke Oven’s trail was the hardest of the three hikes that I did on my trip. It isn’t too terribly difficult but there is about a 100 foot elevation gain in two-tenths of a mile. The gem of the Coke Ovens trail is the Coke Ovens overlook. It is a great place to hike and interconnects with other trails as well. There are some edges so if you have children with you it might not be the best option.
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If you only have time to stop at one spot at the Colorado National Monument I would recommend Monument Canyon is that spot. Monument Canyon is the third overlook pull-off past the visitor center when you enter from the Fruita side.
There is room for about 10 cars at this overlook and then a short walk to the best views. The views are about as good as it gets. You can see spires, canyon, city, mountains in the distance, and rock walls for 180 degrees. This is the “Oh my!” moment at the park.
The Grand View Overlook is the next place that I would suggest to visit if possible. The pull-off is the second stop after the visitor center from the Fruita side. Much like Monument Canyon this overlook gives some amazing views of the surrounding area.
While Monument canyon has more rock formations, Grand view is well, grander. The view from Grand view has more space with large formations. It is more like looking at a series of islands floating in the distance. It is remarkable.
Otto’s trail is a great trail if you are looking for some cool views but don’t want to take a long walk. This trail is under a mile round trip and there isn’t too much on elevation gain. It is a longer walk than one of the pull-offs but it is worth it if you are looking to stretch your legs a bit.
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Canyon Rim Trail to Window Rock
The Canyon Rim Trail to Window rock was one of my favorite places to stop. Of the three “hikes” that I took on the trip this was the closest to feeling like a real hike. While it is less than 2 miles long the views are magnificent and I really enjoyed it. It is located just behind the visitor’s center.
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Wrapping up Colorado National Monument
The Colorado National Monument is a trip that I would highly suggest if you are in Western Colorado. The park is not nearly as busy as the Grand Canyon or the parks in Moab but it still offers similar views. It is refreshing to come to a place filled with such natural beauty and not have lines of people and cars everywhere.
On the down side, the park doesn’t have some of the extensive hiking experience as say Rocky Mountain National Park. However there are plenty of places to pull off and take in the view. There are also a lot of smaller trails that are good for kids or people who don’t want to be quite as active. I only got to explore about half of the park and I was wildly impressed.
Because of the limited hiking that I found, I am not sure that I would make a long trip just for the park. It worked perfect for me as a stop on my way from Denver to Moab. If you are going to camp that might be a good trip or if you are going to be in the area this is definitely a great half day trip. I stopped on a whim and spent almost 3 hours here, that’s how impressed I was.
I have added this hike and all of my hikes to the interactive map page you can find here. If you have any suggestions for hikes or comments feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can follow me on any of the below social media platforms. Happy Hiking!
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