Colorado National Monument

Grand Junction Travel Blog

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Went to the Colorado National Monument outside Grand Junction, Colorado today. The Colorado National Monument is named after the river rather than the state, and covers a relatively small area of eroded red rock formations and canyons. It is a spectacular area of twenty-thousand acres of steep-walled red rock canyons located in western Colorado on the eastern edge of the Colorado Plateau. The Colorado National Monument attracts approximately 500,000 visits per year.

I drove along Historic Rim Rock Drive,a 23-mile-long paved road climbs from the Colorado River valley to the top of the Uncompahgre Plateau then winds along the plateau rim, ranging in elevation from 4,700 to 6,140 feet.

Interpretive plaques at viewpoints explain the origin and development of geologic features. The road offers access to one nature trail and 13 backcountry trails of various various length.

This drive offered some of the most fascinating views I have ever seen. I only planned to drive the route for about an hour. After the first curve I stopped and got out of my rental SUV and ended up spending 45 minutes taking photos and just taking in the moment. The silence inside this canyon was extraordinary, I could hear the various birds calling out. At one point, I saw a Golden Eagle swoop down to the floor of the canyon and grasp a rabbit. I just sat there in awe (so much so that I forgot to pick up my camera and record this spectacular event).

The Rim Rock Drive curves around the canyons that make up the monument and every turn provided amazing views, one after another.
I spent a total of 5 hours along the drive, stopping at every advantage point. I hiked along some of the trails, but not venturing too far from the drive, only a couple hundred yards or so. I did not bring any hiking provisions with me, mainly a compass and trail map.

Around lunch time, I came across a signpost that said "Glade Park Store - 5 miles". This sign pointed down a dirt road. I thought to myself, why not? The dirt road became blacktop again after about 3 miles, and there on a corner, in the middle of nowhere was Glade Park Store. I stopped in the store and got some drinks and also purchased a pulled pork sandwich from a BBQ trailer outside. This store has been here since 1907 and has served tourists who have been brave enough to venture beyond the monument road.
After I finished my sandwich, I headed back to Rim Rock Drive to finish my tour of the monument.

I stopped at the Visitor's Center near the West end of the drive and purchased some books about the monument. Outside was a trail marker pointing towards a scenic outlook about a half mile away. Even though I was exhausted by this time, I decided to venture onto the trail. If they took the time to put up the sign, it must be a decent view then, right?

The trail went right on the edge of a canyon, after 15 minutes or so of hiking, I came across the outlook. The view was not disappointing. I spent about a half hour there just sitting on the edge of the canyon wall, taking it all in.  I headed back to the Visitor's Center and came across a very large rabbit. Didn't see any eagles around, so I told him he was safe.

I got back into the SUV, and made two more stops to take pictures before leaving the monument. If you ever happen to be near Grand Junction, Colorado, definitely take the time to drive the Historic Rim Drive, even though the Colorado National Monument is small, you will not be disappointed!

At 5:30 I met my tour group and had orientation with the leader. Dinner at a Chinese restaurant across from the hotel, then an early bedtime as we will leave early to head to Hunt's Mesa tomorrow.

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I cant decide, majestic eagle, or…
I can't decide, majestic eagle, o…
Glade Park Store, worth the drive!
Glade Park Store, worth the drive!
Grand Junction
photo by: mahoney