Located just west of Grand Junction, the Colorado National Monument is a picturesque canyon playground, with deep, red rock formations, over 40 miles of hiking trails, and a year-round campground. National Geographic-worthy sights at every turn and the breathtaking 23-mile scenic Rim Rock Drive around the park make visiting Colorado National Monument an unforgettable experience.
Believe it or not, the park’s creation and success were largely credited to one man, John Otto. Otto spent his days paving hiking trails and slept in a tent at the park night after night. President William Howard Taft designated the land as a national monument on May 14, 1911. Otto continued to pave the trails as the first appointed park ranger, taking a salary of only $1 per month.
The Colorado National Monument boasts over 40 miles of maintained hiking trails, Saddlehorn Campground that’s open year-round, and plenty of activities, like horseback riding, rock climbing, and park ranger programs for the kiddos. Considered one of the most beautiful drives in the world, the 23-mile Historic Rim Rock Drive twists and turns around the steep edges of the canyon, giving visitors a heart-racing, bird’s eye view of the monument.
In addition to the courageous efforts of John Otto, the popularity of the park drastically increased when the Coors International Classic, the fourth largest bike race in the world, came to Colorado National Monument in the 80’s. While Coors no longer runs its annual race, cyclists from around the world still gather at the canyon to ride the challenging Rim Rock Drive.
The monument offers hiking trails as brief as a quarter of a mile, to as advanced as 14-mile journeys. Regardless of the distance, each of the Colorado National Monument’s trails is sure to provide a refreshing new view of the canyon. If you’re looking for a quick afternoon hike, the 0.25-mile Window Rock Trail located right next to the Visitor Center is sure to provide breathtaking views! [map embed – rim rock drive]