Grand View Overlook, the next viewpoint east of Independence Monument View on Rim Rock Drive, offers a grand view of Colorado National Monument, with spacious vistas of Monument Canyon, Independence Monument, and the wide Grand Valley beyond. The fenced overlook, one of the monument’s best, is reached by a 0.08-mile-long dirt trail from a parking area on the east side of the road. Perched on the edge of a 300-foot-high cliff, the viewpoint looks into Monument Canyon, a deep canyon paved by 1.5-billion-year-old rock. Prominent sandstone formations that can be seen from Grand View include 450-foot-high Independence Monument, Pipe Organ Spire, Organ Pipe Spire, and The Kissing Couple. Directly below the overlook is Grand View Spire, a semi-detached tower with a summit caprock of Kayenta sandstone. Interpretative signs at the overlook explain the canyon’s geology and its various rock layers.
- Grand View is one of the monument’s best vantage points for photography. Every direction you turn offers another great photo ready to capture with your DSLR or iPhone. To get the best photographs, time your visit to the overlook for either morning or afternoon, rather than during the harsh daylight hours between 10:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. Late afternoon light is usually great with the sun illuminating rock cliffs and casting shadows across the canyon floors. Clouds and snow add drama to your image. The best time is the “golden hour,” which is the hour before sunset.
- Grand View Overlook sits at the end of a cliff-line promontory that juts into Monument Canyon. The circular overlook is safe as long as you stay behind the fencing. Below the point are steep slopes above a sheer cliff. Don’t scramble out along the cliff edge for a photo and keep control of your children. Remember that falls are the third leading cause of deaths in National Parks.
- Grand View Spire opposite the overlook is a classic Colorado National Monument climb. Most climbers rappel from fixed anchors to the notch between the tower and the rim, and then climb three short pitches up the face opposite the viewpoint. To return, some climbers fix a rope between the tower and the rim and do a Tyrolean traverse across the rope to their starting point. Exciting!
- Check out the other viewpoints along Rim Rock Drive near Grand View Overlook. Independence Monument View gives great views of an iconic sandstone tower. Monument Canyon View peers into the cliff-lined upper canyon. Look for Monument Canyon Trail threading along the base of the cliffs far below. The Coke Ovens Overlook allows you to view four rounded sandstone domes on a jutting peninsula of rock, while Artist’s Point has distant views across the canyon to the Book Cliffs and Grand Mesa.
Recommended season(s): Year-round.
—Stewart M. Green