Independence Monument View looks into the heart of Colorado National Monument from Rim Rock Drive, a scenic road that traverses a bench above canyons for 22 miles. The iconic overlook, perhaps the best in the monument, sits above abrupt cliffs. The popular viewpoint, on the north side of the twisting road, has parking for 13 cars. The horseshoe-shaped overlook offers great views of 5,739-foot Independence Monument, a 450-foot-high sandstone tower that sits on a divide between Wedding and Monument canyons. Beyond Independence and the red canyons is the broad Grand Valley and Grand Junction, the largest city in western Colorado. The shale and sandstone Book Cliffs line the northern horizon. A couple interpretative signs at the overlook detail John Otto’s historic 1910 ascent of Indy and how erosion formed the slender tower.
A few years ago the Superintendent of Colorado National Monument sent an email to writer Susan Joy Paul about a photograph on a website that I shot of her climbing the final overhang below the summit of Independence Monument in 2010. “We want to use that photo on our interpretative sign at Independence Monument View,” the Superintendent told her in a phone call. Susan sent me the request and I gave the Park Service permission to use my photograph. Now my image is paired on the overlook sign with a 1910 photograph of John Otto in the same place as Susan Paul exactly 100 years later.
- You can take wonderful photographs of Independence Monument from the overlook that will thrill the folks back home. The best time for photography is late in the day when the setting sun shafts across the canyon rim and reddens the tower and surrounding cliffs. You’ll also get great shots in winter with the contrast of white snow on red rock.
- Bring binoculars so you can spot climbers on the final pitch of Independence Monument. The climbing route, following John Otto’s original chopped steps, ascends the blunt ridge directly facing the overlook. If you want to climb Otto’s Route, a moderate ascent with both crack and face climbing, then contact a reputable guide service to get you to the summit.
- Independence Monument View perches above high cliffs. The paved overlook is safe as long as you stay at the paved overlook and don’t venture beyond the low rock wall that encloses it. Soft slopes below the overlook angle down to the sheer cliffs below. Don’t go below the wall and watch your children. Falls are the third leading cause of death in National Parklands.
- Stop at the Saddlehorn Visitor Center before heading out on Rim Rock Drive. The center, four miles from the Fruita entrance, offers interpretative exhibits about natural history, geology, and human history, as well as two movies. An information desk is staffed by a park ranger who answers your questions and suggests hikes. A bookstore sells books, postcards, and memorabilia. Daily ranger-led programs are held every day in summer.
Recommended season(s): Year-round.
—Stewart M. Green