Rim Rock Road, one of Colorado’s most spectacular scenic drives, runs 23 miles through Colorado National Monument between Grand Junction and Fruita. The paved road twists along the high rims of several deep canyons, including Red Canyon, Ute Canyon, and Monument Canyon. Rim Rock Road lies on the northern edge of the Uncompahgre Plateau, rising over 2,000 feet above the Colorado River and Grand Valley to the north. The road, built in the early 1930s, offers 19 overlooks, 14 trails, Saddlehorn Campground, and Saddlehorn Visitor Center. Allow at least a couple hours to drive the road, stop at the best viewpoints, and hike the easy trails. Plenty of wildlife lives along the road, including bighorn sheep, golden eagles, mule deer, and canyon wrens.
- Stop at Saddlehorn Visitor Center before heading out on Rim Rock Road. The center, four miles from the Fruita entrance, offers 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.
- Many overlooks scatter along Rim Rock Road. If you’re pressed for time, stop at the best ones: Balanced Rock Overlook, Fruita Canyon Overlook, Independence Monument View, Grand View Overlook, Coke Ovens Overlook, Fallen Rock Overlook, and Cold Shivers Point.
- Many fun easy hiking trails are along Rim Rock Road. Recommended short trails are Canyon Rim Trail, Otto’s Trail, Coke Ovens Trail, and Devils Kitchen Trail. The best long trail is six-mile Monument Canyon Trail, which begins at the Coke Ovens and ends at the lower trailhead on Colorado Highway 340. Other good ones are Liberty Cap Trail and Ute Canyon Trail. Ask at the visitor center for maps and trail descriptions.
- Saddlehorn Campground, one of Colorado’s most beautiful campsites, offers 80 sites in three loops on a first-come first-served basis for A and B Loops and by reservation for B-Loop. Each loop has a restroom and water in summer. Sites have tables and charcoal-only grills. The campground is open year-round.
Recommended season(s): Year-round.
—Stewart M. Green