Within a twenty-minute drive from Grand Junction, you can overlook the city from Colorado National Monument. At the top of the canyons is a vast view of the valley – Grand Mesa, Palisade, Fruita, and a large stretch of the Bookcliffs.
Primarily red rock and sandstone, the Monument is an incredible example of desert geology on the edge of the Colorado Plateau. The entrance fee for the park is $15. Most trails are accessible from the main road. Hiking trails are generally well maintained, aside from a few primitive trails. To cruise the two-lane road from beginning to end, it takes about an hour. You’ll find countless scenic stops along the way, providing views of landmark rock formations such as Independence Rock, Titanic, and Kissing Couple.
Some of the most popular trails in Mesa County are on the Monument: Devil’s Kitchen, Serpent’s Trail, Canyon Rim, and Liberty Cap to name a few. Devil’s Kitchen is 1.5 miles (.75 miles each way) and brings you to a sandstone grotto. Liberty Cap is strenuous but well-worth the hike as you climb up to the rim of the Monument from its base. Canyon Rim Trail is a family-friendly hike that is only 1 mile (.5 mile out and back trail). Serpent’s Trail is located at the east entrance and shares a trailhead with Devil’s Kitchen. At 3.5 miles, it’s a moderate hike with several switchbacks and offers amazing views.
Four miles from the west entrance is the Saddlehorn Campground, which for a fee offers tent camping and recreational vehicle sites. Backpacking is also permitted in Colorado National Monument. Trails go through the backcountry including Black Ridge, Monument Canyon, Ute Canyon, and Liberty Cap (from the southern trailhead). Each are around ten to twelve miles round trip and can be steep in areas with elevation gains of over a thousand feet.
To meditate on Colorado National Monument’s beauty, any trail is a rewarding experience. Whether it’s winter and there is snow dusting the canyon or a summer evening with a breeze engulfing you on the edge of a cliff, the magnificence of the canyons is overwhelming.