The year 2011 was a big year for the Colorado National Monument, and a big year for us. My husband and I celebrated 5 years while we visited Colorado National Monument, and Colorado National Monument celebrated 100 years thanks to John Otto, who was the first custodian of Colorado National Monument.
In 1907, Otto wrote, “I came here last year and found these canyons, and they feel like the heart of the world to me. I’m going to stay and build trails and promote this place, because it should be a national park.” Otto spearheaded the idea, and on May 24, 1911, President Taft made the canyons Otto loved into Colorado National Monument.
If you have time to take the 23-mile scenic drive through Colorado National Monument, I highly recommend it. Rim Rock Drive offers spectacular views throughout the entire drive in the park. You can drive, hike, and/or stop at some of the roadside overlooks, where you will be able to see wonderful rock sculptures and canyon walls.
It is usually clear skies at Colorado National Monument, so you can see for miles, and in the distance, you can see Grand Junction. Bicyclists love the Rim Rock Drive as much as motorists do, so be aware of your fellow visitors and share the road.
There are 19 available roadside pull-offs, but if you don’t have time to stop at all of them, I would make it a point to stop at “Grand View”. It provides the best vantage point to see the 450 foot tall Independence Monument.
The view called “Independence Monument View” shows a side view of Independence Monument, but the “Grand View” imparts the view that we know and love. If you have a little more time, a few other stops on your list should be Artists Point, Independence Monument View, and Balanced Rock View.
If you are visiting Colorado National Monument over the Fourth of July, you will definitely want to check out the Independence Day tradition that Otto started years ago, as it is truly something to see.
Otto was the first person to climb the Independence Monument so he could put a flag at the top for Independence Day. He accomplished the climb it by drilling and chopping holds in the sandstone to help him climb up the monument.
At the time, pipes were placed in the holes to assist climbers, but now only the holes remain. Every July 4th, local climbers scale 450 feet to the top of Independence Monument to place the American flag.
John Otto believed that Colorado National Monument was a special place, and if you visit this park, you will be able to realize what he meant: enjoy and cherish one of the grandest landscapes of the American West.
If You Go
Saddlehorn campground, which is near the Colorado National Monument Visitor Center, has campsites on a first-come, first-served basis. If you like camping, you will love the views from the campsites. It is open year-round, and has flush toilets and water, but only in the summer. There are no electrical hooks-ups or showers, but the views are definitely worth it.
Colorado National Monument is located near Grand Junction and Fruita. Hiking, rock climbing, and bicycling are just a few visitors’ favorites that you can do in the park. Check out the website to get more detailed information to help you plan your trip: http://www.nps.gov/colm