Artists Point Overlook has two viewpoints—one by the parking area and one at the end of a short trail. This inspirational overlook offers wide-ranging views into Monument Canyon below, of the Coke Ovens and Squaw Fingers, and of the distant Book and Roan cliffs, and Grand Mesa, the largest flat-topped mountain in the world. The 6,200-foot viewpoint is on the east side of Rim Rock Drive, just up the road from Coke Ovens Overlook and the Monument Canyon Trailhead. The point was named because early artists often stopped at the panoramic overlook to make plein-air paintings of the cliffs and canyons. You can hike from the large fenced overlook next to the parking air down a short trail to a lower overlook above a cliff. The rounded Coke Ovens rise on a ridgeline to the north of the viewpoint, and the Squaw Fingers, two squat pinnacles seamed with cracks, adorn a ridge to the south.

Pro Tips

  • The best hike at Colorado National Monument begins just north of Artists Point on the east side of Rim Rock Drive at the Monument Canyon Trailhead. The 6.3-mile-long Monument Canyon Trail starts on the right side of the parking area and descends 600 feet to the canyon floor. It then twists northwest below towering cliffs to 450-foot-high Independence Monument. Continue down the trail to the Lower Monument Canyon Trailhead off Broadway/CO 340. It’s best to have someone pick you up at the bottom of the trail.
  • The Coke Ovens, seen from both Artists Point and Coke Ovens overlooks, are four rounded domes that resemble old charcoal or coke ovens in a spur of upper Monument Canyon. The domes are a textbook example of sandstone erosion. The main formations are Wingate sandstone, the monument’s main cliff-forming sandstone, which is capped by white, erosion-resistant Kayenta sandstone. As the hard caprock erodes away, erosive forces like water and frost wedging attack the soft underlying sandstone and smooth its contours from vertical to slab.
  • Make sure you stop at the monument’s Saddlehorn Visitor Center at the west end of Rim Rock Drive. It offers great views into Wedding Canyon as well as interpretative exhibits, two movies, books and maps, stuff for the kids, and a park ranger to answer your questions. It also has restrooms and a tap for filling water bottles.
  • Falling from high places is the third leading cause of death at our National Parklands. Don’t be a statistic by keeping behind the safety fencing at Artists Point Overlook. Sheer cliffs are below the viewpoint so don’t venture out there to try to find a difficult photo angle or to take an extreme selfie. Just isn’t worth the fall! Also watch your children at all drop-offs.
  • Recommended season(s): Year-round.

    —Stewart M. Green


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