A National Monument is a protected area of land of historic, cultural, and/or scientific significance. While the National Parks Service oversees National Parks, the U.S. Forest Service, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the Department of Defense, and the Bureau of Land Management can all manage National Monuments. Additionally, the office of the President has the power to designate National Monuments (National Parks are designated as such by Congress).

Colorado National Monument is located on Colorado’s Western Slope near the town of Grand Junction. The landscape of this 31-square mile reserve mirrors in many ways the larger scale National Parks like Arches and Canyonlands in neighboring Utah. Red rock walls, deep canyons, and sandstone towers are some of the geological features of this monument.

The iconic 23-mile Rim Rock Drive is one of the most beautiful scenic drives in Colorado. Bicyclists and motorcyclists share this challenging route with passenger cars, so use caution on tight corners and sections with steep drop-offs.

Conservationist John Otto is credited with building the first trails in what was to become Colorado National Monument. He surveyed the first road (Trail of the Serpent) and climbed to the highest points in the monument to plant American flags. Due in part to Otto’s tireless advocacy and conservation efforts, President Taft established the region as Colorado National Monument on May 24, 1911.

Pro Tips

  • Hiking: There are five main sections of the monument that offer beautiful hiking trails: Monument Canyon, Ute Canyon, Black Ridge, Devils Kitchen Trailheads, and Wildwood Trailhead.
  • Our Favorite Trails:

  • The five-mile out-and-back Lower Monument Canyon Trailhead to Independence Monument is touted as the best trail to see desert bighorn sheep as well as sandstone cliffs and enormous rock formations.
  • The short half-mile Canyon Rim Trail is a beautiful walk along the edge of colorful Wedding Canyon to the Book Cliffs View. The trail begins at the Visitor Center.
  • Recommended season(s): Monument is open year round and daily. Some sites may be inaccessible in winter.

    —Sophie Goodman


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