Mom has a book Top Ten Everything National Parks – it has top ten lists for all sorts of things you’d find in National Parks. Top ten historic lodges, top ten parks for winter sports, top ten day hikes with a twist. When we were getting ready to go to Black Canyon of the Gunnison I pulled the book out to see if that park was on any of the top ten lists. It was on the top ten canyon hikes list. Then next item under Black Canyon was Colorado National Monument. I’d never heard of it so I read the hike description. Apparently, Colorado National Monument was a canyon, with rock formations similar to the ones you’d find in the Utah parks – Bryce, Zion, Arches, etc… Who knew? And with a name like Colorado National Monument you’d think it was a statue or something boring. When I read the hike description we decided we needed to check it out, so we plans to take 2 days in Fruita and see what this monument was all about.
Rim Rock Drive
We arrived in Fruita around noon and after lunch we ventured into the park to drive the 23 mile Rim Rock Drive. We’d seen the red rocks and hills from the campground but had no idea that that was the monument! We were pretty amazed to see the steep canyon walls, rocks formations and colors of the monument! Mom and Dad said it was a lot like Utah, although Dad later looked through all his pictures and said that it wasn’t at all like Utah!
The first part of the canyon had large “sticky-upy” things that looked like hoodoos all through it.
We got very lucky in that there were storms building and while nothing was near us there were clouds in the sky that would periodically block the sun! It was hot, but with the sun shaded and breeze it was rather pleasant. We also got lucky because we were there in the afternoon and the sun was behind us, which meant it was hitting the canyon at a better angle for picture taking! We weren’t shooting into the sun and the sun was a bit lower in the sky!
Monument Valley Hike
There were lots of hikes in the park, but I’d talked to a Ranger at the visitor center who said that the Monument Valley Hike was a good one – it was also the one that the Top Ten Book had mentioned! We decided that Mom could drop us off at the top and we could hike the 6 miles down to the bottom and Mom could pick us up. We’d stopped by the lower trailhead and set it as a “favorite place” in the GPS so she’d be able to easily set a route to it.
Because it was going to get so hot we wanted to be hiking by 8 am! This meant leaving the campground by 7 am! I did get to see the sun hitting the rocks on the monument from the campground as the sun was rising!
It was great getting such and early start because the first mile or so was nice and cool! We were hiking by about 7:45! We started at the Coke Ovens overlook on Rim Rock Drive and spent the first mile switching back in the canyon to get to the canyon floor. We had views of the Coke Ovens formation the whole time.
The canyon we were switching back in.
After we reached the canyon floor we moved along at a faster pace and the view changed more frequently!
Space Needle Rock (my own name, I think it looks like the Space Needle in Seattle!)
We also saw some desert plants and animals..
I’m so glad we hiked this trail down rather than up! You all probably know by now that I rarely say that! In this case by the time we finished it was 11:00 and the sun was out in full force. I’m so glad I didn’t have a steep uphill mile at the end in the blazing mid-day heat! Also the last mile of the trail was rather boring and that would have been the 1st mile when it was nice and cool in the morning, I would have hated to waste that lovely time on boring stuff!
Colorado National Monument is a neat place! It was a total surprise to all three of us and we are glad we stopped! I did enjoy the hike & the different perspectives on the canyon (top & bottom), even though it was hot as blazes and it confirmed for me that I as much as I’d like to check out the “canyons-and-rocks” parks of Utah it’s going to have to wait until I can go in the fall or spring, it’s just too hot to hike in the desert in July!Too more pictures check out my 2 albums on Google +: Rim Rock Drive and Monument Valley Hike