Colorado National Monument

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The Colorado National Monument was one of the most pleasant surprises of my trip. I knew it had some dramatic rock spires and a few impressive cliffs… but it offers much more: including a great view of the western front of the Rockies.
You can enter Colorado National Monument from Grand Junction or Fruita. Colorado Rte. 340 provides access at both ends. I chose to use the Fruita entrance because it was easier to find from the Interstate, and it’s located near a cluster of nice, new motels.

Balanced Rock, Colorado National Monument

The drive begins with a steep climb up Rim Rock Drive. You’ll switch back several times before you reach the top of the plateau. About halfway up, stop for a look at Balanced Rock.

Rim Rock Drive, Colorado National Monument

Just past Balanced Rock, the road passes through a tunnel that’s been blasted out of the rock.

Rim Rock Drive, Colorado National Monument, Western Front, Fruita, Grand Junction

Stop just before the tunnel to take in this great view of the park, the farms surrounding Fruita, and finally, the western front.

During a rainy spell, rock slides are common on Rim Rock Road. One day after my visit, the road had to be closed for a few hours to clean up several boulders that broke apart, when they hit the pavement.

Colorado National Monument

Rim Rock Drive travels the length of the park, and as its name implies, it’s right on the edge for most of the journey. There are plenty of overlooks, right at the side of the road, that require little or no hiking.

Colorado National Monument

I didn’t take many pictures during my first drive around the park, because overcast skies gave everything a dull appearance. But when the sun did come out, the scenery was spectacular.

Colorado National Monument

Once you’ve passed through Colorado National Monument, you’ll come out at Grand Junction. From here, you have a couple of options. You can take Colorado Rte. 340 back to Fruita (consider it the “low road” that roughly parallels Rim Rock Drive) or make your way through town to the interstate, and take it west.

I spent the night in Fruita, but didn’t get much sleep, because I planned to get up early, and watch the sun rise inside the park. As you’ll see on the next page, that didn’t quite work out as planned.

Note: This trip was first published in 2005.

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