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Featured Review
Colorado National Monument
view from Otto's Trail along the touring road 7.33 Colorado ratingStar
Colorado National Monument guyonthego

Colorado National Monument is a 20,000 acre park with a variety of rock formations, a scenic drive and expansive views. It is located on the Colorado Plateau, which is typified by high elevations and a semi-arid environment. The monument’s most prominent feature is a 2,000 foot mesa that is nearby the Colorado River and the town of Grand Junction. Park activities include hiking, driving and camping. There is a small visitor center/museum but not a lodge.

This monument's existence is mainly due to the vision and perseverance of John Otto who discovered the area in 1906 and decided that it should be preserved. He set up shop in the wilderness and worked to develop trails for other visitors. Otto also campaigned locally to protect the area, and others then took up the cause. Their efforts succeeded with the establishment of a national monument in 1911. Otto served as the first park superintendent and held the position till 1927. On multiple occasions he also climbed a 450 foot vertical rock formation called independence Monument and did so without specialized equipment.

To see the park at a relaxed pace, you should plan on 5-6 hours, or a full day if you want to take some longer hikes. Also, the north section of the park is more scenic than the south, so start your visit there. Other reviews of this park indicated there were spectacular views and rock formations. The scenery was generally impressive, but for a truly spectacular area check out nearby Arches National Park in Utah. September was a good time to visit because the weather was very pleasant, and there were only a handful of other visitors. May tends to be the busiest month here due to wildflower blooms. Summer attracts both tourists and gnats.

The visitor center is a good place to get trail recommendations, but the displays on park history and ecology were dated and not very interesting. Also, the film was terrible and should be replaced. Five minutes was enough of that. Since time was limited, hiking also was limited. The Window Rock Trail behind the visitor center was easy, convenient, and had good views; most people will enjoy this hike. Otto's Trail further south also had good views of the rocks and an interesting sign about John Otto. The Coke Ovens Trail which is another short and easy trail was skipped due to time constraints but leads to distinctive rocks that resemble ovens so would have been a good choice. At the end of the drive, a .75 mile trail to Devil's Kitchen was worthwhile because of the cool rock formation which creates an enclosed space. Some of the rocks here also have bizarre but memorable shapes. This trail had a moderate 300 foot elevation gain. Overall, Colorado Monument was enjoyable but not sensational. It's easy to see though via the touring road and can be seen quickly, so it's worth a look when in the area.
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January 2022
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