18 March, 2021

Exploring Colorado National Monument with kids

 We visited Colorado National Monument which is near Grand Junction, Colorado in last winter. It was a trip during Covid and so we had to take a lot of precautions from selecting the clean place to stay, avoiding outside food, using sanitizer, reducing the use of public toilets, wearing masks during hikes, and blah blah. 

We chose Hilton hotels this time as well as we are comfortable and trust their safety procedures and cleaning. We took a suite and even cooked quick one-pot meals on an instant pot. Hilton provides a to-go breakfast which is manageable during covid. We wore masks for all hikes and used sanitizer for restroom breaks and carried Clorox wipes as well. 

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If you ever visit Western Colorado, don't miss this gem- Grand Junction Colorado National Monument.

This 31 square miles national monument site boasts deep canyons, red rocks, sandstone towers, and a beautiful landscape.

As per the National Park service,

Colorado National Monument is a part of the Colorado Plateau which is a vast land of relatively horizontal rock layers situated between the Rocky Mountains and the Great Basin of Nevada. This land is deeply etched and dissected by the incredible canyons of the Colorado River and its tributaries.

Since we visited in the winter, there are very few visitors. Anyways, this is not the most populated park-like Arches and Rocky mountain national park. So, it's good to visit year-round.

The entrance fee is $20 per vehicle for a seven-day pass. 

What to do in Colorado National Monument?

You can bike/ hike and also cover a scenic drive. 

There are 2 entrances to the park -east and west. We entered through West Entrance,  which is more scenic than the other side.

The 23-mile Rimrock scenic drive is a must for anyone. The scenic drive has many overlooks which are accessible within a 1-mile walk. This seemed fantastic about the park when visiting with kids.

Our favorite overlooks on the drive are :

Red rock canyon overlook, 
fallen rock overlook, 
ute canyon overlook, 
highland view overlook, 
Balanced Rock at the west entrance near Fruita, 
book cliffs view(one of the best views) near west entrance,
 Independence monument view near the west entrance after Otto's trail, 
Grand view and
Coke ovens view

The first view of the park going up is this.

This has information about how the park formed due to an earthquake at the Redlands fault. Then, we pass through the tunnels.

Next, we get a glimpse of Balanced rock. There is a small trail to go near the rock.

Balanced Rock

Fruita Canyon View is our favorite view. Photos cannot make justice to the beauty of the canyon. 

Fruita Canyon View

The visitor center was not open due to Covid. 
Canyon rim trail from the visitor center is an easy 1-mile hike. We did this quick trail and it was a good introduction to the park.

The next family-friendly trail is the Window rock trail. It is a 0.5-mile round trip. Window rock is not very clearly visible until you bend from the overlook, but the view of the canyon is amazing.

Window Rock

Book Cliffs view near Window rock trail is one of the best views of the park. Canyon rim trail from visitor center connects to the book cliffs view. But, we can also reach that view through the window rock trail. Our kids enjoyed this trial.

Otto's trail an easy 0.7 mile out and back trail which gives a great view of the Independence monument. 

The Independence monument view is the main attraction. It is a 450-foot high sandstone tower. This was climbed by John Otto for the first time in 1911. He hoisted the American flag on June 11th to celebrate Flag day and from then, he made ascent every Independence day to hoist the American flag to celebrate Independence day.

Independence Monument

After stopping by the grand view, we hiked the coke ovens trail. These rocks which look like big ovens are unique to watch. It's an easy 0.9 mile out and back trail.

Coke ovens

If you observed, most of the trails so far are family-friendly hikes which we loved most about the park.

See, what we found on the road near the east entrance.

A few more trails that are worth hiking: Serpent trail and Devil's kitchen trail near East entrance. 

As the name suggests, the Serpent trail has 50 switchbacks in 2 miles. Isn't that amazing?

Devil's kitchen trail is 1.6 miles out and back trail that features a river as well. We couldn't do that due to lack of time.

Wrap up your day by driving back to Grand junction to relax. 
Some great restaurants around Grand Junction:
  • MI RANCHITO taco shop
  • ENSTROM candies
  • Fiesta gaudalajara 
  • El tapatio mexican
  • Alpine oven pie co
So, that's about exploring the Colorado National monument in one day with kids.  

Bonus Tip:

If you have one more day in Grand Junction, you can cover the Black Canyon of Gunnison, near Montrose. 

Have you ever visited this monument? Please share your experience in the comments. If not, do you love to visit? 

Until next time,

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