Colorado National Monument, located in the western part of the state, is a tribute to both the land and the man who recognized its value. "I came here last year and found these canyons, and they felt like the heart of the world to me," John Otto wrote in 1907.

Otto lived alone in the wild, desolate canyon country, and he spearheaded a letter-writing campaign urging Congress to declare the area a national park. His dream came true in 1911, when the monument was established and Otto was named caretaker.

Several hiking trails traverse the 32-square-mile monument, including one named in Otto's honor. The Rim Rock Drive and high-country trails provide stunning views of steep canyons, fascinating natural rock sculptures, purple-gray Book Cliffs, and the bold, flat-topped mountain called Grand Mesa.

­Colorado National Monument
John Otto was so taken with the natural beauty of western Colorado that he
successfully campaigned to have it designated as a national park.

Down in the backcountry canyons, colorful cliffs and natural rock formations tower overhead. A highlight of backcountry exploration is 450-foot-high Independence Monument, the largest free-standing rock formation in the monument. Like the site's numerous rock spires, domes, arches, windows, and sheer-walled canyons, Independence Monument was carved by millions of years of erosion.

Equally beautiful is the area's wildlife. Mountain lions, desert bighorns, and rattlesnakes blend in with the landscape, while colorful birds and flowering cacti stand out boldly against the scenery.

Colorado National Monument Information

Address: Horizon Drive (Exit 31 off Grand Junction from Highway I-70)
970/858-3617
Hours of Operation: Monument open 24 hours a day, seven days a week; visitor center open daily, 8 a.m. - 6 p.m. from Memorial Day to Labor Day, 9 a.m. - 6 p.m. Labor Day to Memorial Day; closed Christmas
Admission: $7 per vehicle or $4 per person

Learn about these other national monuments:

­Agate Fossil Beds National MonumentColorado National MonumentGeorge Washington Birthplace National MonumentNatural Bridges National MonumentScotts Bluff National Monument
Alibates Flint Quarries National MonumentDevils Postpile National Monument George Washington Carver National MonumentOcmulgee National MonumentSunset Crater Volcano National Monument
Aniakchak National Monument and PreserveDinosaur National MonumentGila Cliff Dwellings National MonumentOregon Caves National MonumentTimpanogos Cave National Monument
Booker T. Washington National MonumentEffigy Mounds National MonumentGrand Portage National MonumentOrgan Pipe Cactus National MonumentTonto National Monument
Buck Island Reef National MonumentEl Malpais National MonumentHohokam Pima National MonumentPetroglyph National MonumentTuzigoot National Monument
Cape Krusenstern National Monument El Morro National MonumentHomestead National MonumentPinnacles National MonumentWalnut Canyon National Monument
Capulin Volcano National MonumentFlorissant Fossil Beds National MonumentHovenweep National MonumentPipe Spring National MonumentWupatki National Monument
Casa Grande Ruins National MonumentFort Frederica National MonumentJewel Cave National MonumentPipestone National Monument
Castle Clinton National MonumentFort Matanzas National MonumentJohn Day Fossil Beds National MonumentPoverty Point National Monument
Cedar Breaks National MonumentFort Stanwix National MonumentLava Beds National MonumentRainbow Bridge National Monument
Chiricahua National MonumentFossil Butte National MonumentMontezuma Castle National MonumentRussell Cave National Monument

To learn more about national national monuments, memorials, and historic sites, and other travel destinations in North America, visit:

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Eric Peterson is a Denver-based freelance writer who has contributed to numerous guidebooks about the Western United States.