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.
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)
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:
To learn more about national national monuments, memorials, and historic sites, and other travel destinations in North America, visit:
- National Monuments: Learn more about America's national monuments.
- National Memorials: Discover national memorials in the U.S.
- National Historic Sites: Read about American national historic sites.
- Colorado State Guide: Learn about Mobil Travel Guide-rated hotels and restaurants in Colorado as well as other recreational activities.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Eric Peterson is a Denver-based freelance writer who has contributed to numerous guidebooks about the Western United States.