By Denise Hight: Operations Manager —
Spring is the season for rebirth and renewal, and what better place to renew your spirit than our very own Colorado National Monument? Whether you want to hike a canyon, enjoy a family picnic, or join your friends and neighbors for some of our Walks & Talks programs, you won’t want to miss the spring season at Colorado National Monument.
Each year, as winter recedes into the background, the Colorado National Monument and the Colorado National Monument Association sponsor a series of Walks and Talks programs at the Monument. This year we have an exceptional selection of programs on a variety of topics ranging from astronomy to birding to native plants. You can enjoy a concert by the Grand Junction Centennial Band or attend a poetry writing workshop. More information about these programs can be found on the CNMA’s website at coloradonma.org, on our Facebook page, or by calling 858-3617 ext. 300.
Of course you don’t have to join a scheduled event to enjoy Colorado National Monument. You’re welcome every day! Admission to the monument is $10 per vehicle, but if you visit any time between April 21 and April 29, admission fees will be waived in honor of National Parks Week. The Visitor Center is open each day from 9 AM to 5 PM, and the opening hours will extend to 6 PM in late May. Visitors can enjoy the 12-minute slide programs, wander through the new museum exhibits, and browse in the retail store. The store offers books, maps, postcards, t-shirts, hats, and other unique items related to the natural history of the area. The Visitor Center is also the place to obtain information about exploring the Monument. The staff and volunteers are always happy to answer questions about the area and about hiking, camping, and other activities in the Monument.
Hiking a trail is one of the best ways to appreciate the majestic beauty of the Colorado National Monument. There are a variety of short walks and longer backcountry trails, ranging from short, flat trails along the canyon rim, to rigorous treks up and down the canyons.
One of the most popular short hikes is along Otto’s Trail, just a short distance from the Visitor Center. Otto’s Trail is a gently sloping trail that leads to an overlook with dramatic views of several sandstone monoliths. The overlook is a great place for taking photographs. Otto’s Trail is one-half mile each way. Another popular short trail is Canyon Rim Trail. It starts right outside the back door of the Visitor Center and follows the cliff edge for ½ mile above spectacular Wedding Canyon. If you want to learn about the natural history of the area, then head for the Alcove Nature Trail, just across the road from the Visitor Center. This is a self-guided nature trail, with stops along the way to point out geologic formations, plants, and animals of the monument.
If you have a few hours to spare, then take the time to explore one of the longer trails. Monument Canyon Trail leads into Monument Canyon, where many of the monument’s spectacular rock monoliths – including Independence Monument, Kissing Couple, and the Coke Ovens tower overhead. Monument Canyon Trail is six miles in each direction and may be entered from either the top or bottom of the canyon. Another hike popular with local residents is Serpents Trail. Called the “Crookedest Trail in the World,” historic Serpents Trail has more than 50 switchbacks. Serpents Trail was one of the original trails designed by John Otto in the early 20th century, and is popular today with local joggers and walkers.
If you are feeling even more adventurous, try No Thoroughfare or Ute Canyon Trail. These are long, undeveloped trails through steep-walled canyons and are perfect for anyone wanting to experience the remote backcountry.
If you decide to take a hike, make sure you pack your lunch, wear good hiking shoes, and bring plenty of water. Wherever you go in the Colorado National Monument, come prepared and you will have a great time – in your own backyard. Whether you want to hike a trail, enjoy a picnic lunch, or enjoy a leisurely drive enjoying the scenery, spring is the perfect time to explore Colorado National Monument.