On my recent trip to Grand Junction, my dad and I escaped the city for a day exploring the nearby Colorado National Monument. The cliffs, canyons, sagebrush, and cottonwoods were a welcome sight and smell, and the invigorating hike was beautiful.
The Monument is bisected by the 23 mile Rim Rock Drive, winding through the canyons and giving access to the various scenic view points and trailheads. Hiking opportunities range from short jaunts from the car to long 14 mile backcountry trails.
We drove in from the east entrance, nearest to Grand Junction, and chose to hike the Ute Trail. It begins right off Rim Rock Drive with a steep descent into the canyon (the hiking brochure called it “rigorous,” and it told the truth), then levels out and follows a small stream in the valley. Cottonwood trees grow in clusters near the water, offering a shady respite from the desert sun.
May seemed to be the perfect time to hike for a stunning wildflower show, all over the canyon: lupine, cactus blooms, scarlet trumpets, and a small yellow flower called Hyalineherb. (I had to look it up).
We followed the trail out for a few miles, then turned around and headed back (that rigorous descent was even tougher on the way up!). The little one came with, and loved twisting her head around to look at all the trees-clouds-flowers-rocks. She eventually took a little nap in the Ergo carrier, and we headed back so she didn’t get too overheated. The sun was good for us. I started chatting with one hiker, who asked where I was from. When I said Oregon, he said, “Oh, that’s why you’re so pale.” Yes. Thank you.
If You Go:
You'll need a car. And some sturdy shoes for hiking. Don't forget water, and protection from the sun.
There are two entrances, west, near Fruita, and east, near Grand Junction. The Visitor Center is closest to the west entrance. Check out more details here!