Traveling solo can sometimes be lonely. The isolation alone causes many to give up. It is one of the reasons I travel with my dogs. Although I may not have a human companion, I do have two furry friends who love adventure as much as I do. They help push through the feeling of loneliness, as well as giving me someone to talk to. Granted I look like a crazy person driving around talking to my dogs, but we all have our quarks.
While at the Colorado National Monument visitors center I was reading about another fellow lone wolf, John Otto. Otto discovered, developed and made the Colorado National Monument into what it is today. As I learned about his personal life I admired his determination to live such a lifestyle. As I read more my over-stimulated romantic comedy movie loving mind fell victim to the hope all romcoms give us. My heart pitter-pattered a few more beats as I read about Otto getting married. I thought to myself there really is someone out there for everyone. A man who lived most of his life alone in a park, building trails found love. Then I read the next sentence. His wife could not deal with the recluse lifestyle and left a few weeks after their wedding.
So there’s that…..
After finishing up at the visitors center of heartbreak I moved on to the Historic Rim Rock Drive. This is really the only option if you are traveling with pets as there are no dog-friendly trails in the park. If you are not traveling with pets, or have placed them in a kennel for the day, there are 14 hiking trails within the park ranging from 0.5 (0.8 km) to 14 miles (22.5 km).
The Historic Rim Rock Drive is a 23 mile (37 km) road leading you through the park with 19 different viewpoints. The National Park Service suggests allowing for 1 hour of driving time. I recommend at least 2 hours. This will afford you plenty of time at the different viewpoints to admire the beauty as well as take your photos without feeling rushed. The speed limit is 25 mph (40 kph) so only allowing an hour will not give you much extra time. It is important to note that there are also three tunnels along the Rim Rock Drive. All are double lane, but if height is a concern the lowest clearance height is 11′ 5” (3.5 m) with a maximum of 16′ 1” (4.8 m), but you must drive down the center of the tunnels to achieve maximum height.
Colorado National Monument reminded me a lot of one of my favorite Utah National Parks, Zion. Like Zion, Colorado National Monument’s rich red/orange sandstone colors contrasted against the deep green junipers trees and sage brush. On the day we visited it was overcast and the dark clouds added a bit of dramatic flare to the contrast.
Many of the 19 stops along the Rim Rock Drive had interpretive signs outlining the different geological and historical aspects of the park. The park’s canyons are ever changing due to the elements. Wind, rain, and snow all craft the sandstone rocks to form the canyons.
I believe the most impressive part of the 23-mile drive is the southeast entrance following the hilly climb to Cold Shivers Point. The Rim Rock Drive began construction in 1931 and was completed by 1950. This was not the original trail put in by Otto, however. In 1911 Otto constructed the first road through Colorado National Monument. Although it was later replaced with the current road, Otto’s efforts did not fall by the wayside. The original road was renamed to Serpents Trail. The hike gives you a nice 3.5 mile round trip (5.6 km) along the historic road with an almost 800-foot elevation gain (243 m).
At the east entrance, the road zig-zags up the mountain side giving you jaw-dropping views while doing a good job of hiding the city of Grand Junction below. I found the town more visible from the west end of the park. It kind of deterred from the solitude that national parks and monuments usually have.
And while this national monument is near a larger town it did not keep us from seeing wildlife. A herd of Big Horn Sheep was munching on foliage while we were leaving the park.
Colorado National Monument is located near Grand Junction Colorado. There are two entrances, the west, closer to Fruita Colorado or the east, closer to Grand Junction. The visitors center is located near the west entrance. Entrance fees do apply, however, if you have the America The Beautiful Pass this park is included with your pass fee.
Speaking of the America The Beautiful Pass, it is a nice benefit while visiting the National Parks and Monuments. The pass helps support the parks, which is needed now more than ever and saves you money with park fees. The pass is just $80 USD, allowing entrance to most parks for the one time fee for a year. Visit three parks in one year and the pass will pay for itself. Another bonus about the pass is that it is active from the month of purchase to the same month of the following year. So if you buy the pass in April it will be good until April of the following year.