Grand View, Colorado National Monument, Grand Junction, Colorado

A Guide to Rim Rock Drive
in Colorado National Monument

A Guide to Rim Rock Drive in Colorado National Monument was originally published in May 2024

If you do only one thing in Colorado National Monument, it must be the scenic Rim Rock Drive. Even those short on time can get a great feel for what the monument has to offer by making a quick sightseeing ride along Rim Rock Drive.

This scenic 23-mile route weaves from Fruita to Grand Junction, offering breathtaking views, wildlife encounters, thrilling hikes, and boundless adventure along its high canyon rims. With over a dozen trailheads and scenic overlooks, every twist and turn along Rim Rock Drive promises beauty and adventure.

Why Take a Ride on Rim Rock Drive?

Desert Big Horn Sheep, Colorado National Monument, Grand Junction, Colorado

Rim Rock Drive cuts across Colorado National Monument from Grand Junction in the east to Fruita in the west offering a fast-track view of all the landscapes and sceneries that Colorado National Monument has to deliver.

The beauty of the Rim Rock Drive is that it makes the national monument accessible to all, even those that have mobility issues. The iconic road also connects many of Colorado National Monument’s best scenic stops, hiking trails, and backcountry treks.

As you meander your way along Rim Rock Drive, you’ll find yourself at times right at the cliff’s edge with a bird’s eye view into the canyons below. It’s also not unusual to find Big Horn Sheep grazing along the road. In fact, on two separate visits, I ran into the sheep peacefully snacking on brush near the Coke Ovens Overlook.

Where to Stay in Colorado National Monument & Nearby Grand Junction

Of course, those with camping gear, RVs, or camper vans can opt to stay in the Saddlehorn Campground within Colorado National Monument, but those who don’t come with intent to camp can find an array of places to stay over in nearby Grand Junction

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Important Info Before Taking on Rim Rock Drive

  • Colorado National Monument charges a $25 entry fee per vehicle. However, if you possess a national parks annual pass, admission to Colorado National Monument is included.
  • There are no gas stations inside of Colorado National Monument. Make sure to fuel up in either Fruita or Grand Junction before heading out on Rim Rock Drive.
  • Saddlehorn Campground, located near the visitor center, is the sole campground within Colorado National Monument.
  • For visitors with dogs, please note that hiking trails within Colorado National Monument are not pet-friendly.
  • Before planning your visit, it’s crucial to check the weather forecast for Colorado National Monument. Flash floods can occur and pose significant risks to visitors.

Scenic Stops Along Rim Rock Drive

The Colorado National Monument Sign

Colorado National Monument Sign, Colorado National Monument, Grand Junction, Colorado

As you enter the national monument (from either the Fruita or the Grand Junction side of the park), you’ll be greeted by the National Park Service sign.

Balanced Rock View

Balanced Rock View, Colorado National Monument, Grand Junction, Colorado

Make sure to pause and marvel at the colossal gravity-defying 600-ton Wingate sandstone rock, precariously perched above Rim Rock Drive.

Who knows when this geological marvel might succumb to erosion? For now, it stands as one of Colorado National Monument’s most captivating sights.

Historic Trails View

High above Grand Valley and the meandering Colorado River, the Historic Trails Overlook offers more than just panoramic vistas. Delve into history and uncover the fascinating narrative of the Fruita Dugway, a historical trail dating back to 1907.

Take a moment to absorb the interpretative board’s stories, revealing the journeys of early ranchers who relied on this trail to guide their cattle through the monument. It’s a window into a time when rugged paths and wild landscapes defined the captivating history of this remarkable region.

Grand Valley Overlook & Distant View

From this modest pull-off, marvel at the vastness of Grand Valley stretching endlessly into the horizon. 

Fruita Canyon View

Rim Rock Road, Fruita Canyon View, Colorado National Monument, Grand Junction, Colorado

Fruita Canyon View offers a breathtaking panorama within Colorado National Monument. Witness Rim Rock Road winding through Fruita Canyon below, tracing its remarkable engineering feat as it meanders up above Fruita Canyon from where you stand.

Saddlehorn Picnic Area and Campground

Saddlehorn Picnic Area is a perfect spot to enjoy a picturesque lunch with views of Colorado National Monument.

Nearby, the Saddlehorn Campground is the park’s only camping area with 80 sites.

Colorado National Monument Visitor Center

Constructed by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), the Visitor Center at Colorado National Monument offers interactive exhibits, an auditorium, audio guides, a bookstore, a gift shop, and restroom facilities.

From the Visitor Center, start your journey along the Canyon Rim Trail. Just across Rim Rock Drive, you’ll find the trailhead for the Alcove Nature Trail.

Independence Monument View

Named by the pioneering spirit of John Otto, Independence Monument stands as the crown jewel of Colorado National Monument’s grandeur, a must-see along Rim Rock Drive. 

Otto, the park’s first advocate and ranger, immortalized this towering monolith with a name that resonates freedom’s spirit.

Every 4th of July, climbers scale Independence Monument to unfurl the American flag, continuing Otto’s tradition from years past.

Grand View

Grand View, Colorado National Monument, Grand Junction, Colorado

Perched above Monument Canyon and the iconic Independence Monument, Grand View boasts an unrivaled panorama of Colorado National Monument’s splendor along Rim Rock Drive.

Easily reached via a short walk from the parking area, Grand View sits majestically atop cliffs, offering a stunning 300-foot elevation over Monument Canyon.

Monument Canyon View Overlook

Monument Canyon View Overlook provides an excellent vantage point to admire the meandering paths of the Monument Canyon Trail, inviting adventurers to explore its twists and turns.

While the view offers a new angle on the canyon’s rugged allure, you may notice similarities to previous stops along Rim Rock Drive.

Coke Ovens Overlook

Coke Ovens View, Colorado National Monument, Grand Junction, Colorado

Featuring distinctive rock formations, Coke Ovens View Overlook domed boulders resemble beehives, shaped by erosion over millennia. 

These geological marvels dubbed the “ovens,” mirror the appearance of coal production ovens, inspiring their name.

For a closer encounter with these intriguing formations, embark on the Coke Ovens Trail.

Artist’s Point of View

Named for its vibrant display of colorful rock formations, Artist’s Point View showcases hues crafted over millennia along Rim Rock Drive.

A highlight of Artist’s Point View is the striking contrast between the red and black layers of the Morrison Formation, creating a vivid tableau set against the backdrop of the majestic canyon.

Highlands View

Standing at the pinnacle of Colorado National Monument, Highlands View is the highest point along Rim Rock Drive, providing monumental vistas over Monument Canyon, Book Cliffs, and Roan Cliffs.

Upper Ute Canyon View

Ute Canyon View, Colorado National Monument, Grand Junction, Colorado

Ute Canyon pays homage to the Ute tribe, reflecting the historical presence of the American Ute Tribe in the region where Colorado National Monument now resides. Upper Ute Canyon View offers steep cliffside vistas over the canyon below.

Fallen Rock Overlook

Monument Canyon View, Colorado National Monument, Grand Junction, Colorado

Another intriguing feature within Colorado National Monument can be witnessed from Fallen Rock Overlook. Its name derives from a cliff segment that broke off and now rests, detached, at the overlook.

Ute Canyon Overlook View

Hailed by many as one of the most spectacular vistas in Colorado National Monument, the Ute Canyon Overlook View is a must-see along Rim Rock Drive. 

Two rock arches are etched into the rugged façade of the Wingate sandstone cliff of Ute Canyon.

Red Canyon Overlook

A geological marvel, Red Canyon is a fusion of two distinct canyons gracefully intertwining to form a U-shaped wonder. Referred to as a hanging canyon, its creation stems from the dramatic uplift of the Colorado Plateau.

Cold Shivers Point Overlook

Cold Shivers Overlook, Colorado National Monument, Grand Junction, Colorado

Perched on the edge of Columbus Canyon, Cold Shivers Point Overlook commands dramatic views from a 300-foot cliff.

Devil’s Kitchen Picnic Area & Trailhead

Devil's Kitchen, Colorado National Monument, Grand Junction, Colorado-2

The Devil’s Kitchen, a natural arena of rock spires carved by millennia of erosion and geological forces, unveils a maze of towering sandstone and precarious rock formations.

For those with limited time to explore the scattered hikes from the picnic area, the overlook provides a lovely vantage point of the surrounding area.

The Devil’s Kitchen Picnic Area marks the trailheads for several hikes, including the Devil’s Kitchen Trail, No Thoroughfare Canyon Trail, and Old Gordon Trail. 

Additional parking is available across Rim Rock Road, as the Devil’s Kitchen lot is small and also serves as a trailhead for the Serpent’s Trail.

Hikes Along Rim Rock Drive

Window Rock

0.5 miles roundtrip | 15 minutes

Colorado National Monument and its environs host the world’s second-highest concentration of rock arches, following closely behind Arches National Park just across the border in Utah.

Starting from Saddlehorn Campground, this brief hike offers vistas of the appropriately named Window Rock.

Canyon Rim Trail

1 mile roundtrip | 30 minutes

Starting from the Saddlehorn Visitor Center, the Canyon Rim Trail presents a brief yet delightful stroll with exceptional vistas overlooking Wedding Canyon.

Alcove Nature Trail

1 mile roundtrip | 30 minutes

Cross Rim Rock Drive from the Saddlehorn Visitor Center to discover the Alcove Nature Trail. This straightforward path leads to a box canyon alcove, offering an accessible and enjoyable walk.

Otto’s Trail

1 mile roundtrip | 30 minutes

For a diverse hiking experience encapsulating various landscapes within Colorado National Monument in a short span, choose Otto’s Trail Hike. This one-mile trek unveils scenic wonders including Independence Monument, Praying Hands, Pipe Organ, and Sentinel Spire.

Coke Ovens Trail

Coke Ovens Overlook, Colorado National Monument, Grand Junction, Colorado

1 mile roundtrip | 30 minutes

A beloved choice among visitors, the Coke Ovens Trail offers stunning views of the renowned and quirky beehive rock formations in Colorado National Monument.

CCC Trail

1.5 mile roundtrip | 45 minutes

Constructed and named in honor of the Civilian Conservation Corps workers, the CCC Trail presents a rewarding challenge, ascending mostly uphill for 0.75 miles. For those seeking a longer trek, the CCC Trail conveniently links with the Black Ridge Trail.

Devils Kitchen Trail

Devil's Kitchen Trail, Colorado National Monument, Grand Junction, Colorado

1.5 mile roundtrip | 45 minutes

Another beloved hiking destination within Colorado National Monument is Devil’s Kitchen. The trailhead originates from the Devil’s Kitchen Picnic area located at the eastern terminus of Rim Rock Drive. The hike concludes at a cluster of striking red rock spires.

Old Gordon Trail

8 miles roundtrip | 4 hours

Old Gordon Trail ascends gradually along an old route once used for lumber and cattle. The trailhead for Old Gordon Trail is situated at the Devil’s Kitchen Picnic Area.

Serpents Trail

3.5 miles roundtrip | 2 hours

Originally a footpath crafted by John Otto, Serpents Trail has evolved into a treasured hiking route within Colorado National Monument. The trailhead for Serpents Trail is located just across Rim Rock Drive from the Devil’s Kitchen Picnic area.

Backcountry Hiking Trails on Rim Rock Drive

Black Ridge Trail

11 miles roundtrip | 4 hours 30 minutes

Beginning at an elevation of 5,790 feet above sea level, Black Ridge Trail stands as the highest hiking route within Colorado National Monument. Peaking at 6,730 feet, its summit presents a breathtaking panorama extending into Utah to the west and Colorado’s San Juan Mountains to the south.

Monument Canyon Trail

Monument Canyon View, Colorado National Monument, Grand Junction, Colorado

12 miles roundtrip | 5 hours

Monument Canyon Trail offers a challenging descent from Rim Rock Drive to the floor of Monument Canyon within Colorado National Monument.

Along the way, hikers encounter some of the park’s most iconic landmarks, including Independence Monument, the Kissing Couple, and the Coke Ovens.

Liberty Cap Trail

14 miles roundtrip | 6 hours

The Liberty Cap Trail presents a considerable challenge with a steep two-mile ascent from the floor of the Grand Valley, starting at 4,800 feet, to the summit of Liberty Cap at 6,550 feet.

Ute Canyon Trail

14 miles roundtrip | 5 hours

Ute Canyon Trail, another steep path in Colorado National Monument, winds its way down into Ute Canyon along a rugged route.

No Thoroughfare Canyon Trail

17 miles roundtrip | 9 hours

For those seeking a day-long adventure, the No Thoroughfare Canyon Trail offers an ideal challenge. This backcountry hike in Colorado National Monument remains unmaintained beyond the second waterfall.

Have Any Questions About Rim Rock Drive?

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