Colorado National Monument and Park in Grand Junction, CO is one of the state’s most spectacular hidden gems. On the eastern edge of the Colorado Plateau, the terrain and climate are unlike anywhere else in the state. Here, majestic red rock canyons shoot up from the desert valley and offer views that will take your breath away.
We explored the park on our own after missing a guided Ranger Hike. Upside: enjoyed mother-daughter bonding time and hiked at our own pace.
My six-year-old daughter, Reagan and I picked up an activity guide from the visitor center and began our search for local plants there at the visitor’s center before heading out on the trail. The guide has activities geared towards children of all ages. Reagan had fun, coloring, circling and drawing out her answers, which took all of an hour or so to complete.
Taking the Junior Ranger oath was a proud moment for both mother and daughter. I’d say we both earned it.
Went for a Drive
If you’re not up for a hike you can cruise historic Rim Rock Drive and stop at any of 19 overlooks along 23 miles of road. After our hike we made the drive back to downtown Grand Junction via Rim Rock Drive and happened across a Ranger talk along the way.
Learned from a Ranger
Talk to or walk with a ranger at scheduled times throughout the park to learn more about how the canyons were shaped, indigenous plants and wildlife in the area, how the roads and tunnels were built to bring visitors to the park and about the park’s early founder, John Otto.
Backpackers are welcome to spend the night wherever they decide to make camp with a backcountry permit available at the visitor center. For those who prefer campgrounds, Saddlehorn Campground is available for a camping fee of $20/night.
Even for Reagan, who normally complains about walking anywhere, our time at Colorado National Monument seemed to fly by. She loved the unique scenery we were greeted with at every turn of our hike, as well as spotting wildlife from her activity guide along the way.
I’m looking forward to seeing more of the park by bike next time and camping at Saddlehorn for the full experience!