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East Monument Canyon is located towards the west end of the Colorado National Monument and travels along the East side of the canyon and along the base of Monument Mesa.
East Monument Canyon utilizes the same trail head as the Goldstar trail and the Goldstar to Monument Canyon trail. To access the trailhead from the intersection of Redlands Parkway and Broadway in Grand Junction, follow Redlands Parkway south until it turns into South Broadway. Continue following South Broadway as it passes Riggs Hill on your right and the Wildwood trailhead for Liberty Cap on your left. The road will wind its way around and South Broadway will actually turn left at a “T” in the road, be sure to turn here and continue following it until you see the small break in the Monument boundary fence just off the road on your left. The total distance from the intersection to the trailhead is about 4 miles.
There are two options you can do if you take this trail. Option one is to head straight for the Precambrian granite bench in front of you and follow the Goldstar to Monument Canyon trail, although that is a very nice hike, I didn’t feel like climbing the steep section of the bench so I turned right shortly after going through the fence and followed the fence line along the bottom then turned left and climbed up to the canyon on the east side. You need to make sure you turn left and climb up between the large sinking ship looking sandstone mountain and Goldstar Canyon, otherwise the trail continues traveling along the base of the mesa and ends up I don’t know where.
Once you reach the top of the bench you will come to a few rock cairns placed all around a little area. At this point you will want to turn right on a very faint trail and follow it as it wraps it’s way around the foot of Monument Mesa and begins going up Monument Canyon.
Within a short distance you will see Mushroom Rock higher up on your left and Independence Monument in the distance. If you look to your right across the canyon you can see the official Monument Canyon trail snaking its way up the side of the canyon. The trail itself appears to come and go. There are many places that you can see where it was actually created and maintained many years ago but is now no longer taken care of. I’m thinking that this trail is one of John Ottos original trails that he built over a hundred years ago. Luckily for me there was a kind soul or small group that has placed quite a few cairns along the trail that really helped pick the best route to take. Whoever it was did an excellent job, but there are still many areas that you can stray from the trail and find yourself at the top of a ravine or out in the middle of the trees.
As you round the foot of the mesa and begin going deeper into Monument Canyon the trail pretty much straightens out and follows along about where the Precambrian granite and the sandstone meet up. As you travel along you can look across the canyon and see Independence Monument of course, Kissing couple, Cleopatras Couch and the Coke Ovens all from across the canyon. After about a quarter mile or so into the main part of the canyon you will see a large square shape rock on your right. There is an old photo in a book called “John Otto, Trials and Trails” written by Alan J. Kania, and in the photo there is a bison standing in front of this rock and Independence Monument in the background. The photo is on page 317 in the copy of the book I have. If you are interested in the Colorado National Monument or more specific, John Otto, this is a spectacular book to read.
As I continued along the trail and came over a small knoll, just on the other side of the ravine were two of the largest bucks I have ever seen. The bigger of the two was showing the other one who was in charge by shaking its head and lunging towards it. There were a number of doe’s scattered throughout the trees as well. The wind was blowing in my face and I was trying not to make any noise so they didn’t smell or hear me for a while. I stood and watched them strolling around for a good ten minutes until the smaller of the two bucks started walking my way and I figured I’d better make some noise so they would see me.
I continued following the trail up the canyon until the time made me turn around and head back. Since I left a little later than usual I only made it up the canyon as far as the Coke Ovens. The trail appeared to continue up the east side of the canyon. My future plans are to continue on the trail and see where it goes but that will most likely have to wait until next summer when the days are longer and I can leave earlier in the morning.
The return trip back was pretty uneventful other than trying to beat the storm that was rolling in from Glade Park, only to walk into the storm that was dropping snow from the Fruita area. Overall I really liked this trail, I can almost guarantee you will not run across another person and the primitive nature of the trail and the peace and quiet really gives you the “getting back to nature” feeling.