Monument CanyonDate: 6/21/2010
Miles: Approx. 6 Miles one way
Lower Trail head GPS Coordinates: 39° 6’31.55″N, 108°42’4.90″W
Upper Trail head GPS Coordinates: 39° 4’40.80″N, 108°43’39.36″W
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Monument Canyon trail is one of the premiere trails located in the Colorado National Monument. There are two trailheads to this trail, the upper trailhead and the lower trailhead. To access the upper trailhead from Grand Junction, travel west on I-70 to the Fruita exit. Turn left and travel about 2.5 miles to Rimrock Drive and turn right. There is also signs indicating Colorado National Monument. You will need to pay a park fee to enter the National Monument which costs $15, or you can get an annual pass for $40. Once inside the park, travel approximately eight more miles to the trail head. The trail head is on the left hand side with a very small parking area.
To get to the lower trailhead from 1st and Grand in Grand Junction you will need to head west on Broadway for approximately 8 1/4 miles. Shortly after Deer Run subdivision you will see a small gravel road that turns off to the left. The road actually looks like it is some ones driveway. Please be considerate when driving down to the parking area, driving slowly will allow you to watch for children and also keep the dust to a minimum. There is a sign that was buried in the bushes indicating this is the Monument Canyon Trail. Plan on giving yourself at least four hours to enjoy this trail, although it would be very easy to spend the entire day. The trail is a six mile hike one way and is considered moderate. Depending on how ambitious you are and your situation you can do one of two things, you can have someone drop you off at either trailhead and pick you up at whichever end, or if there is room, park at the little pull off at the upper trailhead and hike down and back up. If you choose the latter, you should probably plan on a full day. Most people begin at the lower trailhead and hike the three miles up to Independance Monument then turn around there and head back to the parking area. My favorite route is to start at the upper trailhead and hike to the lower then have someone give me a ride back to the top. This post explains the upper trailhead option.
The trail immediately starts to drop off into the canyon along the cliff edge. This portion of the trail is probably where the “moderate” rating comes from especially if you go down and back up. The climb from the top to the bottom is about a 600 foot drop, once you reach the bottom of the cliff the trail levels off and is fairly smooth with mild up and down portions. The hike along the bottom of the canyon is unique in its own way as it gives you a different perspective of all the formations compared to driving the top along Rimrock Drive. As you walk along the bottom you pass by the Coke Ovens and almost right under Kissing Couple and can stop at the base of Independence Monument. If you look closely at Independence Monument you can see the holes carved in it that John Otto used to climb the huge rock which he did every year and planted an American flag at the top. To the southeast of the monument there is a huge flat top boulder that John Otto’s wife began carving the last sentence of the Declaration of Independence on. John Otto was the principle founder of the Colorado National Monument and was designated the parks first superintendent in 1911.
As you head down the rest of the trail there are numerous sights to see, one which is called Frog Rock that looks like a huge frog with its mouth open. Be sure to keep an eye out for bighorn sheep because they are known to frequent this area of the monument. As you get closer to the end of the trail there is a large slick rock area that is great for a rest and snack. Once past the slickrock area the trail soon begins to follow the Monuments boundary fence that runs along a subdivision. Shortly after the subdivision is the end of the trail.