The Island – (Colorado National Monument)Date: 7/12/2010
Miles: Approx. 3.5 Miles Round Trip
Trailhead GPS Coordinates: 39° 6’31.52″N, 108°42’4.85″W
View TheIsland-CNM in a larger map
The Island is located on the western end of the Colorado National Monument. If you have ever been to the visitors’ center on the monument, The Island is directly east and is the small mesa or plateau that separates Monument Canyon and Wedding Canyon.
Access to The Island is via the Lower Monument Canyon trailhead. To get to the 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.
The beginning of the hike is fairly insignificant, the trail follows the Monuments boundary fence for approximately 3/4 of a mile. At the end of the 3/4 mile the trail turns and begins its ascent into Monument Canyon. There is a register box that you can register, it’s not required but is generally a good idea.
Before you begin climbing the mesa if you look on the left hand side of the trail you will see a faint trail leading off to your left. If you follow this trail, across the normally dry creek bed and stay on the portion of the trail that heads towards the small cliff area you will be rewarded with a small panel of petroglyphs. There is also a couple examples of rock art directly in front of the register box as well. This small rock art example is questionable but I believe it it authentic.
The easiest route I found to begin the ascent to the top is to leave the Monument Canyon Trail at the register box and head to your right. There is a very faint trail you can follow for a very short distance. If you follow the cliff face up for about 100 yards you will come to an old fence and some pipes hammered into the sandstone. Anywhere along this point is ok to get up and over the ledge.
There really isn’t a trail to follow, you basically have to pick your own route up and down. I found if you stay to the left going up and follow the cliff edge there is a section where the sandstone goes into the ground, this allowed for a little easier climbing. About a 1/4 of the way up you might come to a section that looks all broken up with some fairly large sandstone pieces jutting up and mixed around. We went to the right and worked our way this little obstacle then worked our way back towards the cliff edge.
I listed this outing as “strenuous” because for one it is very uphill practically the whole way with some fairly long steep sections and two, like I said earlier there really is no trail to follow so that makes things a lot easier going. There are some sections where there are some very faint game trails that make things a little easier going occasionally. As you get over the halfway point, if you remain to the left and follow the cliff edge somewhat you will run across some rock cairns sporadically setup that will show you some of the easier routes to take.
Once on top the mesa does actually level out and offers some amazing views into wedding canyon, the Fruita area and across the canyon at the visitors center. From here there is really only two ways you can go, back the way you came or forward. We chose to go forward and try to get some closer views of Independence Monument. It is easy going until you get almost to the end of the mesa. There is one last obstacle you have to get around in order to get a look at Independence Monument. There is a sandstone ledge that is about ten feet high. You have a couple options at this point. You can either bear to the left and skirt around the ledge but the area you would have to walk across is a pretty narrow path between the cliff that’s close to 500 feet down and a tall cliff face on your right. The right side of the ledge is just as bad. I debated on turning around at this point because I generally err on the very cautious side. I really wanted to get a good view of Independence Monument so I chose to climb right the middle of the ledge. There is a small dead tree at the bottom of the ledge that will indicate where I climbed up and some very rounded ledges that made it easier to scramble over.
Once over this last obstacle you are a little bit higher then Independence Monument so you can see most of the top of it. You can also see all the way up Monument Canyon past Kissing Couple, Cleopatras Couch, Squaw Fingers and clear up to where the Liberty Cap trail overlooks Monument Canyon. With binoculars you can also see the area where Ottos Bath Tub is if you know where to look.
The trip back down took us about as long as going up. A little over two hours both ways for a total of around 4 1/5 to 5 hours. You have the option of trying to go down the same way you came up or finding an alternate route down. We tried following the same route down we took coming up but were very lucky if we seen our old tracks. Going down was pretty hard on the knees as there was quite a bit a sandstone areas to walk down.
Overall this was a really nice hike. The views of course were exquisite and it gave me a pretty good workout. There was tons of what we thought was bobcat or maybe small mountain lion tracks all over the area, so you might want to keep your eyes open if you go. Unfortunately we did not see any of the bighorn sheep that occupy this area. Basically the only wildlife we seen were plenty of lizards of course, a couple falcons that were fighting and a baby bunny. If you like hiking where hardly anyone else goes, this would be a good place for you.