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Wedding Canyon is the canyon that is right below the visitors center on the Colorado National Monument. There really isn’t an official trail for this canyon, but there is a fairly nice trail you can follow. This trail shares the same trail head as the Monument Canyon Trail.
I decided to hike up Wedding Canyon this week to see what it is like in the winter time. The trail has not changed, the only difference is that the snow made it a little more difficult to travel on and the temperature was quite a bit cooler then it was on 8/9/2010 the last time I hiked the canyon. This is probably on of my favorite hikes I have done. The following description and pictures are from my 8/9/2010 hike and the video you can watch by following the Virtual Hike link above is from my 1/17/2011 hike.
If you follow the Monument Canyon trail up until it makes its first slight turn to the left there is a faint trail that leads off to the right. There are other trails that lead off to the right shortly after this one as well but I’m not sure if they all lead to the same area. As you follow the trail it will come to a fairly steep section that drops off the little mesa section and travels across an open expanse. Once the trail leaves the open area you come to a large sandstone hill. At this point there is a trail that branches off to the right and leads right up to the sandstone. It looks like a person could climb up on top of the sandstone at this spot, it is a little steep but possible. Getting down the other side would be a little difficult. I decided to stay to the left and follow the trail around the sandstone.
From this point the trail follows the monuments boundary fence up until you get to the mouth of Wedding Canyon. When I started out on this trek my purpose was to find a path up the right side or west side of the canyon and follow the cliff up and around then below the visitors center and then below Independence Monument and back down the left side or east side of the canyon and back to the trail head. Needless to say I could not find a path up that side of the canyon. There is a trail that goes across the canyon but it appeared to climb up and out of Wedding Canyon and towards Lizard Canyon or Fruita Canyon.
After exploring the mouth of the canyon I went back to where the trail split and headed up the left hand branch. The trail starts out some what level but begins ascending in short order. There are basically two fairly steep sections that turned out to be quite strenuous. I’m not sure if it was really all that steep or if I was just tired that day but it took most of what I had to keep going up. Once you get past the second steep section the trail levels out with the occasional up and down.
The trail eventually connects with the Monument Canyon Trail at the base of Independence Monument. Approximately 100 feet or so before you get to Declaration Rock there is a very faint trail that branches off to the right. I took this trail in hopes of finding a path around the base of the Pipe Organs and up into the little side canyon below the visitors center.
As I started out on the trail I was rewarded with an incredible experience. Two big horn rams came running over the little ridge chasing a ewe. They ran right towards me and turned about 30 feet in front of me. The rams would occasionally stop and head butt each other, it was so loud, it sounded like gun shots. After that little incident I climbed up on the ridge only to be in the path of another large ram. I turned around to give him room to pass and there was a herd of four other ewes behind me. I decided to go down the other side of the ridge to prevent frightening them all. As I got to the bottom the herd of four ran over to the ram and right behind where they were standing a coyote slinked over the hill following them. I watched the small herd for a while as they ran towards the cliff and climbed their way to safety on a high ledge.
After the sheep experience I continued my search for a route down the west side of Wedding Canyon. I followed an off and on game trail around the base of the cliff but eventually ran out of time before I could find a suitable path and decided to turn back and just follow the Monument Canyon trail back to the trail head. On the way back to the trail I did run across a very faint path that was occasionally marked with cairns, so I know there is a way to get in that direction. Just one more reason to return to the area.
Once back on the Monument Canyon trail the return trip was un-eventful but a very nice hike down. I did not see another person while I was on the Wedding Canyon portion of the trail but once I got on the Monument Canyon trail I past five or six groups of people on their way up.
This was probably the best hike I’ve been on yet. Even prior to the big horn sheep experience I was thinking how nice the trail was and the sheep just added to the experience. The canyon will definitely be getting explored a little more by me in the future.