Instructions: Click on the areas marked on the map to explore points of interest at Colororado National Monument.
The Redlands view provides us with an up-close look at the Redlands Fault. The Redlands fault runs along the Northern boundary of the Monument. This fault forms a “Hogback” where about 2 million years ago tremendous forces began to uplift the area south of the fault, eventually pushing it upwards of 2000 feet above the valley floor.
The relentless forces of erosion have sculpted this 600 ton balanced rock out of the solid Wingate sandstone. Today, it sits high on its pedestal defying the force of gravity and keeping watch over the Bighorn sheep that frequent its looming shadow. Bighorn sheep can often be seen grazing on the native shrubs and grasses and expertly negotiating the steep rocky terrain.
Book Cliffs View Shelter
The Book Cliffs View Shelter offers one of the most breathtaking views the Colorado National Monument has to offer. The Shelter was built by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) and is registered as an historical building. The shelter is often used for small wedding ceremonies and also for ranger programs.
The Visitor Center at Colorado National Monument has many interactive displays as well as an auditorium and audio guide. The Visitor Center is another historical building built by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC). The Colorado National Monument Association raises funds for education and scientific research through their bookstore located inside the Visitor Center.
Independence monument is the quintessential formation in the Colorado National Monument. Named by John Otto, the first ranger at COLM, he also started the annual tradition of raising the American flag at the top of the monolith every 4th of July, a tradition now carried on by Mesa County Search & Rescue. Independence monument is also climbed by hundreds of recreational climbers each year.
Grand view provides a panoramic view of the Grand Valley below. Peregrine falcons can often be seen nesting and diving along the steep canyon walls. White throated swifts and violet-green swallows can also be seen swooping and diving for insects while their laughter like calls echo in the canyons. These aerial acrobats may even whiz right over your head as you stand enjoying the view.
The Coke Ovens are not actually ovens at all. They are rocks that resemble the stone ovens that early settlers used to transform wood and coal into charcoal and coke. These formations owe their beehive appearance to the loss of their hard Kayenta capstones. After the Kayenta layer was eroded, the softer Wingate sandstone was sculpted into the rounded domes that we now call the Coke Ovens.
The Civilian Conservation Corps, known as the CCC, built Rim Rock Drive. They had four campsites in the Colorado National Monument from 1931- 1950. Their first camp, NM-1-C was located at what is now the Coke Ovens. The CCC trail connects the Black Ridge trail with the Upper Monument Canyon and the Coke Ovens trailheads. Historical evidence of CCC habitation can still be found around the area; but please leave these relics in place, as they are precious clues to our colorful past.
Known for its vibrant colors, Artist’s Point is the perfect place to get out your easel and paint the dramatic desert landscape. From either direction, as you approach Artist’s Point you can see the colorful rock that makes up the Morrison Formation. The cliffs of Wingate sandstone are painted with desert varnish; a thin patina of red to black coloration caused by numerous chemical and biological processes over thousands of years. The beautifully eroded rock formations coupled with the stunning western high-desert light provide any artist with the inspiration necessary to create a masterpiece.
The Morrison formation is special because it is home to some of the biggest and most well preserved dinosaur bones in the world. On July 4th 1900, Elmer Riggs found and ultimately excavated the remains of an Apatosaurus (also known as a Brontosaurus) from Dinosaur Hill near the West entrance station. He also unearthed the first Brachiosaurus which was the largest dinosaur discovered for 70 years. You can find the Morrison Formation right above the rounded, salmon colored Entrada layer that is at or near road level throughout most of Rim Rock Drive.
Upper Ute Canyon
Ute Canyon is named for the native Ute tribe of Native Americans who lived and traveled through Colorado National Monument into the 19th century. Ute canyon is one of the deepest canyons in the monument characterized by its towering sheer cliffs. If you visit on a rainy day, you may even see the flash floods that have created these awe-inspiring canyons.
Red Canyon is a great example of a hanging canyon. The uplift that created the Colorado Plateau created the conditions for the formation of hanging canyons. At first, flash floods eroded the softer sedimentary rocks down to the harder erosion resistant Precambrian basement layer. This created wide canyons. As the area continued to uplift, the valley floor remained as the 1.7 billion year old basement layer continued to rise, creating an elevated or “hanging” canyon above the Grand Valley.
Upper Serpent’s Trail
Serpents Trail was the first road to provide access to the Colorado National Monument. The first Serpents Trail, known as the “Serpentine Trail” was a foot/horse path built by John Otto. It was later widened to accommodate horse carriages, and later automobiles. The first automobiles to use Serpents Trail had to drive up backwards due to their gravity fed fuel systems. After the construction of Rim Rock Drive, the road was closed to traffic and turned into a hiking trail.
Devil’s Kitchen Trailhead
The Devil’s Kitchen Trailhead is located 0.2 miles from the East entrance. It provides access to Devil’s Kitchen Trail, Echo Canyon, No Thoroughfare Canyon, Old Gordon Trail, and Serpent’s Trail. Devil’s Kitchen Picnic Area is located across the road. The picnic area offers potable water, bathrooms, and a shaded picnic area.