Hello Colorado – Lower Monument Canyon Trail in Colorado NM

Grand Junction, CO

After a stay in Utah of about a month and a half, we left Torrey and headed east into Colorado for a visit to Grand Junction.  There is what appears to be a great state park campground just west of the city in Fruita, but we were unable to secure a site for a week, so we are staying across the street from the state park in a nice commercial park called Monument RV Park.

The main reason we are visiting here is to do some hiking in the nearby Colorado National Monument.  The Monument is a 52 square mile area of desert land high on the Colorado Plateau with spectacular canyons cut into sandstone.  For our first adventure in the Monument we drove south of the RV park about four miles to the trailhead for the Monument Canyon Trail.

The trail begins by going along a fence separating the Monument from an upscale housing development.

It wasn’t long before we spotted our first bit of wildlife when the thin little guy below crossed our path.

As we hiked up the trail we could see our destination, Independence Monument, in the distance.

After about two and a half miles we came to our goal.  Independence Monument is a free-standing tower of soft, red sandstone.  It soars 450 feet above the floor of Monument Canyon.

Independence Monument looking from the east

Looking at the monument from the south

The monument looking from the west

Near the base of the monument we came upon two more examples of local wildlife.  The first was a beautiful Collared Lizard.

Nearby we came upon a Western Whiptail Lizard

We hiked around to the north side of the monument and found a spot up on a flat rock to enjoy a bit of lunch.

A good place for lunch!


As we ate our lunch we could hear voices behind us and, although we couldn’t see anyone, realized people were rock climbing up the monument.  As we began our return hike we turned and could see a small speck on the side of the rock about two thirds of the way up.

We zoomed in a bit closer and could see someone rappelling down from the top.

A photo using maximum zoom revealed the climber as he settled on to a landing.

The Monument Canyon Trail is maintained by the park service, so it is fairly wide and easy on the feet.  For the return hike we turned on to the Wedding Canyon Trail, which is unmaintained.  It is steeper than the Monument Canyon Trail and much more difficult.

Heading down the Wedding Canyon Trail

Once the steep downhill section of the trail is completed it then runs to the south and crosses two bluffs before returning to the Canyon Trail a short distance from the trailhead.

Up over the last rise before the end of the trail

We enjoyed the variety this five and a half mile round trip hike offered.  It was a nice change to hike with some ease and not have to use all fours!

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37 Responses to Hello Colorado – Lower Monument Canyon Trail in Colorado NM

  1. Sarah says:

    Welcome to my former home state. After visiting all 50 states, Colorado remains one of my favorites. I’m looking forward to reading about your adventures there. You’re too early for the Palisade peaches that grow not far from where you’re staying, but the local wine is pretty good.

    • placestheygo says:

      Thanks, Sarah! We will be in Colorado til mid June and are looking forward to lots of great hiking and beautiful scenery if the rain ever lets up. We did see the peach trees and read this was the area for great peaches. Sorry we will miss them.

  2. jimandbarb says:

    Looks like a fairly relaxing hike. Love the pictures of the lizards and snake, they were very cooperative subjects!

    • placestheygo says:

      Yes, Jim and Barb, it was a nice change to be a little more relaxed while hiking:) I was pleased all the reptiles waited patiently for me to photograph them. It wa sso nice of them:)

  3. Janna says:

    Love the collared lizard–the snake, not so much!

  4. pmbweaver says:

    That “little” guy was sure a “long” guy. All the lizard photos are fantastic. I can’t believe they sat there long enough for you to even zoom in. Awesome.

    I love the colors of the Monument.

    That was some climb down. I wonder why they call it Wedding Canyon Trail? Maybe because some marriages are a bit rocky…hehe…I crack myself up.

    • placestheygo says:

      The snake was as long as the trail was wide, but he was rather skinny and didn’t have a rattle!! Yes, it was nice that our reptile friends waited patiently for me to photgraph them.

      We’ll have to look in to why it is called Wedding Canyon. Maybe because it leads to a formation called Kissing Couple that didn’t make the blog. But it was a steep decent.

  5. Gay says:

    The collard lizards are so handsome! We passed by there many a time last fall as Joe’s surgeon, oncologist and chemo treatments were at St Marys Hospital. Cant wait to read about all your adventures in Colorful Colorado. If all goes well, we should be in Montrose in July.

    • placestheygo says:

      You and Joe will have to do this trail when you come back to visit in July. It is the perfect mix for a great hike…super scenery, some elevation gain and loss, a loop, and five miles.

      This was our first collared lizard so I was very excited!

  6. I love seeing rock climbers, something I personally will never do myself!

    Glad you got some decent weather for a lovely hike!

  7. Mary says:

    I’ve never been to that part of Colorado. Looks like Utah LOL. Love the pretty red desert.

  8. That was the first place we went to in CO and loved it. Lots of challenging trails and great views. Enjoy!

  9. LuAnn says:

    Glad you are getting some good weather. We are still hoping for that, although we moved on yesterday to Lee Vining in the rain. We decided to bypass June Lake and Mammoth Lakes this time due to the low temps and threat of snow. Great shots of the lizards!

    • placestheygo says:

      Well, we only had 3/4 of day of decent weather. We got to the car as the sky darkened. It started raining last night and it is suppose to be rainy all day today. Enough already! Sorry you had to miss two stops.

      • LuAnn says:

        We are here in Lee Vining for two more days but already know from the Rangers that hiking is out due to muddy trails or snow-covered ones. 😦

  10. Ingrid says:

    That’s one of my favorite hikes. We managed to extend our stay another day at the state park and will try and do that hike tomorrow. You two should consider the hike to Rattlesnake Arch in McInnis Canyon. So many trails, so little time…. enjoy 🙂 Great lizard and snake shots!

    • placestheygo says:

      I reread your post on this hike before we went so we were prepared for the hike. I kept waiting for the steep climb just as we were getting to the end and then we saw it!! Thank goodness it was short:) Sorry the weather looks terrible for today!

      I have Rattlesnake Arch in our plans. We want to stop at the BLM office to see how the road is for the shorter hike.

  11. Peter says:

    Isn’t that area just lovely! We had never been prior to the autumn of ’13 when we stopped en route and stayed the better part of a week longer than intended. Not sure I’m up for that MUCH of a hike abut the photos are lovely and aren’t those ‘residents’ handsome! 🙂 Have to go back for sure.

  12. Jodee Gravel says:

    Love your wildlife sightings – maybe a bull snake? This is a nice “stroll” for you two, and likely at the top end of my speed :-). Still, lots to see including rock climbers who I find fascinating to watch. The ground still looks so dry with all the rain they’ve had – makes for nice trails though.

    • placestheygo says:

      I was looking at photos of all different types of snakes. But it could be a bull snake. This was a great hike for almost anyone. The trail was very dry. It is hard to believe there has been so much rain.

  13. Holly Ritger says:

    I Love the wildlife sightings – such good lizard photos! Especially the collared lizard…

  14. Pam Leonard says:

    Great lizard shots, that hike looks pretty good too. Nice to get a bit of perspective on the monument with a teeny person!

  15. Sheila says:

    Welcome to Colorado! So glad you are enjoying your hikes and seeing such beautiful wildlife – the lizards and even the snake. All have such beautiful colors! I hope the weather holds out for you. We are having all day and night rain here with lows in the 30’s! I am still waiting for Spring!

    • placestheygo says:

      Thanks, Sheila! Colorado is such a beautiful state. This is our first visit with the MH. It rained all day today but looks like we will get two days of nice weather before the rain returns.

  16. Sue says:

    Loved seeing those beautiful lizards…..don’t show me any more snakes please. John had lunch alone he? He looks like a monarch surveying his holdings. I won’t print what I really thought when I saw that picture of him up on the throne though.
    Look forward to seeing you soon.

  17. Erin says:

    One of the reasons I enjoyed the hikes in NZ was because I knew there would be no snakes … I can tell you I am not looking forward to encountering snakes on hikes here in the US. Love the collared lizard; have never seen one before.

    • placestheygo says:

      Snakes aren’t our favorite either! We saw a snake on our Upper Muley Twist hike, also, but again it wasn’t a rattler. The sightings do make me nervous for the rest of the hike. This was our first collared lizard! So glad he posed for us:)

  18. Nancy says:

    This was a reptile hike for sure! I may have turned around with the snake sighting!
    Actually… I am pretty tough… I would have kept going! neat shot of the snake.
    Cool that you got to see the rock climber. Hmmm hmmm… I wonder if you both got any ideas about doing that one day!! 😉

  19. Laurel says:

    I was wondering if you guys might take up rock climbing — I have to say I’m glad to hear that’s not in your plans! Your hikes are so fantastic — love the shots of the monument. You got such a great shot of the colorful collared lizard, too! And it looks like you found a terrific place to stay.

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