Colorado National Monument is a beautiful park located close to Colorado’s border with Utah. You’ll find red rock formations and canyons that you might expect to see in Utah or Arizona. But this park is a bit less well known and therefore you may be able to find some peace and quiet.
You can reach Colorado National Monument easily when traveling Highway 70 from Utah or Colorado.
We have one dedicated man to thank for the protection of this beautiful place. John Otto loved the red rock canyons and rugged landscape, and worked to promote the area to local communities and the US Government for protection. He also scouted and built access trails and surveyed the roads including the famous Trail of the Serpent, a four mile road with 52 switchbacks.
The Colorado National Monument was established under the Antiquities Act in 1911.
Entrance to the park is currently $15 per vehicle but if you have an America the Beautiful annual pass it is free. If you will visit more than one National Park in a year I highly recommend purchasing the America the Beautiful pass which gives you free access to the parks. You can purchase the pass here.
There are many short and easy trails in the park. Definitely check out Otto’s Trail which leads to a stunning overlook of many of the major rock formations in the park including Sentinel Spire, Pipe Organ, Praying Hands, and Independence Monument.
Another fun, but more strenuous trail is known as the Serpents Trail. It used to be part of the first road transecting the park.
Devil’s Kitchen Trail leads to a large rock grotto and passes by several large rock formations, tunnels and boulders.
For more short hikes in the park check out the National Parks Service page.
In addition to hiking and backpacking, Colorado National Monument’s 23 mile Rim Rock Drive is super popular with cyclists. The park and surrounding lands also offer opportunities to rock climb and mountain bike.
There is one established campsite in the park called Saddlehorn Campground. It is open year round and sites are reservable from March-October. There are no hookups or showers at the campground, but there is running water available most of the year. The sites are mostly separated by desert brush and rock formations, giving some privacy and there are terrific sunset views across the valley. Weekends may be busy but weekdays should be quiet, especially in the shoulder seasons. Saddlehorn Campground is $20 per night.
You can also backpack at Colorado national Monument. A backcountry permit is required for camping, but it is free. Note that water is not available, so you must carry what you need. You can get the backcountry permit at the visitor’s center which also has a small shop, restrooms and running water.
Close to the park there are also free campsites on BLM lands. Mud Springs campground is open May through November and has designated sites where you can stay for up to 14 days. There is water available as well as pit toilets. North Fruita Desert campground is also close to the park and free for 14 days. This campground has vault toilets but no drinking water.
If you prefer to stay on your own dispersed camping away from others, check the BLM website. Typically you can camp for 14 days, but remember to pack out all your waste with you.
To read detailed reviews and information of all of these campsites and find more close to Colorado National Monument, check these camping websites.
Tired of the tent? Why not rent your own camper van or RV and find a cozy spot? Check out Outdoorsy for peer-to-peer rentals of RV, vans and trailers.
Don’t feel like camping? The town of Fruita is very close to the park. You can search here for convenient accommodations in the area.
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