Upper Monument Canyon

Date hiked: 12/25/16

Mileage:  7.3 miles

Head Count (how many other hikers I saw): 1 group


Cleaved in two by Independence Monument, the Monument Canyon trail in Colorado National Monument stretches a full seven miles one way. A while back, I did the northern half of this trail, making a loop out of it with the Wedding Canyon trail. Now here’s a look at the southern extent of the trail.

Click Here for a trip report of my loop along Lower Monument Canyon and Wedding Canyon, as well as more about the trail’s history.

From the pullout on Rimrock Drive, the trail immediately finds the Wingate Sandstone rim of the canyon and threads seamlessly through the elevation, losing nearly six-hundred feet of elevation over just the first mile of hiking. While steep, the route is solid and well-marked by cairns, so you shouldn’t have much of a problem unless it grows wet and icy.


Views towards Monument Mesa, the Coke Ovens and Grand Mesa draw you closer to Monument Canyon, where juniper, pinon and sagebrush wait at the canyon floor.


Some forty millions years ago, the Laramide Orogeny (a great period of mountain building), caused the entire Colorado Plateau – including the area which came to be Colorado National Monument – to uplift. Over time, water, wind and ice slowly sculpted the formations of Colorado National Monument today.

Meeting with the wash, the trail passes by several of these eroding chasms, including Kissing Couple.


Kissing Couple on the left, and Independence Monument in the distance. Like most named features in the park, both Kissing Couple and Independence Monument are comprised of sheer red Wingate Sandstone below, capped by a thin layer of the more resistant Kayenta Formation.

Before long, views of Grand Junction, the Bookcliffs and Mount Garfield can be spotted in a lowlands between Monument Mesa and the Island.



Looking back on the trail.

Continuing onward, the route wraps one last outcrop, ending without much more elevation gained at the foot of Independence Monument. From here, the trail continues another two and a half miles to Broadway in Redlands.


It was touch and go, but in the end, I got to see a white Christmas after all!



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(From Grand Junction): From Broadway, head south on Monument Drive for 3.5 miles. Pay at the ranger station, then continue another 14.2 miles along the switchbacks to the pullout on the right side of the road.

17.7 miles; 40 min

Fees: $15/car to enter Colorado National Monument

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