We’ve been talking about extending date nights, into the day, and tailoring them a little more to our lifestyle. So, we’ve been riding. But, after fighting unprecedented crowds in Moab, in Aspen and in riding up Independence Pass this last Spring, Dan and I were hungry for a crowd free motorcycle ride. This being my first multi-day ride, we were also looking for something not terribly far away – ya know, ease into a longer ride. We found the ideal ride in Colorado National Monument.
Colorado National Monument is a vast wilderness area, comprising 23,000 acres of canyons, plateaus and massive towers of naturally sculpted monoliths. The area includes, among others, Balance Rock, a 600-ton boulder perched on a rock pedestal. Colorado National Monument is popular amongst local climbers with the main attractions being Independence Monument, a 450 foot tower; Sentinel Spire; and some other spires and pedestals. It’s interesting to note that every July 4, climbers ascend Independence Monument to fly the US Flag!
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The Colorado National Monument History
One man, John Otto. As per signs inside the park, John Otto is the visionary who, upon arriving in the area, immediately identified the landscape as special. His vision of the Colorado National Monument led to the huge undertaking of building a road through the landscape that later became the monument’s main thoroughfare. When Otto conceived the idea of what is now known as Colorado National Monument, he envisioned visitors able to view the canyon “how only the birds could see it”. He, himself, was astonished by the incredible landscape that he encountered and coined it the “little Grand Canyon”.
Today, Colorado National Monument is mostly toured via cycling, riding, driving and, in lesser capacity, hiking. While there are options for hikers and campers who wish to spend more time here, the majority of the experience can be enjoyed from the roadside along the 23 mile Rim Rock drive connecting Grand Junction to Fruita.
Along this picturesque stretch of road, absolutely perfect for riding a motorcylce, visitors will be enraptured by a colorful array of rock islands, spires, pinnacles, and sheer canyon walls two tunnels and amazing views. While many have written about their experiences with wildlife, we did not see anything except one bunny and one squirrel.
If you are planning a trip to Colorado, and want at least one isolated escapade, Colorado National Monument is a very viable option. We hope to inform you of everything you need to know for visiting Colorado National Monument.
Quick Facts About Colorado National Monument
- Location: Colorado, USA
- Established: May 24, 1911
- Size: 20,500 acres (32.0 sq mi; 83 km2)
- Annual Visitors: 435,625 (2020)
- Visitor Centers: Saddlehorn Visitor Center (year-round)
- Entrance Fee: $25 per vehicle; $20 per motorcycle; $15 per individual; $80 Interagency Annual Pass
- Hours: 24/hrs, Manned Gate 9-5, outside those times visitors are on an honor system to pay
- Cellular: Available in many areas of the Monument
- Pets: Pets are not allowed on trails in the monument and must stay on paved areas only. Pets are allowed in the campground.
- Camping Reservations: Visit the Saddlehorn Campground Reservation page.
Colorado National Monument Map
If you are a traveler who likes to research, like my husband, you may enjoy perusing a map prior to arrival. I prefer to be surprised by everything, zero planning involved. I decide to go and then just go. So for you lovely planners who like to have a general idea of the landscape, I’ve included a map. Be advised though, there is one road that weaves through the park. If you are simply driving, you cannot get lost and you don’t NEED a map.
However, if you are considering any of the backcountry trails, we recommend that you have a good topographical map. The Visitors Center, open 9-5, 7 days per week (excluding some holidays) has some!
Camping in Colorado National Monument
Saddlehorn Campground is located close to the Visitors Center on the Fruita side of the park. Sites cost $22 a night. There is a 14 night maximum. Seven (7) person per site limit, three (3) tents per site, and two (2) vehicles per site.
Loop A is open year round. Reservations can be made for A and B loops from mid-March through October here. Campers will find flush toilets, a picnic table and a charcoal grill in each site. RVers should be made aware that there are no hookups or dump stations.but no hookups or dump station. RV length limit is 40 feet. No open fires allowed, ever! And, on occassion there will be fire bans that disallow charcoal grills.
Free backcountry camping permits are available for people planning overnight backcountry trips. Choose one of the several backcountry trails for your overnight. Highly recommended are Monument Canyon, Ute Canyon, Black Ridge, Upper Liberty Cap on Monument Mesa, or for the most experienced travelers, No Thoroughfare Canyon. Stop at the visitor center to register for a free backcountry permit.
Important Back Country Notes Specific to Colorado National Monument
- Backpackers must pack in their own water. One (1) gallon (4 liters) per person is recommended per day in the summer months. A water refilling station is located outside the visitor center and is open 24 hours per day. This is the best gear for packing water.
- Visitors are not allowed to filter water that they may find
- No pets allowed
- No motorized vehicles
- Watch out for scorpions and rattlesnakes … seriously.
Riding Colorado National Monument
My favorite way to experience Colorado National Monument is by riding the 23 mile paved road on my Harley. This area is known for temperatures that exceed 105 degrees, so hiking is not extremely popular. This past weekend, I was surprised to encouncter more bicycles than any other mode of transportation, but similar to motorcycles, it’s a great way to tour, as you are really one with the landscape!
Regardless of how you choose to observe the Colorado National Monument, be sure to take advantage of the plethora of pull-off’s as they provide incredible views and insight into the history, geology, wildlife, and more, of the park. I really enjoyed reading these and was very inspired by John Otto!! He was a true visionary and adventurer! Which I think is what drew me to his history.
In fact, when the Today Show came out (like 10 years ago) Bob Dotson had this to say about us: “They left their mountain home with little more than expectations and hope. This is the kind of family who would have been first in line on the Oregon Trail; they would have fit right in with the folks in covered wagons. The Kelloggs set off for the same reason the pioneers did: Freedom — from ordinary lives.” Can you imagine being the first to discover the West? Staking claim to land? What a wild, terrifying, exciting and dangerous journey that would have been!
Time Slows at Colorado National Monument
And, I have to agree. We do everything and love to share it with all of you. Nothing is off limits, and we hope we inspire y’all to throw caution to the wind pursue those seemingly unconventional. I truly believe RVing was God’s plan for us. Too many things had to fall into place to make that a reality, and those 8 years had such a positive influence on our family that we all say, all the time, “I’m so glad we had that time,” “I’m so glad we embarked on such a wild adventure”, “I’m so glad we had that time together”!
And, so while a veered off on a tiny tangent there, it was to point out that slow and steady wins the race at Colorado National Monument. Stopping, reading the signs, taking in the scenery, letting your imagination run wild … I mean, we live in such a fast paced world, it’s wonderful to find those places where time seems to idle, to maximize our time with those we care most about.
I am an advocate of All the Gear, All the Time. And while we all wear helmets every single time we ride, I’m the only one who covers my entire body with armor! LOL. Dan and the boys wear a chest protector, which I credit with saving Cardy from serious injuries when he laid his bike over and was thrown into a rocky creek!
Here is what Dan & I wear in the summer:
Dan’s Summer Gear
32 Degrees Men’s Cool Crew Tshirt – $5.99
Icon Stryker Vest – $130
He said find real leather and the cheapest ones. 🙂
Cortech The Executive Riding Boot – $72.93
Rev It Lombard 3 Jeans – $229.99
Scorpion EXO 920 (out of stock everywhere, this is a close, newer model).
Speaker System for talking with me and kids, dirtbiking and street riding:
Cardo PakTalk Slim (2 pack) – $366
GoPro 360 – $499.99
Susie’s Summer Gear:
Summer Mesh Jacket:
Knox Urbane Pro MK2 Shirt (Small)- $299
Random Black Tank – $8.99
Scorpion EXO Cool Hand II (Med) – $34.95
Cute Blue Suede Boots, from Zulily! 🙂 – $22.95
Knox Brittany Jeans – $179.99
Scorpion EXO T510 – $239.95 It took me longer to find a helmet I loved than anything else. This is mine, without the blackout visor.
GoPro 10 Hero Black – $457