If ever a picture was worth a thousand words, the Colorado National Monument is that moment. The Monument (as it’s known locally) is located on the eastern edge of the Colorado Plateau, a 130,000-square-mile region that spans western Colorado, northwestern New Mexico, southern and eastern Utah, and northern Arizona. Among the many beauties in the plateau are Bryce Canyon, Zion, and the Grand Canyon. And not to be missed, the Colorado National Monument, located just outside of the western Colorado town of Grand Junction.
The Monument covers just 32 square miles of high land in the plateau, rising over 2,000 feet above the Grand Valley of the Colorado River. We’re in glorious Red Rock Country! Here in the Monument, it’s not just the canyons carved out of sandstone and shale that catch the eye. Rather it is the sense of time (and lots of it) that has passed and created, with the great help of Mother Nature, massive rock spires, domes, arches and pedestals in those canyons.
The 23-mile paved Rim Rock Drive winds along the rims of the major canyons and offers spectacular views at every curve of the road. There are 19 designated overlooks, each with its own magnificent views of what time and erosion can do to the desert mountain land.
Most of my time was spent going from pillar to post, stopping to take in the views at one overlook before driving on to the next. But if I was going to see more than red rocks, I’d have to get out on the hiking trails to find some wildlife. The Monument is home to desert bighorns, coyotes and mountain lions – but of those I saw none. A desert cottontail sat still long enough for a photo op, but I had more luck with those slow-moving cactus, flowers and trees!
Plenty of wood to catch the photographer’s eye! I couldn’t ask for more from this beautiful and sunny spring day in May for a trip through the Monument.
Far and away, though, it is the skyscrapers of rock rising from the canyon floors that overpower the senses. These giant rock forms are awe-inspiring in the moment, knowing that they’re here today, they will be eroded and gone at a distant tomorrow, and never existed in the distant past. Oh sure, they were here, and they will be here, but not like this. It’s humbling.