Colorado National Monument a ‘hidden treasure’ |

Colorado National Monument a ‘hidden treasure’

Jon Sheppard
Vail, CO, Colorado
Special to the Daily/Jon Sheppard

Colorado National Monument is a somewhat hidden treasure located just outside Grand Junction. From here in the Vail Valley, the drive is about the same distance as a trip to the Denver International Airport, or roughly two and a half hours westbound on I-70. The neat thing about traveling to the monument is you don’t have to worry about any high mountain passes in bad weather. Along the way you pass though beautiful Glenwood Canyon and most unique Glenwood Springs. On that note, for those who don’t know, this is where the infamous Doc Holliday is buried. He was a dentist and gunfighter known for his friendship with Wyatt Earp in the 1800s.

Traveling on, the Colorado River Valley opens up and small towns dot the I-70 corridor. Continue through another canyon or two, round a curve and there is the Grand Valley and Grand Junction. Exit I-70 at Fruita and follow the signs to the monument. The monument is run by the National Park Service. If you have a park pass, it is good here. Back in 1909 (100 year ago), John Otto was the founding father of the park. He made many trails in the area and encouraged our government to make it a national park. In 1911, President William Taft declared the park a national monument.

Once you enter, the landscape quickly changes from the flat, wide open valley to a narrow two-lane road climbing up through the high, shear walls of the monument. All together, Rim Rock road is about 23 miles long from one end to the other. Please take your time and drive slowly to enjoy the many views. There are many parking areas from which to view the valley far below. Get out and hike onto a prominent point for spectacular picture taking. In the monument there is a campground and visitors center. Please stop in and learn the full history of the area.

Independence Monument stands 450 feet high and is a most beautiful monolith. One very warm June day, I scaled it with three other climbers. I carried a great deal of photo gear to document the climb. Was it ever fantastic. I will have to share with you, though, for my three climbing buddies it was a waltz around the living room. For me, it was sweat, blood, dehydration and back to boot camp in spades. But it was worth it. As we sat on the top, we could hear hikers in the valley far below as if we were right with them.

Ride your bike. Take a hike. Enjoy all the sights and have a grand day there. Horse trail rides are also available and there are many interesting side areas to visit. Wherever you are, whatever you do, always have a super day.

Jon Sheppard is an Avon photographer who leads photo safari trips around Colorado, the West and around the world. For more information, visit or call 970-949-9131.

The Vail Daily wants to publish your travel essay. Are you an Eagle County resident who recently jetsetted somewhere? Or maybe you took a road trip. Tell us about your journey in 700 words or less. We also want to hear from tourists about their experiences in the Vail area. Send at least one high resolution photograph. E-mail entries to

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