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It’s easy to appreciate the beauty of Colorado National Monument in the summer, when plants and trees in Grand Junction, Colorado are in full bloom. But the Monument is particularly attractive in the winter. Snow in the Grand Valley is not as common as in the higher elevations in the state. But when a dusting of snow occurs here it covers the Colorado National Monument in a cozy, white blanket.
So, for those who can’t drive hundreds of miles this winter to see it, we offer a Winter Driving Tour of Colorado National Monument.
About Colorado National Monument
Inside the Monument you’ll find sheer-walled canyons, sandstone cliffs, sky-reaching rock towers, colorful formations, desert bighorn sheep, and high-flying eagles – and all are readily visible from your car window along a magnificent parkway. There are numerous pull-overs and overlooks from which you can really take in the majesty that is this jewel of the Western Slope.
The 20,000-acre Monument was founded in 1911 by President William Howard Taft and is one of eight in Colorado.
Rocks at the foundation of Colorado National Monument date from nearly 1.7 billion years ago. Since then, volcanic processes, the creation and disappearance of seas, three periods of chaotic mountain building, and hundreds of millions of years of water and wind erosion carved the spectacular landscape of the monument.
Thousands of years later, in the age of famed conservationist John Muir, a kindred spirit named John Otto dedicated himself to protecting and promoting these spectacular ancient landscapes in Western Slope Colorado. A quirky individual, Otto moved to the area in the early twentieth century to work on an irrigation project. When he first saw the rugged canyon lands and soaring monoliths south of Grand Junction, he was enthralled. In 1907 he wrote, that “these canyons … they feel like the heart of the world to me. I’m going to stay and build trails and promote this place, because it should be a national park.” Otto led fundraising campaigns, collected signatures for petitions, and wrote newspaper editorials and letters to politicians in support of national recognition for the ancient landscape.
In 1911 the National Park Service (NPS) appointed John Otto as the monument’s first custodian. A year later, the first road through the Monument was built, extending four miles.
Today, Rim Rock Drive extends 23 miles throughout the park including three tunnels blasted from canyon walls. The drive is also a challenging road-biking route. It’s home to the annual bike race called Tour of the Moon. The Monument also features picnic areas and two campgrounds for RV’s and tents. Restrooms and picnic tables are generously situated throughout. And several hiking trails are featured throughout the Monument.
The visitors center offers maps, guides, gifts and some of the friendliest staff you’ll find in the National Park Service.
We hope you’ll relax, sit back and enjoy this Winter Driving Tour of Colorado National Monument.
Here are some great links – from which some of this information was derived – to more info on Colorado National Monument and Grand Junction, Colorado: