Home » 2005 Cross Country Road Trip

Colorado National Monument, CO

Wednesday, July 27, 2005 - 4:00am by Lolo
132 miles and 2.5 hours from our last stop


After leaving Moab, we began our long journey east towards home. This part of the trip always makes me a bit sad, but this time even more so because I knew it might be our last one together as a family.

As usual on these trips, it was my job to find interesting destinations along the 2,000 miles home. So far, I only had one stop planned and that was Vail, Colorado. Tommy really wanted to see Vail and since his birthday was a few days ago, we promised him that we would stay there and mountain bike down the ski slopes.

View from lookout on Rimrock DriveView from lookout on Rimrock DriveShortly after entering Colorado, we came to the turn-off for Colorado National Monument. Never ones to pass a National Park by, we decided to exit I70 and drive the scenic 23-mile Rimrock Drive through the park from west to east. It was hardly out of our way at all.

When we got to the entrance gate, we were quite taken aback by a sign warning us of the plague--as in bubonic plague--and the importance of staying away from rodents in the park. I didn't need a sign to tell me that, as I already have a personal policy of keeping away from rodents. In any case, the sign was a bit disturbing. The ranger informed us that the warning was necessary because a cat in a nearby town had died from bubonic plague, probably from eating an infected rodent. She assured us that we were quite safe. We were only planning to drive through the park anyway with the occasional stop at a scenic vista.

I have to admit that we definitely didn't do this park justice. It just came along at the wrong time in our trip. We had just finished visiting places like Lake Powell, Capitol Reef, and Arches, so we were saturated with spectacular scenery. At this point, we were very hard to impress, which is a shame, because the park actually was quite beautiful and has the kind of scenery we normally get excited about--red rock cliffs and canyons, sandstone spires, and all that other good stuff. As it was, I had a hard time even getting the kids to look out the window. They were quite content in the back of the RV, hanging out together playing Playstation. Whenever I would yell, "Hey guys, look out the window," they would respond in unison, "Wow!" but I knew that they never even looked up from their game. This park would have been a totally different experience if we had hit it on our way out West instead of on our way back.

We had better work up some more enthusiasm for our next stop - Vail.


Colorado National Monument is located in western Colorado between Fruita and Grand Junction at the confluence of the Gunnison and Colorado Rivers. It sits on the easternmost portion of the Colorado Plateau and has the distinction of being the easternmost national park that was created by the Colorado River.

The park contains 32 square miles of stunning scenery--redrock cliffs, deep canyons, sandstone spires, desolate mesas, and forests of juniper and pinon.

The main way to see the park is to drive the 23-mile scenic Rimrock Drive, which is quite accessible to I70 on both its western and eastern end. This very scenic drive starts in the Colorado River valley and then climbs through the canyons to the top of the Uncompahgre Plateau. From there it winds along the rim of the plateau. Along the drive are the Visitor Center, numerous scenic overlooks, picnic areas, and trailheads to hikes. The hikes in the park range from short nature walks to long backcountry routes through the canyons seen from the drive.

There is an 81-site campground in the park that is available on a first-come, first-served basis. There are flush toilets but no showers.

Colorado National Monument location map

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