Colorado National Monument – the name reveals nothing when you’re wondering what might be found at this little-known landmark. My feeble guesses couldn’t have been further from reality. Brilliantly colored canyons, sculpted over millions of years, cutting the plateau and plunging 2,000 feet to the Colorado River below – a landscape this stunning certainly deserves a more descriptive name, and the awe inspired by the sanctuaries we designate “National Parks.”
It turns out that some of our most precious national parks have started out as national monuments – including the Grand Canyon, and Katmai National Park in Alaska. Establishing a national park requires an act of Congress, but the President has the power to unilaterally create national monuments – and has often done so in defiance of Congress. Many of the national monuments created under executive order have later been converted to national parks by Congress, but others remain national monuments and are managed by the National Park Service, United States Forest Service, United States Fish and Wildlife Service, or the Bureau of Land Management.
Colorado National Monument was established in 1911, after citizens of Grand Junction inundated politicians in Washington with petitions and letters of support, but it’s never received an upgrade to national park status. Though it remains a national monument, the park is managed by the National Park Service, and with that comes the restrictions on pets we see in many national parks. Dogs are not allowed on any of the trails or in the backcountry at Colorado National Monument. They can only be walked in the campground area and a long paved roads.
Still, even if you are traveling with pets, the 23-mile Rim Rock drive is absolutely worth seeing! Skirting the rim of the plateau, there are nineteen viewpoints to stop and admire the scenery. Just take care not to leave your pets alone in the car for more than a few minutes. At between 4,500 and 6,500 feet in elevation, it may seem cool outside, but your car can become dangerously hot very quickly.
The park encompasses just 32 square miles, but it packs a mighty punch in its limited space. It seems around every corner the views are more spectacular than the last. Balanced Rock, for example, is a 600-ton boulder perched atop it’s stone pedestal.
The entire park is a powerful display of the erosive powers of wind, water, ice, and of course, time.
Though pets aren’t allowed on the 45 miles of park trails, there are plenty of places for you to get out for a hike with your dog nearby! Bordering Colorado National Monument to the west is McInnis Canyons National Conservation Area – a Bureau of Land Management (BLM) area where dogs area allowed off-leash on the miles of trails through canyons and by views of the Colorado River.
On the east border of Colorado National Monument you’ll find Bangs Canyon Recreation Area, also offering an abundance of pet friendly hiking options. If you still haven’t gotten enough, the North Fruita Desert BLM, Dominguez-Escalante National Conservation Area BLM, and Uncompahgre National Forest are all a short drive away.
If urban hiking is more your thing, you’ll also find plenty of options in Grand Junction. Canyon View City Park has a paved path that winds around the soccer fields, past the tennis courts, between the ball fields, around the playground, and over to the off-leash dog park. If your dog prefers not to be surprised by off-leash dogs on the trail, he’ll enjoy this more than a hike on BLM land, where leashes are optional in most areas. Buster and Ty thought it was the perfect place to stop and sniff the roses.
We also took the opportunity to admire some lovely old homes in the North 7th Street National Historic District, and enjoyed strolling Grand Junction’s Main Street, where you can’t miss popping into Main Street Bagels for a delicious treat, and a little people watching at their dog friendly seating area.
There are several pet friendly hotels in Grand Junction to choose from, but after reading Nina’s review of James M. Robb State Park on Wheelin’ It, we knew it was the place for us! The campground has fantastic views of the canyons, the sites are spacious and very nicely maintained, and there were plenty of places to walk the dogs.
So, it appears my mother was right – you should never judge a book by it’s cover or a national monument by it’s name! We were completely floored by Colorado National Monument and hope that this post inspires you to go see it for yourself.