Unless you've been here and seen it, I bet you thought is was a statue of some sort, didn't you?
I know I did when my daughter, Wendy, first insisted we include it in our list of “must sees” during our Great Roadtreking Family Vacation of 2013.
The monument is not what we expected.
It is nothing short of stupendously beautiful, a long stretch of spectacular rock monotliths cut deep into the sandstone and even granite rock formations that make for sheer-walled, red rock canyons following the undulating twists and turns of the Rim Rock Drive that traverses up and down and through the preserve for 24 miles.
That's what the Colorado National Monument really is – a preserve, located just west of Grand Junction, CO and south of the mountain bike mecca of Fruita. It offers panoramic views of towering red rock structures with almost two dozen spots to pull over for photos. There are also lots of hiking trails.
We stayed in the James M Robb -Colorado River State Park a quarter mile south of I-70 at the Fruita exit. The park has five sections, but only the Fruita section and the the Island Acres location 15 miles to the west offer camping The National Monument is another half mile down the road. There is also a great dinosaur museum nearby.
It takes about two hours to see the major sights on the monument drive, though three hours is probably a better minimum amount of time to devote to your tour.
There is an 80 site campground on the monument grounds, though there are no electric or water hookups, something my newbie son and daughter and their families need their first time out. If it were just Jennifer and me, we would have stayed up in the campground. But we have no complaints about Colorado State Parks. We've been very impressed with the ones we have stayed at.
We did our drive through the monument in a mid afternoon. Then we found a great Mexican restaurant in Fruita with an outdoor patio that let all off us eat there with the dogs tied up at our feet, under the table. Usually, we have to take turns babysitting the dogs and one or two of us have to stay in our air conditioned Roadtrek while the others shop or eat. So it was a real treat to all be able to eat out together.
So know we know: The Colorado National Monument is not a statue. It is a place, run by the U.S. Parks Service just like a National Park.
If I had my way, I'd give it a new name: I'd call it the Colorado National Treasure.