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Colorado National Monument: Not what you’d think

| Updated Nov 6, 2021

cnm1Quick now, when I say we visited the Colorado National Monument, what did you think?

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.cnm2

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.cnm3

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.

Mike and Jennifer Wendland, Rachel, Dan, Hua Hua and Wendy Bowyer, Jeff and Aimee Wendland, and our dogs, Tai, Charlie and Sequoia at the Colorado National Monument

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.cnm5

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.cnm6

Our Roadtrek eTrek on one of the many down sections of the Rim Rock Drive

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.

Mike Wendland

Published on 2013-08-18

Mike Wendland is a multiple Emmy-award-winning Journalist, Podcaster, YouTuber, and Blogger, who has traveled with his wife, Jennifer, all over North America in an RV, sharing adventures and reviewing RV, Camping, Outdoor, Travel and Tech Gear for the past 12 years. They are leading industry experts in RV living and have written 18 travel books.

16 Responses to “Colorado National Monument: Not what you’d think”

September 21, 2014at11:16 am, Kandi said:

Difference between National Monument and National Park. I didnt know this until this year.

Yay National Monuments!

April 16, 2014at2:15 am, Jeanetta Austell Scott said:

One of the places we used to take all of our out of state visitors .. Still would if we still lived in our home town. 🙂 N

April 16, 2014at1:59 am, Barbara-Lynn Smith said:

Been there! Beautiful place.

April 16, 2014at1:13 am, Pieter Roeleveld said:

Beautiful park and a really nice campground!

April 15, 2014at8:02 pm, Barbara Arms said:

Awesome rocks, awesome vistas

April 15, 2014at7:20 pm, Dale Krenz said:

This summer!

April 15, 2014at6:13 pm, Ken Linhares said:

I would love to do that

April 15, 2014at5:59 pm, Ron Stewart said:

Beautiful place!!

January 20, 2014at8:48 am, Jack in Jax, N3FYP said:

Mike’s main point – don’t infer a narrow definition of the word ‘Monument’ – is spot on. I had a similar ‘Ah-ha’ re: the Upper Missouri River Breaks National Monument. Breaks? A statue about something broken? Hardly. ‘Breaks’ turns out to be a Western term and that ‘monument’…well, here’s one definition: “Called “The Breaks” by locals, it is a series of badland areas characterized by rock outcroppings, steep bluffs and grassy plains. The adjacent Missouri River was designated a Wild and Scenic River in 1976 and forms a western boundary while the Charles M. Russell National Wildlife Refuge is to the east. The Breaks country was a model for many of the paintings done by painter Charles M. Russell.”

Now who would attach a ‘narrow’ definition to those dramatically different landscapes? No longer me…

August 18, 2013at7:13 pm, John said:

Hi Mike, we just now pulled in the driveway after a 10 day trip to Pagosa Springs, Colorado. Like you we were blown away by the beauty of Colorado, and dang it after reading your blog I’m ready to get back up there AGAIN tomorrow

August 18, 2013at5:04 pm, Judy said:

Gorgeous pics! Gotta add this to my bucket list.

August 18, 2013at2:56 pm, Harry Salit said:

Hi Mike and all,
We toured this monument last summer, great place. We tried to stay at James Robb but it was full. But across the street the private campground had two spots. There was a wine festival in Grand Junction!

If you need a campground near Denver got to Cherry Creek SP in Aurora. Very nice with full hookups.

August 18, 2013at1:43 pm, Janice Ries said:

I enjoy reading about your adventures! We have a class A motorhome but we have had some of the same experiences you have had,

August 18, 2013at11:23 am, Campskunk said:

well, i am glad you’re out of the KOA dystopia and back in a more people-friendly environment. i love that red rock country, and you can see it in patches all over the southwest. that’s a great group portrait- who took it?

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