3 Easy Day Hikes in Colorado National Monument

Since the monument was established in 1911, hikers have enjoyed the stunning scenery in Colorado National Monument.  While many of the parks 40+ miles of trails are designated ‘backcountry’ and fairly remote, there are still some great day hiking options for families and shorter trips.

Today we’re posting three options for day hikes we discovered during our April 2021 visit to the park.  They’re in different areas of the monument, so offer a good opportunity to see the park’s main attraction–Monument Canyon–from different viewpoints.

Check them out here:

Table of Contents

Park Chasers at Colorado National Monument
Park Chasers at Colorado National Monument - April 2021

3 Easy Day Hikes in Colorado National Monument

Canyon Rim Trail

The Canyon Rim Trail was the first trail we hiked shortly after arriving in the park.  This mostly flat out-and-back trail departs from the Saddlehorn Visitor’s Center and offers some breathtaking views of the monument. Travel the short distance to the end of the trail at Book Cliffs Overlook and then walk back to the Visitor’s Center.  There’s also a self-guided pamphlet that goes along with the Canyon Rim Trail markers – grab one here or at the Visitor’s Center.

Distance and Difficulty

Distance:  0.5 miles (o.8 km) one way, about 1 mile total round-trip.

For a slightly longer hike, connect with Window Rock Trail near the Book Cliffs junction and the campground.

Difficulty: Easy.  The trail is mostly level and has guard railing along the viewpoints.

The Trailhead

The trailhead for Canyon Rim is located on the rear patio of the Saddlehorn Visitor’s Center.  Park in the main visitor’s center lot, enter through the building, and exit out the back to find the trail.

What You'll See

Along the Canyon Rim Trail watch closely for:

  • Views of Wedding and Monument Canyons
  • Bighorn sheep on the upper cliffs across the canyon
  • A few of the National Historic Landmarks in the park built through the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) program.

Devil's Kitchen Trail

On the opposite end of the park from Canyon Rim Trail, we hiked the Devil’s Kitchen Trail to one of the more unique rock formations in the park.  Unlike Canyon Rim and Rim Rock trail where you’re situated above the canyon and looking in, Devil’s Kitchen allows hikers to get up close to the sandstone formations and see them towering above.

Distance and Difficulty

Distance: 0.75 miles one-way (1.2 km). 

Difficulty: Easy hiking out and back with some scrambling up a set of steps carved into the slickrock at the end to get up into the Devil’s Kitchen formation.  If that’s not in your hiking range, you’ll still get a great view from the base of the formation without going into the grotto.

The Trailhead

From Rim Rock Road, travel to the Devil’s Kitchen Picnic and Parking area.  The trailhead parking is shared with three other trails No Thoroughfare Canyon, Old Gordon, and Serpents Trail.  Make sure you follow the signs and get out on the right section of trail.

Devils Kitchen - Colorado National Monument
Devil's Kitchen Trail Sign

What You'll See

  • First section of trail hikes through the remnants of a desert wash. 
  • Watch for Pinyon Pine and Utah Juniper mixed in with cacti, yucca grasses and sagebrush.
  • The Devils Kitchen Formation itself is formed by huge upright boulders formed in a circular pattern.  As the end of the trail, expect to meet quite a few hikers here enjoying the shade and snack before departing back to the trailhead.
Monument Canyon - Colorado National Monument
The Coke Ovens

Coke Oven's Trail

Not far from the Saddlehorn Visitor’s Center along Rim Rock Drive you’ll find a unique sandstone formation known as the Coke Ovens.  This easy out-and-back trail gives visitors a closer view of one of the most popular sights at Colorado National Monument.

Distance and Difficulty

Distance: 0.5 miles (0.8 km one way)

Difficulty: Easy

The Trailhead

Coke Ovens Overlook

From the Saddlehorn Visitor’s Center travel along Rim Rock Drive into the park approximately 3.8 miles (6.1 km).  There’s a sign for the parking area and trailhead on the left side of the road. 

This is also the trailhead for the longer Monument Canyon Trail, a popular multi-day wilderness backpacking trip in the park.

Colorado National Monument Views
Independence Monument - Colorado National Monument

Indigenous Roots at Colorado National Monument

As part of our commitment to a more Diverse NPS, Park Chasers wants to acknowledge that the lands we now enjoy were once the home of many different indigenous communities.

According to “Talking About Sacredness” an Ethnographic Overview of Colorado National Monument authored by Sally McBeth and produced by the National Park Service (nps.gov):

The archeological record in the Monument, sparse as it is, stands as the primary documentation of a Ute presence there.  My own research and discussions with historians and anthropologists overwhelmingly conclude that teh Uncompahgre and White River bands (Yamparika, Parianuche, Tabeguache) were the primary historical inhabitants of the Grand Valley.  That is not to say that other tribes and the Ute bands did not, on occasion, move through or settle in this area.

To learn more about native communities in the area and how these lands were in some cases stolen from their inhabitants – visit Native Lands. 

To learn more about our commitment to greater diversity, inclusion, and access to public lands visit DiverseNPS.

Day Hikes in Colorado National Monument (Facebook Post)

Other Things to See in Colorado National Monument

After checking out these parks, don’t miss the other nearby options to add on to your trip:

All About Colorado National Monument
THE PARK CHASERS

THE PARK CHASERS

Greg & Amy
Chasing a visit to all 400+ units in the NPS
Current Count: 128/423
Next Stop: TBD

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