As you are leaving Fruita, Colorado, drive along the 23 miles of Colorado State Highway 340 (Rim Drive), through the chiseled tunnels and stopping at 19 or so scenic overlooks, where visitors can contemplate the amazing power and time that was required to create this extensive number of wind- and water-sculpted rock formations, many with shape-inspired names like Independence
Monument, Egyptian Mummy, Coke Ovens, Falling Rock and Sentinel Spire. Photographers find it can be a game of patience along with bit hide-and-seek in order find the best angle and perfect light for the frame-worthy images of the massive monoliths.
Meandering along the, at times, thrilling drive, you’ll see bicyclers looking to add Colorado National Monument’s challenging climbs and speed defying descents to their cycling trophies, campers emerging from backcountry hideaways and binocular-clad hikers, many of who’ve spotted desert bighorn sheep, the tiny little least chipmunks, mule deer, desert cottontails, collared lizards and the many birds who call the area home.
2011 marked the Colorado National Monument’s 100th anniversary, which was celebrated with special programs and recognition of its esoteric first ranger, John Otto. The man, who in 1907 wrote; “I came here last year and found these canyons, and they felt like the heart of the world to me,” carved the monument’s earliest trails and encouraged the citizens of Grand Junction to lobby Congress to designate the area as National Park land.