The Birth of The Colorado National Monument

Discover the past and present wonders of Colorado National Monument.

President Teddy Roosevelt used the power given to him in the Antiquities Act of 1906 to declare Devils Tower in Wyoming the first national monument. He thought Congress was moving too slowly and it would be ruined by the time they made it a national park. John Otto, the Colorado National Monument’s first caretaker, watched Roosevelt's actions closely. He, too, believed Congress acted too slowly to protect our nation's treasures, so he kept pushing for action to protect the magnificent canyons forming the southwestern border of the Grand Valley and Grand Junction. Finally, in May 1911, Otto got his wish thanks to a decree from President Taft, and the Colorado National Monument was born.

A great way to visit the Colorado National Monument — as well as get in a quick hike and a great drive — is to trek along the Alcove Nature Trail across the road from the Colorado National Monument Visitor Center on Rim Rock Drive.

To reach the Alcove Nature Trail, take Grand Avenue across the Colorado River to Monument Road. Turn left and go through the east entrance of the Colorado National Monument. A fee station requires you pay to enter the park. The annual entrance pass fee for Colorado National Monument is $40. Seven-day entrance passes are $15 for a private vehicle, $10 for a motorcycle, and $5 for an individual (hiker or bicyclist).

You can also pay at the Visitor Center, which is directly across the road from the Alcove Nature Trail. The Colorado National Monument Association (CNMA) runs the bookstore at the Visitor Center. CNMA is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to assist the National Park Service with scientific, educational, historical and interpretive activities at Colorado National Monument.

CNMA produces a useful Alcove Nature Trail Guided Tour brochure, available at the trailhead or in the Visitor Center for only 50 cents. Use the brochure to sound like an expert when you take others on this scenic 16-mile drive over the Colorado National Monument.

Discover that the red color of the Entrada sandstone comes from iron oxide, just like rust on a piece of metal. This layer of sandstone is very old and was formed between 95 million and 195 million years ago. Learn about the single-leaf ash, Kayenta sandstone, rabbitbrush, dark, lumpy microbiotic crust, sagebrush and pinyon pine as you explore the diverse beauty of the Colorado National Monument.