Go Camping in Colorado National Monument

"One of the things I love about the Colorado National Monument is that it's only 10 minutes outside of the city. It's so accessible. When you camp there, it's beautiful during the day, but at night you escape the city lights, and it's like a whole new place with an awesome view of the sky."

-Ryan Dutch, Colorado Mesa University Outdoor Program Director.

Camping in national parks has always been a favorite summer activity, and for a good reason. America's national parks are a collection of some of the most beautiful places in the world, and the fact that they are accessible to everyone means we should take advantage of the opportunity and visit. America’s renewed interest in their public lands can make it hard to find a campsite at some of the more well-known parks, with some requiring you to plan ahead months in advance.

Unless you know where to go, that is. Colorado National Monument is only ten minutes from Downtown Grand Junction and offers you the quietness and serenity you escape to public lands for. The Monument encompasses over 20,500 acres, is made of an elaborate system of canyons and stone monoliths, and remains a well-kept secret of Western Colorado.

 

 
 
 
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The Monument’s Saddlehorn campground has three loops hosting 80 sites for tents and RVs. Sites in A loop are open year-round with sites available on a first come, first served basis. Sites in B loop are reservable up to 6 months in advance mid-March through October, while C loop is also open mid-March through October and can accommodate larger groups as well as individuals.

Besides being easily accessible, Colorado National Monument is a peaceful destination to escape the crowds other Colorado National Parks are known for. Driving through the park is stress-free and there is plenty of parking throughout the park, all conveniently located near breathtaking lookouts. Hiking is enjoyable and tranquil. Camping sites can be found year-round, often times without a reservation, but do plan ahead if you can.

 
 
 
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There are more benefits to camping in Colorado National Monument than just unplugging in the wilderness. There is nothing quite like a Monument sunrise. The sandstone cliff walls start to glow in the first rays of sunshine. The red rock turns bright orange and seems to radiate light from the deep within the earth. This is an experience that can only be made better by sitting near the edge of a 450-foot cliff face and watching the sun inch over the world's largest flat-top mountain, the Grand Mesa, which can be seen off in the distance. 

 
 
 
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After sunrise, there are over 40 miles of trails in the Monument to consider exploring. From Saddlehorn Campground, it’s easy to hop on the Canyon Rim Trail, just a 5-minute walk from your campsite. This scenic trail is only half mile each way and a great way to warm up for a more challenging hike. The views from Canyon Rim are out of this world and will leave you wanting to explore more. Canyon Rim Trail is wide, flat, and as you might have guessed, runs along the rim of the canyon. It overlooks Wedding and Monument Canyon with stunning views of iconic rock formations like Independence Monument, Pipe Organ, and Kissing Couple.

Back at the camp, fire up the charcoal grill included at the site to grill up some lunch. Or, let someone else do all the cooking and head into town for some grub. The nearby town of Fruita is 15 minutes from Saddlehorn campground, making it an easy trip for food before returning to camp. Looking for good pizza? Check out the Hot Tomato for innovative pies made with locally sourced seasonal ingredients. Sud Brothers Brewery serves up delicious burgers and sandwiches, including beer cheese soup, accompanied by one of their locally inspired beers. Take your time and enjoy your food, the short drive back to the Monument means you will have plenty of time to map out your hikes for tomorrow. You might want to consider this 5-stop tour of some of the most scenic Monument hikes. If you keep a medium pace, you can visit all five in about three hours. Check out the Grand Junction Official Visitor Guide for more inspiring adventure ideas during your getaway!

 

Check out the Grand Junction Adventure Guide.