"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 galaxy."
-Ryan Dutch, Colorado Mesa University Outdoor Program Director.
America's National Park System (NPS) is a collection of some of the most beautiful places in the world. Colorado National Monument (CNM) is no exception. As one of the lesser known NPS parks, it makes for a perfect place to camp. Even though the entrance to the Colorado National Monument is only 10 minutes from Downtown Grand Junction, the camping experience is unlike any other. The Monument encompasses over 20,500 acres, is made of an elaborate system of canyons, spires and stone monoliths, and remains a well-kept secret. From easily accessible campsites to backcountry camping (free permits issued at CNM Visitor Center), there is something for everyone to enjoy.
The Saddlehorn Campground, located in Colorado National Monument, has three loops hosting 79 sites for tents and RVs. A-Loop and B-Loop are reservable up to 6 months in advance from Mid-March through Mid-October. Unreserved sites are available on a first come, first serve basis. A-Loop is typically open year-round. C-Loop is designed to accommodate larger groups as well as individuals. For groups of 15 or more, reservations are required. For more information on Saddlehorn Campground, visit NPS.Gov.
Besides being easily accessible, Colorado National Monument is a peaceful destination to escape the crowds, unlike many of the other national parks. Driving through the park is stress-free and there is plenty of parking throughout the park - all conveniently located near breathtaking lookouts. Once you visit, you will likely ask the same thing everyone does – “why isn’t this place a national park?!”
There are other ways to camp in Colorado National Monument. Backcountry camping can be an exciting way to explore the park and experience the Monument in all of its glory. From the famous Colorado National Monument sunrises to the sandstone cliff walls and the red rock spires, the bright colors seem to contrast perfectly with the green hues of the surrounding foliage. This is an experience that can only be made better by overlooking a 450-foot cliff face and watching the sun rise over the world's largest flat-top mountain, the Grand Mesa, which can be seen off in the distance.
There are over 40 miles of trails to explore in the Monument. From easy hikes like the Canyon Rim Trail and Otto’s Trail, to more advanced trails like Monument-Wedding Canyon and Liberty Cap. This trail guide, which includes level of difficulty, is a great resource. You may also want to consider this Insider’s Guide for some of the most scenic Monument hikes. If you keep a medium pace, you can visit all five locations mentioned in about three hours.
You’re going to want a hearty dinner after you get back to camp, so let someone else do the cooking and head into town for some sustenance. Pop into Handlebar Tap House for juicy burgers and poutine, and wash it down with one of their 24 rotating craft beers.