Colorado National Monument – The joy of hiking

In our humble abode here in Moab, many scenic highlights are “Instagram worthy.”   Meaning, places hikes, overlooks, or jaunts that people want to see because they offer a mixture of both accessibility and dramatic photos.


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A Touch of Spring … This past weekend, I felt a touch of spring here on the Colorado Plateau. The sun shined, the temps steadily climbed during the day, and for the first time in weeks, I contemplated the that soon I won’t be able to get away if with wearing a thermal top during the day. In a couple of weeks or so, the license plates will turn green again. And Spring will be here in Moab. … On Friday, Micah of @hike_moab and myself explored the back of side of Delicate Arch. We, briefly, had this iconic arch to ourselves. A rarity indeed. From there we explored some lightly traveled areas that @ramblinghemlock and I had to skip seeing once due to weather. Arches is more than just Delicate Arch and Balanced Rock. And I look forward to seeing more of this place in the weeks and months ahead. … And on Saturday and Sunday, @ramblinghemlock and I went backpacking in Island in the Sky. The Green River bracketed our route. Remnants of winter snow greeted us at a campsite and an impressive Pueblo site stood sentinel over the canyon and Green River below. We never get tired of walking the paths in this park so close to our home. And we only saw people within perhaps a quarter mile of the car the entire time. We lucked out with the weather as the rain came at night, but blue skies broke out just in time not long after I consumed some morning coffee. .. In a few weeks, if not less, the Moab area will again begin the busy tourist season. But for this weekend at least, the backcountry ended up being blissfully quiet and a place full of wonderful isolation. … #utah #coloradoplateau #publiclands #camping #canyons #hiking #backpacking #ancientpuebloans #canyonlands #archesnationalpark #canyonlandsnationalpark #nps #nationalparkservice #moab #delicatearch

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Delicate Arch is an Instagram, and a 1950s Life Magazine, classic. 

But some places are “just” pleasant hiking or even a drive — a place to enjoy some excellent views, wildflowers, and to take a hike.

Meaning, nothing dramatic or something that pops up in  “Best Destination” lists; hiking for the pure joy of hiking.

Colorado National Monument and the surrounding areas are such places.

I’ve been exploring this area on and off since 2010, and I’ve always enjoyed my time there. And though the monument and nearby BLM land is next to a metro area of about 150,000 people, the lack of a destination that pops for many and the rough roads that lead to more dramatic destinations keeps the area much more mellow vs. our home in Moab.

Though only two hours away from Moab, Grand Junction and Fruita area seem a much different world. With the bonus of easily obtained craft beer, too. 🙂

In Fruita. PCO Joan.

When Joan’s parents came to town for a visit, they chose to meet up with us in the Grand Junction area as they find the Moab area busy.  We made the trek to the east of us, and enjoyed a long weekend hiking, exploring, and traveling in and around the Colorado National Monument.  Their vacation rental ended up being minutes from Rim Rock Road and some trailheads surrounding the park.

The first afternoon involved driving Rim Rock Road, going to the overlooks, and getting a bird’s eye view to the canyons below.

The following day, we all hiked to the pool and the first waterfall of No Thoroughfare Canyon.  On a warm day, the shaded canyon, the steams, and cascading water proved a perfect complement to the wildflowers and some local critters spotted along the way.

After the hike, Joan and I went to explore some Rock Images we researched on the outskirts of the monument.

The recent rain showers certainly made all the sego lilies pop.

The following day, Joan and I took advantage of a car shuttle to explore deeper into the canyons within the monument.

The hike had three distinctive parts with a walk on an old road along the rim, the relatively popular area near the towns, and deeper into the canyon before climbing back to the edge of the canyon and our waiting car.

Our last full day with Joan’s parents involved a hike near the small hamlet of Glade Park. A little higher and cooler and very close to Grand Junction and Fruita, the area still retains a very rural and isolated character.


With Joan’s Dad at an overlook. PCO Joan.

We left to make our way back home and took the scenic routes to make our way back.

We savored some last views into the monument and a back way into Moab along the SH-128 (aka The River Road.)

The Colorado National Monument and surrounding areas offer superb hikes, beautiful scenery, and quiet moments. And that’s not only enough for us, but often preferable.   I suspect Joan and I will be back at some point.

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Kelly Fleming
Kelly Fleming
5 years ago

Thankfully I came upon your site months ago and have been an enthusiastic, avid and grateful reader ever since. Coincidentally, about the time you moved to Moab, I, too, had made a similar decision. My once-lovely little Southeastern AZ mountain town has been invaded and horribly ruined by big corporate mining in a year. Once my place here sells I heading your way. I’ve long been completely captivated by southern Utah, am a very active hiker and birder and field biologist and can hardly wait to jump into all the area has to offer. Initially I would like to take… Read more »