Red Rocks – Colorado Style

At this time of the year, it is sometimes difficult to get in some backcountry jaunts. The high country is still very snowy for backpacking..but not really enough for extended skiing.

Sure, the local foothills are nice..but I like to see something different.

That ‘something’ different is invariably Utah. A beautiful and wonderful place this time of the year (and in the Fall), but it is about 7 hrs to the national parks in Moab. Further for something even more remote.

I did not want to drive much this weekend. I wanted something relatively close, but something I have not seen before.

As I went to the map section of the local outdoors store, I saw a map for the Colorado National Monument. Hmm….looked more like car camping mixed in with day hikes..but I don’t mind car camping this time of the year (see above). Seemed like a good place to see something new, not be too far away and to have a relaxing weekend as we waited for the high country to open up.

The Mag Wag was quickly loaded up with the pre-packed ‘luxury’ car camping tote I have (two burner stove, ginormous tent, cooking gear), another plastic tote of dried food and a cooler full of drinks and food as well. (This gear is in addition to the basic kit always packed in my truck for the frequent Friday night camp outs before starting a weekend backpack). Ain’t no such thing as lightweight car camping!

We arrived Friday evening, grabbed us a a camp spot, set up and quickly fell asleep….


We woke up, delighted in the perfect weather and made our morning coffee.

The chosen hike for that day would be the main trail in the park through Monument Canyon.

Delightful red rock views, pinyon pines and desert wildflowers in full bloom abounded!

After a bit, we approached the the main attraction of the park: Independence Monument. Shown on the cover of the Trails Illustrated map for the area, it is an impressive looking sight!


We made it back to camp by mid-afternoon. I used my old PCT tarp to rig a sun shade. Kicked back, had a cold beer and just enjoyed the approaching desert night in camp. Life wasn’t bad…


The following morning, we were again on the trail early. A chance to enjoy the cool morning and lack of people.

The walk was along the Black Ridge and seeing into the canyons. This ridge was amazing this time of the year. Cattle have not been on this ridge for many years and the ecosystem showed it. Bunch grass, sparse woodlands and more amazing wildflowers. And of course lots of lizards!

We made it back to camp, kicked back and proved once again that There ain’t no such thing as lightweight car camping!



The following morning, we again woke up early and played ‘windshield tourist’ along the scenic road. It gave us a chance to see part of the park we did not really explore…and to check out two canyons we hope to hike in the Fall.

Among them was Ute Canyon..the longest in the park. The view from above made the canyon look impressive!

We also did a brief 1.5 mile R/T hike before exiting the park to The Devil’s Kitchen. More wild flowers abounded along the entrance to a canyon we hope to explore this Fall, too.

We reached the kitchen and loved the play of the red rocks and the sun on the unique formations.

After this hike on the hottest of the three days, we made our way back to Boulder at a leisurely pace.

It was a wonderful weekend to a place I never really thought of going before. I do plan on going back this Fall.

There are other places more remote, larger and perhaps more dramatic. But sometimes exploring an accessible place, teeming with an explosion of desert wildflowers, nice hiking and relaxing in camp is all you need. Backpacking season is almost here…for now? A cold beer, a comfy chair and being in the middle of red rock country is all I need.

All the photos

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