Despite decades of driving Colorado’s western slopes we never veered off I-70 (an amazing road for sure). This time, during the 3 weeks we spent in Colorado, we hiked 3 delightful spots well away from the interstate.
- Maroon Bells, Aspen
- Dinosaur National Monument, The Canyon District, Dinosaur, CO
- Colorado National Monument, Grand Junction/Fruita
1. Maroon Bells
The Iconic, bell-shaped, wine-colored fourteeners are “pure, profound perfection” (Source: onlyinyourstate.com).
Burnt Mountain Peaks
The most professional of photographers cannot do them justice, but walking any of the trails is everything you want it to be and the views leave you giddy.
We hiked around Maroon Lake and then connected to Crater Lake Trail.
- Crater Lake Trail: 3.6 miles round trip, out and back
- Difficulty: Moderate
- Through meadows, aspen forests and scree fields. The trail is rocky (like walking on footballs) and eventually dips into the Crater Lake basin and even BIGGER views of the Maroon Bells.
Beyond Crater Lake (dry lake-bed in September), the trail continues to Snowmass – aprox. 9 more miles. Stick to the trail: A sign warns “Deadly Bells: The climb kills without warning” (not walkers – just climbers).
As one of Colorado’s heaviest used recreation areas there are access restrictions and reservations are required. CLICK HERE for Information.
2. Dinosaur National Monument
On the Colorado section of the park the Canyon District extends along the Green and Yampa Rivers.
- CLICK HERE for hiking trails
- The Jurassic dinosaur fossil bed is located in the Utah side of the park, Jensen Visitor Center
Harper’s Corner Road
From the Dinosaur Visitor Center, drive the 62-mile round trip scenic road along a high peninsula.
- Echo Canyon nearly disappeared in the 1950s. A dam was proposed that would have submerged all the rock formations and Dinosaur Monument would cease being a scenic spectacle. It was saved by legislation signed by Eisenhower.
Harper’s Corner Trail
An easy 2.3 mile out and back trail along canyon rims seeing the Green River as you peek over the edge. A gorgeous panorama at the end the view resembles a smaller Grand Canyon with straight drops.
3. Colorado National Monument
The Uncompahgre plateau is SO BIG that Grand Junction’s giant buttes and cliffs (e.g. Book Cliffs) blend into its geological footprint.
The most scenic area is contained within the Colorado National Monument, about 10 by 5 miles packed with landscape drama – four main canyons, several smaller ravines, isolated towers and pinnacles, and heaps of sandstone formations.
Rim Rock Drive snakes along the edge for 20 miles with pullouts at 16 major viewpoints and 7 trailheads.
Independence Monument – 450 feet
In 1911 the park’s founder, John Otto, started a tradition to climb the formation and post a flag on July 4. The route follows natural cracks and chimneys.
Coke Ovens Overlook
The hike to Coke Ovens is one-mile round trip with 180 feet of elevation loss. The shape of the formation resembles “beehive” coke ovens used in the 1880’s to burn impurities out of coal.
Named because early artists stopped at the panoramic overlook.
Not for you if you are afraid of heights.
The Serpent’s Trail
1.75 miles one way; moderate difficulty; 1770 ft. elevation gain, 20+ switchbacks. Piece of cake.
Built in 1912 and known as “the crookedest road in the world”. Lacking fuel pumps, most cars had to back up the steep road so that fuel flowed to the engine by gravity. It was converted to a hiking trail in 1961.
Typical Colorado – astonishingly beautiful – and you gotta hike!
“A view is something gained through effort”.Unknown