When you visit Colorado National Monument, the Canyon Rim Trail is simply a must-do. This trail packs an abundance of outstanding scenery into a short hike. The trail conveniently begins behind the Saddlehorn Visitor Center. Be sure to stop in the center, where you’ll learn how this extraordinary landscape was created and how it was preserved as a national monument largely due to the efforts of one man, John Otto.
As its name implies, the Canyon Rim Trail wanders along the cliff edge high above Wedding Canyon. The stunning views along the trail include interesting rock formations known as Independence Monument, Praying Hands, Pipe Organ, and Kissing Couple. The rocks’ reddish appearance is caused by the hematite mineral. As the rocks break down due to contact with moisture, they bond with oxygen particles, and the rocks actually begin to rust, giving them the reddish hue.
Look at the canyon walls carefully. Many raptors, including peregrine falcons and golden eagles, build their nests in the cliffs. The canyons and mesa tops are also home to smaller birds like the canyon wren and a variety of animals including desert bighorn sheep and coyotes. Be aware: The small but notorious black widow spider resides here, too. To learn more about the park’s plants and wildlife take the Alcove Nature Trail or the Ute Garden Interpretive Trail.
The rocky Canyon Rim Trail ends at Bookcliff Shelter, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The massive rock wall opposite the shelter is called the Bookcliffs. It was named for its resemblance to a row of books. The shelter offers shade and a bench, enticing the hiker to stop and savor the view of this extraordinary national monument and the Grand Valley beyond.