The Monument Canyon Trail is generally considered to be the premier backcountry trail in Colorado National Monument. While the descent to (and ascent from) the canyon floor is challenging, the rest of the hike is relatively flat and incredibly scenic. The trail can be hiked one-way if a shuttle vehicle is available, but this adventure starts at the upper trailhead on the Rim Rock Drive and travels to the base of Independence Monument and back. You'll enjoy wonderful views and great lighting on this trail at almost any time of the day, but early morning is spectacular and less busy.
From the trailhead just south of the Coke Ovens Overlook, the route begins dropping almost immediately through many short switchbacks. The wash at the bottom of the canyon is reached 600 feet later, and from here to Independence Monument is a gentle grade with a few short climbs. From the floor of the canyon the trail passes many spectacular walls and formations such as the Kissing Couple. There are a few cottonwood trees that have great fall colors in October, and the ever-present Utah junipers provide foreground interest for photographs. The Independence Monument is a logical turnaround spot, but energetic hikers can continue until the trail reaches the outskirts of Grand Junction a few miles further.
In spite of the popularity of this park, most visitors fail to get much beyond the Rim Rock Drive overlooks, and this wonderful trail is not at all crowded.