Monday, June 30, 2008

Colorado National Monument: Rim Rock Drive

Length: 23 miles

The Colorado National Monument is one of those must do’s for any Coloradoan. So for all you Denverites, get thy hinnies on I-70 and GO WEST. To sweeten the experience, I suggest a little Colorado wine tasting while there. Note of caution…the Rim Rock Drive is precipitous. Save the wine tasting for AFTER the drive.

The monument is part of the greater Colorado Plateau. This expanse includes the better-known features of Bryce and Grand Canyon as well as Arches National Park. This plateau fills the void between the Rocky Mountains and the Great Basin in Nevada. The average elevation of the plateau is around 5,000 ft so all you Denverites will feel at home.

Many of the overlooks in the Monument gaze out on 2,000 ft of sheer rock faces or detached rock towers. Like the Black Canyon of the Gunnison, the primary process at work in the Colorado National Monument is erosion. The accumulated soils have made colorful bands in the rock, and the varying hardnesses of the rock have resulted in both pillars and deep canyons.

The photos in this post are a year old. The weather was delightful and the park uncrowded. Alas, I had the dogs with me so I was unable to hike into any of the canyons, but the drive was worth doing regardless. I do remember that finding the entrance to the Monument was not easy. You can get to it from either side and there were no signs from the freeway. I would recommend reviewing the National Park Service’s directions to the Monument before heading out.


Nina said...

This is beautiful. I am hoping to get out to Colorado again sometime. I have only visited the state once when I was a kid on a camping trip with my parents and I've been dying to get back!
I will have some Michigan info for you later today with a few links to helpful websites. Are you on Flickr by any chance? I'm going to send you a few links to some photo sets as well to give you an idea of the scenery.

Nina said...

Okay, here are 2 Michigan recommendations: Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore (lower peninsula, on Lake Michigan) or Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore (Upper Peninsula on Lake Superior).

Photo links:

Pictured Rocks, Sleeping Bear, etc:

Sleeping Bear (including the Manitou Islands):

Either way, as far as fall color goes, the second week in October in probably a good bet. They always say that mid-Sept through mid-Oct is prime season, but it seems that for the last few years it’s been a bit later. I was in the U.P. Sept 22-25 last year and virtually everything was still green.

Due to the temperamental Great Lakes, the first snow is anyone’s guess, but it usually won’t happen in the lower part of the state until mid-late November. In the U.P. you might see some snow here and there starting mid Oct.

At Sleeping Bear there is camping and hiking on the mainland and there are also 2 islands –North and South Manitou – that you can take a Ferry to for hiking and camping. South Manitou has designated rustic sites with water and outhouses, North Manitou is the bigger of the two and is strictly backcountry offering a more remote experience.

Helpful links:

Pictured Rocks has drive-in and backcountry camping and there is also a wilderness (mostly) island just offshore where you can backpack as well. I recommend Twelvemile Beach, Little Beaver Lake, or Hurricane River for the drive-ins. They are off the beaten path and require a drive on bumpy unpaved roads (they are slowly working on paving some sections) but are totally worth it (Twelvemile is my favorite). I just posted a new entry on my blog which details a particular hiking loop in this area.

The park office can send you some useful stuff including maps of where the backcountry sites are:

Another helpful website:

I thought about mentioning Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park in the U.P., but then I realized how potentially ridiculous that could be for someone from CO! They aren’t technically real mountains, but it is a very beautiful area especially in autumn.

I’m mostly useless with a paddle, so I don’t have much specific info regarding canoeing. I do know that in each of these areas you can canoe/kayak on the various inland lakes (or the big lakes if you’re careful) and I’m sure there’s lots of decent day paddling on various rivers. I don’t think any of Michigan’s more challenging rivers will be found in either of these areas, though. I would maybe contact the park office for advice there.

For the best hiking/paddling/wilderness experience, Isle Royale National Park is the ultimate choice but this requires lots of planning and a trip by ferry (4+ hours) across Lake Superior or a flight by sea plane. I haven’t been there yet (next year hopefully) but I felt I should throw it out there!

Sorry for the lengthy reply. Good luck!

~Cheryl said...

I agree. This is a wonderful area! We did Grand Mesa one day CO Monument the next. It was fun to look over Grand Junction & see the mesa where we'd been the day before. Fabulous!