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2016 Summer Mountain Trip Part 20; Colorado National Monument and Rim Rock Drive

After scaling the Book Cliffs via Douglas Pass I followed Colorado State Route 139 to it's south terminus at Interstate 70 near Loma of Mesa County.  I followed I-70 east to Exit 19 to CO 340 in Fruita.  From Fruita I followed CO 340 over the Colorado River to Rim Rock Drive where I entered Colorado National Monument.


This article is the 20th in the 2016 Summer Mountain Trip Series.  I should note that this series last had a published article a year ago in March of 2019.  During that time I found myself busy mostly catching up with articles regarding Californian highways.  That said, recent events (suffice to say the kind nobody wanted) in the world have opened the opportunity to possibly completing this series.  Hopefully if you are stuck at home this series along with the 2016 Fall Mountain Series can offer some respite to what is likely a widespread cabin fever.  Part 19 regarding CO 139 over Douglas Pass and the Book Cliffs can be found here:

2016 Summer Mountain Trip Part 19; CO 139 over Douglas Pass and the Book Cliffs

Colorado National Monument is a small National Park unit which encompasses the sandstone cliffs south of the Colorado River near the City of Grand Junction.  The main feature of Colorado National Monument is the large sandstone Monument Canyon.  Monument Canyon has several notable features which can be viewed from the 23 mile Rim Rock Drive.   Colorado National Monument was declared during May of 1911 largely due to lobbying of explorer John Otto.  Colorado National Monument encompasses an area of 20,533 acres.


Rim Rock Drive was surveyed in November of 1931 by National Park Service Engineer Thomas W. Secrest.  The designs for Rim Rock Drive were finalized in 1932 to maximize the scenic value of the highway and was built through mostly manual labor.  Work on Rim Rock Drive was suspended between 1942 through 1948 before being completed by 1950.  Rim Rock Drive is on the National Register of Historic Places and includes three tunnels.  Rim Rock Drive appears on the 1947 Shell Highway Map of Colorado as a functional highway through Colorado National Monument. 


Rim Rock Drive begins at 4,690 feet above sea level at the west National Monument Entrance.  Rim Rock Drive begins to quickly ascent through Fruita Canyon and two tunnels to the Historic Trails View.  From the Historic Trails View the Colorado River and Book Cliffs can be seen looking northward.


The Fruita Canyon View reveals a highly scenic view of Rim Rock Drive.



Rim Rock Drive rises to an elevation of 5,787 feet at the Monument Visitor Center.  Located near the Visitor Center is a short hiking trail to the Window Rock overlook.



The Sentinel Spire can also be seen near Window Rock.



Continuing east on Rim Rock Drive an overlook of Wedding Canyon and Monument Canyon can be found at the end of Otto's Trail.




East of Otto's Trail the Grand View of Monument Canyon can be found off of Rim Rock Drive. 


From the Grand View the route of Rim Rock Drive begins to swing southward and passes by the Coke Ovens Overlook. 


Artist's Point can be south of Coke Ovens Overlook.


Continuing southward on Rim Rock Drive the Highlands Overlook of Monument Canyon can be found. 


Rim Rock Drive begins to swing easterly and passes by the Upper Ute Canyon Overlook. 


The Upper Ute Canyon Overlook is followed by the Ute Canyon View on Rim Rock Drive. 


Continuing east on Rim Rock Drive the Red Canyon Overlook can be found. 


Rim Rock Drive continues east and begins to descend through Devil's Kitchen (which includes the third tunnel).  Rim Rock Drive exits Colorado National Monument and becomes Monument Road.  From Monument Road I continued to CO 340 and onward towards US Route 50 in Grand Junction.  My next destination was to the east on US 50 at Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park. 

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