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Colorado National Monument is made up of 23,000 acres of canyons, monoliths, plateaus, that are all naturally sculpted and captivating. All around this monument are trails that hikers can choose to take and see the views.  Since there are hikes for a variety of levels, you will want to plan which trails for hiking Colorado National Monument with kids. 

We spent 3 days here hiking the Colorado National Monument with a toddler and kids. Living on the western slope, this area has been on radar but I always seemed to have other plans and drove right by it. This spring I decided to take the kids here rather than the more crowded Utah National Parks.

There are two entrances to this monument, the east entrance near Grand Junction and the west entrance near Fruita.   We started on the west entrance near Fruita and worked our way back to the east entrance along Rim Rock Drive.  

Rim Rock Drive is spectacular, breathtaking, and a little frightening if you are afraid of heights.  If you or your passenger are anxious on narrow steep roads, I would do this drive east to west putting you on the inside track. Entering this national monument from the west, just outside Grand Junction.

Make sure to watch out for the bighorn sheep and soaring eagles while you’re driving. We slowed down to enjoy two young bighorn sheep grazing on the side of the road.

You will find several family-friendly trails in the Colorado National Monument that vary from easy, moderate, to complicated hikes. From monoliths that tower to the sky to an endless plateau of canyon panorama bliss. 

The monument is lined with 43 miles of trails. Some of which are on the flat parts of the canyon, while some weave along the side with steep drop-offs. Many trails lead to viewpoints where you can enjoy the vista and take photos.  Other trails, for the more cautious end in interesting and safer views, like the small slot canyon.

Before you embark on any trail, start at the visitor center and get a map.  We always stop at the visitor center to get our junior ranger program booklets.  The kids collect the booklets and the badges from all our US National Park visits. Don’t forget the junior ranger bagdes and swearing-in for the kids. 

As part of our series on Colorado, we created this guide to camping near Grand Junction, Colorado. You will enjoy our other resources for visiting Grand Junction and the surrounding National Colorado Monument.

  • 7 Amazing Day Trips from Grand Junction
  • Colorado National Monument Hikes 

About Colorado National Monument Trails

In the 20th century, many residents of the area believed that the canyons were inaccessible to people. Until John Otto first explored it where he began building trails right on the plateaus and into the different canyons. 

As time passed, word about what he is doing reached Grand Junction, where he was settled. The Chamber of Commerce sent members of a delegation to investigate whether the news was true or not. They returned with nothing but praise about Otto’s work, and the local media started lobbying to make the area a National Park.

Today, there are countless trails that you can go to all around the canyon. Whether you are after a short trail or a longer one, you’re bound to find what you are looking for in the Colorado National Monument.

If you’re unsure, you can get your trail guide here, or visit the visitor center prior to embarking on any hike.

As locals, we have been here several times and have journeyed to the trails here. Below, you can find our suggested trails that you should try.

Alcove Nature Trail

Alcove Nature Trail
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Alcove Nature Trail

Alcove Nature Trail is considered one of the family-friendly hikes in the Colorado National Monument hike. The trailhead is located on Rim Rock Drive and the Saddlehorn Visitor Center.

The guide will take you through the local animals and plants, as well as some fun facts that the kids will surely enjoy. We enjoyed this short hike, next to the slick rock and into a small slot canyon. 

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Alcove Nature Trail Slot Canyon

We recommend getting a detailed guide at the visitor center. It can help you enjoy the hike and learn more about the science of the area.

  • Length: 0.8 miles
  • Elevation gain: 45 feet
  • Route Type: Out and Back
  • Difficulty: Easy, stroller friendly

Lizard Canyon

Lizard Canyon is a less popular trail. It doesn’t show up on most lists of hikes to try but we believe it is worth it if you are looking for a short and easy hike. It is in between the Wedding Canyon and Fruita Canyon. 

To reach the Lizard Canyon, you can park by the monument’s entrance to the west and walk about a mile for the great of the Rim Rock Drive and the mouth of the Wedding Canyon. It is a bit longer so it would be better for older kids.

  • Length: 8.25 miles
  • Route Type: in and out
  • Difficulty: Easy

Echo Canyon Trail

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Old Gordon and Echo Canyon Trail

Echo Canyon trail is another hike choice for all skill levels. It is a 2.4-mile hike that is moderately trafficked. It’s good for bird lovers and it has a fair amount of sage brush, trees and beautiful rock walls.

Other hikers vouch that this trail is perfectly serene and has low traffic in the late afternoon, which made us try it. 

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View from Old Gordon and Echo Canyon Trail

When there is enough water, you can expect to see a wall-side stream in the canyon itself.

  • Length: 2.4 miles
  • Elevation gain: 639 feet
  • Route Type: Out and Back
  • Difficulty: Moderate

Coke Ovens Trail

Coke Ovens Trail offers a unique viewpoint of the Coke Ovens formations and the monument canyon. It starts from an overlook by the road and takes you to an overlook that is closer to the edge of the cliff edges.

The formations are named because they resemble the beehive shape of historical coke ovens.

Hikers recommend checking out the tunnel that was excavated by the Civilian Conservation Corps for an added sight. There’s a chance to see some awesome bird formations on this trail as well.

This trail is another kid-friendly hike in the Colorado National Monument that is perfect for a quick family hike on your travels. However, if you feel more comfortable in your car, you can sit this one out and see the view of the coke ovens from your car at the viewpoint.

  • Length: 0.8 miles
  • Elevation gain: 173 feet
  • Route Type: Out and Back
  • Difficulty: Moderate

Monument Canyon Trail

Monument Canyon Trail gets a fair number of locals and tourists alike. It is a heavily-trafficked and long (11.6 miles) trail that offers great views, wildflowers, and the occasional bighorn sheep!

Expect a steep ascent at the very end of the trail towards the trail end. Some hikers suggest leaving a car at the end to shorten the hike to 6 miles, but it’s also okay to walk back to the start.

If you are up for a long hike and have older kids we suggest taking this trail. You can try these two in a loop – Wedding Canyon, Monument, Monument Canyon, or the Monument Trail to Rim Rock Drive. You’ll get spectacular views every time.

  • Length: 11.6 miles
  • Elevation gain: 561 feet
  • Route Type: Out and Back
  • Difficulty: Moderate

Devils Kitchen Trail

A great view of the rock formation from the Devil's Kitchen Trail with two people in blue jacket hiking up
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Devils Kitchen Trail

Devil’s Kitchen Trail has a scary-sounding name, but the trail is actually a short one at 1.6 miles and is rated moderate. The trail itself is easy but hiking up into the “kitchen” is a bit of a scramble over the rock formation.

The Kitchen will be on your right and will be visible at about ⅔ of your hike. They said there’s not much to see after, so we followed the path up into the rock formation that creates the room called the kitchen.  We took a vote and this was our favorite and most memorable hike in the park.

  • Length: 1.6 miles
  • Elevation gain: 403 feet (more into the kitchen)
  • Route Type: Out and Back
  • Difficulty: Moderate

Serpents Trail

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Serpents Trail Entrance

Serpent’s Trails is a 3.4 miles trail that is often quite busy because it is accessible all year round. It’s another short hike that you can add to your itinerary if you’re looking to accomplish many hikes in one day.

Another view of the Serpent's Trail with stone steps and nature surrounding the trail going up
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Serpents Trail

We recommend parking at the top because the trail has a constant uphill climb, especially in the first half. If you prefer a quiet climb, choose to go early before 9 am or in the early spring, like we did.

  • Length: 3.4 miles
  • Elevation gain: 780 feet
  • Route Type: Out and Back
  • Difficulty: Easy

Cold Shivers Point

A lot of people say that Cold Shivers Point has one of the most spectacular views on all the trails in the Colorado National Monument. The overlook is on top of a vertical cliff and is both handicapped and stroller-friendly.

We recommend driving to Rim Rock Drive from the east entrance of the monument. The overlook is just a short walk away from the parking lot.

  • Height: 300 feet
  • Route Type: Overlook
  • Difficulty: Easy

Otto’s Trail

A very nice view of the vast canyon formation from Otto's Trail
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View From Otto’s Trail

It is said that this trail is best done at the end of the afternoon. It is short (0.6 miles) and is considered an easy trail that hikers can enjoy leisurely. 

We recommend reading about John Otto, not a requirement, but it surely is more fun when you read about the person whom the trail is named after.

  • Length: 0.6 miles
  • Elevation gain: 124 feet
  • Route Type: Out and Back
  • Difficulty: Easy

Canyon Rim Trail

A great view from the Canyon Rim Trail that takes you to see the views while literally walking on the edge of the canyon rim.
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Canyon Rim Trail

True to its name, Canyon Rim Trail takes you for a hike on the rim of the canyon all throughout.  This trail is not for small children or the faint of heart! It follows along the rim of the canyon giving you unforgettable views! Following this trail will take you to Window Rock.

The trail is a 1.8 miles short flat and easy hike that is jam packed with spectacular views. Expect to see Independence Monument, Praying Hands, Kissing Couple, and the Wedding Canyon. 

We recommend wearing a wide-brimmed visor because the trail doesn’t offer a lot of shade.

  • Length: 12.6 miles
  • Elevation gain: 583 feet
  • Route Type: Point to point
  • Difficulty: Difficult

No Thoroughfare Canyon

No Thoroughfare Canyon offers a pool in the stream and two waterfalls that hikers can enjoy. The trail to the first waterfall offers a lot of views and is frequently visited by beginners.

It becomes a moderate hike past the first waterfall towards the second one. Wildlife can be expected, sometimes you can see deer and mountain goats. Not to mention the popular bighorn sheep or a pack of them that seem to be unbothered by hikers.

  • Length: 5.5 miles
  • Elevation gain: 793 feet
  • Route Type: Out and Back
  • Difficulty: Easy to Moderate

Liberty Cap Trail

Liberty Cap Trail is a moderately-trafficked trail that spans 12.8 miles. Hikers are known to just hike up a portion and go back to where they came in, while some finish the trail to the end.

We don’t recommend bringing small kids here, or carrying a baby, as the trail tends to be muddy and slippery most of the time.

Expect a steep hike for the first two miles or so, but it gets flatter and easier beyond that.

  • Length: 12.9 miles
  • Elevation gain: 2004 feet
  • Route Type: Out and Back
  • Difficulty: Moderate

Best Places to Stay near Colorado National Monument

You can choose to stay in hotels or campgrounds depending on your preference. Campgrounds around the Monument usually offer spaces for both RVs and tents. They also usually have their own lodging that you can stay in.

Campgrounds

See our full article on campgrounds near Grand Junction.

If you want to try RV camping but don’t have one, try renting one. This is the best way to enjoy RVing without jumping in and buying an RV. We have our camper listed on a peer-to-peer site that has a large variety of RVs for rent all over the country. I suggest you try Outdoorsy. We offer our readers a special $50 discount on outdoorsy here.

RVezy is another great place! Just looking in Grand Junction for a perfect RV for canyon country I found this High Clearance Off-Road Winnebago for rent.

Family and Pet-Friendly Hotels

If you’re traveling with kids and pets and you want to stay in a hotel, here are some hotels worth checking.

Best Western Grand River Inn & Suites

Best Western is perfect for families with an indoor heated pool, Wifi, kids stay free and free hot breakfast. It is one of the highest rated hotels in the area.

Location: 3228 I-70 Business Loop, Grand Junction

Check prices for Best Western on Booking.com

La Quinta Inn & Suites Grand Junction

Guests with pets are assigned to the ground-floor rooms of this hotel. You can check in two dogs of any size for no additional fee.

Location: 2761 Crossroads Blvd, Grand Junction, CO 81506

Check prices and reserve a room at La Quinta on Booking.com

Econo Lodge Grand Junction

One of the best sellers in Grand junction is the Econo Lodge. It is extremely clean, has all the basics, and an affordable price. The location of I-70, near the airport, makes it a perfect basecamp.

For just $10 per pet, you can check in two pets of any size in this hotel per night. Pet treats are provided at the front desk and a grassy area for relief is available near the property.

Location: 751 Horizon Dr, Grand Junction, CO 81506

Reservations for Econo Lodge at Booking.com

Pinterest image for Easy Colorado National Monument Hiking Trails with Kids featuring photos showing the Canyon Rim Trail, Devil's Kitchen Trail, and Otto's Trail
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Easy Colorado National Monument Hiking Trails

Final Thoughts on Hiking in Colorado National Monument

Hiking in Colorado National Monument is popular during the spring season through summer. Generally, the best time to visit depending on the things you want to do. 

For other resources to help you plan your family vacation, check out these resources:

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    Shauna Kocman founder of Family Travel Fever

    Hi, I’m Shauna – Welcome to Family Travel Fever.  We are a large family, that was bitten by the travel bug!  We travel with kids and extended family.  I take the kids by myself sometimes because I don’t mind flying or driving solo with my crew to discover the coolest places.

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