Prehistoric Red Rock Beauty – Colorado National Monument, CO

“I came here last year and found these canyons, and they feel like the heart of the world to me. I’m going to stay and build trails and promote this park”
John Otto, 1907

A view to live a dream for

It was an ambitiously crazy dream and it pretty much took a crazy man to pull it off. John Otto was the character to do it. Flamboyant, eccentric, and obsessive, he was locked up three times in his life for “acute mania”, but when he saw the canyons in Fruita his energies found new focus and he knew the rest of his days would be dedicated to them.

And that’s exactly what Otto did. He lived, breathed and fought for these dramatic red cliffs, living alone in the canyons, building backbreaking trails by hand, petitioning relentlessly and eventually getting the place set aside as a National Monument in 1911.

Just another gorgeous view-point from the Rim Road

He was of course not the first to set foot on these red rocks of beauty. The entire Western Colorado plateau is a veritable multi-hundred-million year history book. Much of the Morrison Formation, as it’s called, was laid down in the Late Jurassic period and remains a rich living source of fossils and prehistoric discoveries. In fact if you’re a paleo-lover it really doesn’t get any better than this, and you can bask away in dinosaur dreams all through the 512-mile Dinosaur Diamond Scenic Byway that winds through Colorado and Utah. If we weren’t on our way to OR that’s exactly what we’d be doing, but thankfully we got the chance to get a good taste right here in Fruita/Grand Junction.

High desert flowers

And what a taste it is! The Colorado National Monument is a stunning tribute to the prehistoric plateau. Red sediment rock eroded by water, wind and ice has created dramatic spires, domes and sheer-walled faces that tower several thousand feet and go back several hundreds of millions of years.

I honestly can’t believe we missed seeing this when we came through Grand Junction last year. It’s so accessible and yet so drop-dead gorgeous. These are the red rocks of Colorado and they’re truly a hidden gem. You can drive the Rim Road, gawk at the views, hike the trails, and even explore the surrounding BLM areas. We did the drive, but missed doing any major hikes due to the heat (yeah, it’s been hot here), but it’s a stop we’d gladly come back and explore again. Gotta give thanks to Otto’s crazy dream!

Posing at the cliffs on Window Rock Trail
Red rocks to the horizon at Cold Shivers Point
Balanced Rock in shadow from the morning sun
Dramatic Independence Monument is one of the gems of the park
View from Book Cliffs
High desert pinyon-juniper
Click HERE To Shop

Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the product links in the post above may be “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. That said, I only ever recommend products or services I personally use and love! Wheelingit is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to

We LOooVE Comments, So Please Do

  1. says

    The picture of Balanced Rock is breath taking! This place is amazing. It looks like you were all alone. I looked at the link for the Dinosaur Diamond Scenic Byway….looks awesome. How much better can that get?

    • libertatemamo says

      You know we WERE practically alone. Very few people out visiting. I guess most folks just bypass this on the way to Moab in UT. We LOVED it and we didn’t even explore everything it had to offer. The BLM area (right next door) is just as interesting.

  2. Christy @ Technosyncratic says

    Stunning scenery… and what a fount of history! Looks like a very neat place to explore.

A Comment For Your Thoughts?

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *