Visiting the Colorado National Monument with kids


5/11/20249 min read

Visiting The Colorado National Monument with Kids

Welcome to the stunning Colorado National Monument, located in the beautiful area of western Colorado. This area offers a lot of opportunities for outdoor activities like hiking, biking and even swimming! Located right outside of Grand Junction Colorado, there are opportunities for you to enjoy the outdoors in this National Park, and then head into town to get a bite to eat at one of the local eateries. I have included as many quick facts as possible you can use while you travel through the park!


In the western slope of Colorado, the weather can change quickly, so be prepared and check the weather before you go and dress accordingly. If you plan to visit the Colorado National Monument during the Summer, between late May and Early September, the area will be hot and can sometimes reach over 100 degrees. There is not much shade in the Colorado National Monument so if you plan to hike during the summer, try to get there early in the morning, wear sunscreen, and bring sufficient water. Snow can occur between September and early May, although the western slope typically does not see as much snow as the front range. Temperatures in the winter can reach as low as 20 degrees.

Hiking Trails

One of the highlights of visiting the Colorado National Monument is the opportunity to hike some great trails that lead to breathtaking views. The area also offers the opportunity to see wildlife such as desert big horn sheep, deer, and collared lizards. You should also be aware that mountain lions are occasionally spotted in the area. Although it is rare to see them, it is always a good idea to teach your kids about their surroundings and how to stay safe. During summer months you can see wildflowers and cactus blooming on a lot of the hikes in our list below. This is a quick summary of each hike in the area.

Potholes in Colorado
Potholes in Colorado

Swimming in Nature's Potholes

When the weather gets warm, the Colorado National Monument offers a unique opportunity for families to cool off and have some fun. The monument is home to natural potholes, formed by centuries of erosion. These potholes collect rainwater and provide a refreshing swimming experience.

Little Dolores Falls is a great option to see one of these beautiful natural wonders, but like any body of water, please take caution when swimming. Runoff during the spring can be a dangerous time to jump in the water, and it is recommended to wait for late July and August to swim. Make sure kids wear a life jacket, even if they are strong swimmers. Currents can be strong during run-off and unfortunately, people have lost their lives swimming in these natural potholes. My kids and I enjoy the shallow pool at the bottom of the pot holes. It is a great area for kids to play in safely, and even pan for gold! If you have older kids or are adventurous yourself, there are some opportunities to do some cliff diving, but again please take caution and make sure you and your kids understand the risks.

The hike down to the waterfall is a short 0.2 mile in and out hike. There are several pools that are good for smaller kids to wade and swim in. There is a larger pothole that is used for cliff diving, but again make sure you take caution and avoid swimming in spring and early summer because it can be very dangerous.

wildflower in the Colorado National Monument
wildflower in the Colorado National Monument

Short Hiking Trails

Window Rock Trail: 0.25 miles one way - Total 0.5 miles in and out.

Difficulty: Easy


Window Rock Trail is a short hike that leads to a great viewpoint of Window Rock. This is a great option for a quick hike with small kids. My kids and I have seen lizards and beautiful desert flowers on this hike. The lizards definitely keep the younger kids entertained.

Canyon Rim Trail: 0.5 miles one way - Total 1-mile hike in and out

Difficulty: Easy

Location: Saddlehorn Visitors Center

Canyon Rim trail is a short hike that offers amazing views of Wedding Canyon. This is another great hike with kids. The trail follows the cliff edge and has a few switchbacks, that have railings when the trail is adjacent to the edge.

Alcove Nature Trail 0.5 miles one way - Total 1-mile hike in and out

Difficulty: Easy

The Alcove Natural Trail is another great, but short hike. The hike begins at the visitor's center and is an easy, even leveled trail that leads to an alcove. During the summer, you may be able to see a small waterfall.

Ottos Trail 0.5 miles one way - Total 1-mile hike in and out

Difficulty: Easy

Otto's trail is a great option if you want to get the best views in a short hike. The trail leads you to an amazing view of Wedding Canyon and Monument Canyon. The area offers great views of Independence Monument, Pipe Organs, and Sentinel Spirals. Trail has some rocky areas, but mostly a level trail.

Coke Ovens Trail 0.5 miles one way - total 1-mile hike in and out.

Difficulty: Easy

A short hike with a slow decent down a few switchbacks to a great viewpoint of the Coke Ovens. The Coke Ovens are a beautiful and unique rock formation that is definitely worth the short hike. This area is an easy hike for kids, with a few rocky areas and a slow descent, but a simple enough hike!

CCC Trail: 0.75 miles one way - Total 1.5-mile hike in and out

Difficulty: Moderate

The CCC trail is mostly an uphill hike that has an elevation gain of 400 ft. The trail connects to Black Ridge Trail. Here you will see a sign that signals the Liberty Cap Trail and the Visitors center. You can turn back around at this point to just do the CCC Trail, or you can continue to do the Blackridge Trail. This is a quick hike if you want to get a quick workout with your family.

Devils Kitchen Trail: 0.75 miles one way - Total 1.5-mile hike in and out

Difficulty: Moderate

The Devil's Kitchen trail is a lot of fun for kids and leads to a large rock grotto that will awe your family. The hike is a slow uphill hike and has stone steps throughout the trail that makes this an easier/ moderate trail.

Serpents Trail: 1.9 miles one-way - Total 3.8-mile hike in and out

Difficulty: Moderate/ Steep

The Serpents Trail is a fun and unique trail that has a total of 16 switchbacks that helps you gradually climb up the mountain. You can begin at either the lower trailhead which is near the Devil's Kitchen trailhead or, you can begin at the upper trailhead which has a small parking lot. The road is a paved and easy road to walk, but you get great exercise with this steady uphill hike and beautiful views of the Grand Valley.

Backcountry Hiking Trails

Black Ridge Trail: 5.5-miles one-way - total 11-mile hike in and out.

Difficulty: Moderate

There are several trails that take you to the bottom of the canyons, but the Black Ridge Trail, keeps you at the top and allows you to get incredible views of the Colorado National Monument and McInnis Canyons National Conservation Area. This is a longer hike with some rocky areas along the way. Bring plenty of water and some snacks on this hike.

Monument Canyon Trail: 6 miles one-way

Difficulty: Moderate to steep

Take the Coke Ovens Trail and this will connect to the Monument Canyon Trail.

Liberty Cap Trail: 7 miles one-way

Difficulty: Steep at the lower trailhead and easy at the upper trailhead

Another long trail that takes you close to an incredible rock formation in the Colorado National Monument. The first 2 miles of the hike, you are ascending up from the Grand Valley. The last five miles of the hike are easy and mostly level. This is a moderate hike with kids because of the length and the 2 mile ascent, but another rewarding hike for families who are able to make this one!

Ute Canyon Trail: 7 miles one-way

Difficulty: Moderate/ Steep

Ute Canyon trail has a 400 ft descent into the canyon and the trail is steep with some stone steps that help on the way down. This trail is very narrow and follows the cliff down into the canyon. This trail will be a more difficult hike with toddlers because of the descent along the cliffside. If you are able to go on this hike, you are rewarded with some small natural arches.

Old Gordon Trail: 4 miles one-way

Difficulty: Easy

The Old Gordon Trail is a long, but easy hike that can be taken by families who want to get in a longer hike with smaller kids and not worry about cliffside trails. This trail follows the old road used in the area. This hike has a slow ascent, but easy for families with any age kids. Bring lots of water because this is a total 8 mile hike in and out.

No thoroughfare Canyon Trail: 8.5 miles one-way

Difficulty: Moderate/ strenuous

The No Thoroughfare Canyon Trail takes you on a long 8-mile hike through the canyon. This hike will take you past a couple of small waterfalls, that may be dried up later in the summer. The hike also goes past some very small arches and you can enjoy a more secluded experience on this longer hike. This is a great hike for families with older kids or that have a lot of experience hiking.

Corkscrew Trail loop: Total 3.3 miles loop trail.

Difficulty: Moderate to strenuous

The Corkscrew trail loop is a steep descent with corkscrew switchbacks. This is another great hike for families with older kids. This is a less-known hike if you are looking for something away from the crowds!

Biking The Colorado National Monument

If your family enjoys biking, the Colorado National Monument has plenty to offer. The Rim Rock Drive, a scenic road that winds through the monument, is a popular route for cyclists. The road offers 23 miles of breathtaking views of the canyons and cliffs, making it a memorable biking experience for the whole family.

Be sure to stay on the road since this is the only area where bikes are allowed. Off-road mountain biking is not permitted in the Colorado National Monument. Bicyclists are required to follow all traffic laws and also required to ride in a single file at all times.

The Colorado National Monument is a very dry area with low humidity and is in a high altitude area. Make sure you stay hydrated and drink plenty of water on your ride. There is a water bottle refill station at the visitors center available if your family needs to stop to refill!

Camping Under the Starry Sky

Set up camp under the starry sky and wake up to the breathtaking views of the canyons and rock formations. Enjoy a cozy campfire, share stories, and bond with your loved ones in this serene and picturesque setting.

Saddlehorn Campground is a great option for camping in the area. Sites are $22/ night with a maximum 14 day stay. Backcountry camping is allowed in the area with a permit. Pick up a free backcountry permit at the visitors center. Pack out all trash with you and leave no trace. This means no camping on biological soil crust and carry out any solid human waste or dispose of it in a 6 to 8 inch hole that is at least 300 feet away from any water source. Camping on top of Independence Monument is prohibited and groups are limited to 7. It is recommended to camp in the lower canyon area during cooler months because of the high temperatures that occur in the summer months. Backcountry campers should also be prepared to bring your own water. Unfortunately, visitors are not allowed to filter water from the area. Because of the dry conditions, any water sources in the area must be preserved for the animals and plant life. The last quick fact you must know is that no fires are allowed in the backcountry. Gas and alcohol camp stoves are allowed.


Rim Rock Drive

If you are looking for a leisurely way of visiting the Colorado National Monument with plenty of overlooks to stop at along the way. The Rim Rock Drive is a 23-mile scenic drive that takes you up along the upper rim of the canyons in the National Park. This is a great choice if you are a bit crunched on time and you are not able to do the hikes in the area. The scenic drive will take you through winding roads and many opportunities to stop and take in the views, and opportunities to see big horned sheep and other wildlife in the area. Don't forget to check out the visitor center, which has information about the area, and a small gift shop kids will love.

Desert Bighorn Sheep at Colorado National Monument
Desert Bighorn Sheep at Colorado National Monument