To access the start of this hike, head to the Visitors Center off Rimrock Drive. From the south side of the building, head east and get ready to be taken on an other-worldly visual experience along the Canyon Rim Trail
Beginning alongside the visitor center, follow the trail along the canyon rim as you traverse scrubby desert landscapes to an overlook near Sentinel Spire. Behold the striking desert monoliths before you, towering hundreds of feet above the valley floor amidst a colorful canvas of sandstone walls.
Continuing on from Sentinel Spire, ascend gently to a junction with the Window Rock Trail
. Continue along the Window Rock Trail
as it descends moderately from the mesa-top through sparse pinyon pine and Utah juniper to the lookout near the cliff edge. Peer over the edge in wonder at Monument Canyon's towering sandstone monoliths as you take a break, maybe drink some water, and enjoy your surroundings.
From this location, Independence Monument, the Pipe Organ, and Sentinel Spire can be seen to the south. Continue along the trail as it loops back to the junction with the Canyon Rim Trail
. Enjoy the same route from a new perspective as you return to the Visitor Center parking area.
This route heads through the Pinyon-Juniper Woodland, which is commonly found between the elevations of 4,500 and 6,500 feet. Given the smaller stature of the pinyon pine and Utah juniper, to combat the lack of water for growth, these landscapes are often referred to as pygmy forest. Between the juniper and pinyon pines, there are a number of other cacti and forbs that take root such as sagebrush, rabbitbrush, and mountain mahogany.
The Colorado National Monument was established in 1916 and only accessible by horse or on foot for a number of years. Much of the work to establish buildings and camps was done by the Civilian Conservation Corps during the Great Depression, starting in 1933. Some of their biggest accomplishments were constructing Rim Rock Drive and the Window Rock Trail