Alcove Nature Trail Colorado National Monument

Across the road from the park visitor center (and Canyon Rim Trail) is Alcove Nature Trail. This track is set back from the canyon rim, which limits views of the great landscape. What this trail offers instead is an informative hike with numbered markers that coincide with entries in a guide booklet. The entries describe plants and animals in the park as well as the geological history. This level one-mile round trip trail is less scenic that others in the park but is perfect for educating/boring young children.

Alcove Nature Trail
A limited view into Monument Canyon

Follow signs from the visitor center parking lot and begin up Alcove Nature Trail. After purchasing a pamphlet from the trail guide dispenser for fifty cents, make a left at the junction. Once you have the guide in hand, start reading! The 31 numbered signs come fast and frequent, making it hard to keep up with the long passages in the guide.

Here is an example of one entry:

11. Like a standing skeleton, this ancient gnarled juniper tree was over 300 years old when it died. All plants and animals eventually yield their places to other plants and animals. It may take more than a century for a dead juniper tree to topple and decay here in the desert, but the stored nutrients will be reused time and time again. Everything in nature is recycled and nothing is wasted.

The trail brochure is produced by the Colorado National Monument Association and is packed with information about the park.

Alcove Nature Trail
Passing marker eleven

Alcove Nature Trail
The canyon at the back end of the trail

After half a mile of level hiking, the trail dead-ends at the back of a box canyon. This is the most visually interesting part of the hike, and the end of the entries in the pamphlet. From here, turn around and follow the same track back. You can reread your favorite entries as you return to the visitor center. Block out around 45 minutes to hike this one-mile hike with 175 feet of elevation change.

Window Rock Trail Map
A map of the Saddlehorn area courtesy of the National Park Service

To get to the trailhead: From Saddlehorn Visitor Center, 4.3 miles south the west entrance of Colorado National Monument on Rim Rock Drive, follow the signs across the road to the start of Alcove Trail.

Trailhead address: Rimrock Drive, Colorado National Monument, Grand Junction, CO 81507
Trailhead coordinates: 39.1009, -108.734803 (39° 06′ 03.24″N 108° 44′ 05.29″W)

Use the map below to create your own directions:

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Photos

Alcove Nature TrailAlcove Nature TrailAlcove Nature TrailWindow Rock TrailAlcove Nature TrailAlcove Nature TrailAlcove Nature Trail

These photos were taken in June of 2010. Click to enlarge.
Nearby Trails
Colorado National Monument TrailsCanyon Rim Trail
This one-mile round trip hike begins at Saddlehorn Visitor Center and travels along the cliffs edge overlooking Monument Canyon.
Colorado National Monument TrailsWindow Rock Trail
This 1/3-mile round trip hike ends at a distinct point on the wall of Monument Canyon where a natural window appears just below the top of the cliff.
Colorado National Monument TrailsOtto’s Trail
This 0.75-mile round trip hike visits an overlook near the Pipe Organs with an excellent view of Independence Monument and Monument Canyon.
Colorado National Monument TrailsMore trails in Colorado
Explore other destinations in Colorado National Monument.
Camping
Colorado National Park campingSaddlehorn Campground
This 80-site campground is the only designated camping area in Colorado National Park, conveniently located near Saddlehorn Visitor Center.

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