Colorado National Monument’s best spring hikes

by Johanna van Waveren

Spring is my favorite time of the year to hike in Colorado National Monument. Picture waterfalls and streams flowing through red rock canyons that normally are as dry as, well, a desert. Keep your eyes peeled for the baby bighorn sheep shadowing their protective mothers. Bright pink, red, and yellow flowers burst from the centers of cacti which truly leave you in awe of the variety of colors in this special desert landscape.

Below are some of my favorite spring trails in Colorado National Monument:

1. No Thoroughfare Canyon – 2 miles round trip (RT) to first pool/waterfall and 4 miles RT to next waterfall. This is my favorite spring hike because you follow an ephemeral stream to visit waterfalls. This is a great trail to see the shockingly bright and beautiful collared lizards, as well as a resplendent variety of spring wildflowers.

2. Monument Canyon/Wedding Canyon Loop – 5 miles RT. I love this hike all year round, but spring is ideal due to the cooler temperatures and the chance for seeing juvenile bighorn sheep. This hike takes you to the base of Independence Monument and through two of our biggest canyons.

3. Echo Canyon – 3 miles RT. This is one of the most lush canyons in the monument with a small, trickling stream and large cottonwood trees. Hummingbirds enjoy this riparian ecosystem, so keep your ears and eyes open to their whirring presence.

4. Otto’s Trail – 1 mile RT. This is a lovely trail for a birds-eye view of the newly bright green valley and canyons below. Look for yucca and claret cup in bloom.

Note: Please be respectful of the very delicate ecosystems that exist in the monument, especially the rare, aquatic ones. Do not swim or put any of your body into the pools that are so scarce and so vital to desert life. Our skin has lotions and soaps that are detrimental to these water sources.

Spring Walks and Talks Series with Colorado National Monument Association
The Colorado National Monument Association has been putting on free events for the public as part of their Walks and Talks Series for more than ten years. Join local avian experts for spring bird walks to spy newly returning birds to the monument, hike with a geology expert to learn all about these special red rocks and canyons, and channel your inner poet by joining a “walk and write” poetry workshop. If you want a nice break from your spring hikes, you can always sit in the cool auditorium to hear an insightful lecture on subjects ranging from cacti to night photography to animal bites and stings. We also host public night sky events with telescopes to use courtesy of the Western Colorado Astronomy Club.

Upcoming Colorado National Monument Association Spring Walks and Talks
1. Poetry Walk and Write- March 21st
2. Family Bird Walk- March 24th
3. Star Party- April 5th
4. Civilian Conservation Corps Talk and Photo Exhibit- April 6th
5. Flute Program- April 13th

This is just the tip of the iceberg. There are many more Walks and Talks this spring and throughout the year. If you would like to join our e-mail list to get notifications about upcoming Walks and Talks or to sign up for any upcoming events, please e-mail me at johannavwaveren@coloradonma.org or call me at 970-858-3617 ext.307.

Johanna van Waveren is the Walks and Talks Coordinator and Membership Director for Colorado National Monument Association. She also works seasonally for the US Forest Service and the National Park Service.

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