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self reliant spire
This hike involves a pretty constant uphill for about 1.75 of the 2.5 miles from the trailhead. Be prepared for a grind, not several up-and-down trail bits
Independence Monument is the most iconic feature of Colorado National Monument, featured on logos and postcards across the Western Slope of Colorado.
Named by monument promoter John Otto, it is climbed every 4th of July by a team of climbers who hoist an American flag. Geologically, the formation is composed of Triassic-Jurassic Wingate Sandstone, capped with more resistant Kayenta Formation sandstone. Originally part of the nearby mesa, the downcutting, and erosion of Monument and Wedding creeks isolated this spire until it took on its current form.
The hike starts at the Monument Canyon trailhead, which is in a neighborhood off of Colorado route 340 between Fruita and Grand Junction. The initial part of the hike follows the monument boundary (the "Buffalo Fence" from when the Monument had an imported herd of bison on the grounds). This gives you a great view of peoples' backyards as you cross through the pinon-juniper forest for about 3/4 of a mile.
Once the trail hits Monument Canyon it veers right (south-southwest) to head up the canyon. While it follows the canyon bottom for a short stretch it soon begins to climb at a relatively easy pace up the northwest canyon wall. The trail is well constructed and easy to follow, though it is also disguised from casual view from below to protect the viewshed.
After climbing around 600 feet and contouring past the head of a drainage, the trail begins to flatten out as you round the southern tip of a mesa. It is along this stretch that you get your first views of Independence Monument since you started the climb. From here it is not far until the base of the monument, maybe a half a mile. There is also a loop around the base of Independence Monument to take in more views. Once you are satisfied, return to the parking lot the way you came.
Seasonal creek, but bring all you need.
It is possible to backpack into Colorado National Monument and explore the numerous canyons therein, but it is not common.
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