· Grand Valley
Colorado National Monument
In a part of the state brimming with gorgeous red rock scenery, this National Monument stands head and shoulders above the rest. Whether you’re looking for birds, other wildlife, or just drop dead gorgeous vistas, there’s something for you here. The main road through the monument passes through a good variety of habitats, including pinyon-juniper woodland, semi-desert shrubland, riparian, and, of course, abundant cliff faces. Perhaps the best known birding stop in the monument is the Devil’s Kitchen Trail, just inside the east entrance. Walk the trail down from the parking area through sparse pinyon-juniper woodland (look for Black-throated Gray Warbler, Gray and Ash-throated Flycatchers, and Pinyon Jay) into a draw filled with semi-desert shrubland. Here Black-throated Sparrow and Gambel’s Quail are common, and in the junipers surrounding the draw it typically doesn’t take much work to find a Gray Vireo. A small riparian grove here sometimes has Lazuli Bunting and Virginia’s Warbler. Various lizards, including the striking collared lizard and the rare and local longnose leopard lizard, can be found in the area. In the rest of the monument just stop at the various pullouts and see what you can find. Pinyon Jay is a species often looked for; the best way to find it is to drive with the windows down and listen for its distinctive calls. White-throated Swift is common throughout, especially near cliffs, as are Rock and Canyon Wrens. Rock Squirrels perch up on outcrops and snags to watch you pass. The visitor center is a good place to stop by and learn about the nature and geology of the park, and ask the rangers for advice on things you’d like to see.
Habitat: Pinyon-Juniper Forest, Cliff Face, Sagebrush
Directions: Westbound on 1-70, take Exit 31 to East Entrance. From the off ramp turn left onto Horizon Drive for about one mile to a roundabout, exit the roundabout onto southbound 12th Street, and drive for two miles. Turn right on Grand Avenue for another two miles, cross over the viaduct and the Colorado River, and take the first left turn past the bridge. Stay on Monument Road for three miles to monument entrance. Eastbound on 1-70, take Exit 19 at Fruita to West Entrance. From the off ramp turn right on Colorado 340 for about three miles to the entrance station. Campgrounds are located in this vicinity, as well as excellent views of the surrounding valley floor. The main park road is the historic, paved, 23-mile Rim Rock Drive. A self-guided nature trail and 13 backcountry trails offer birding options. A printable travel guide is available at http://www.nps.gov/colm, and the phone number is 970-858-3617.
Delorme: 42 D3
Roads of Colorado: 81 D2-D3
Dates of Access: Open all year
Ownership: National Park Service
Admission: National Parks fee
Parking: Parking areas
Handicapped Access: Handicap accesible view points and car birding