With winter bearing down on Colorado National Monument, officials are planning to close the middle stretch of Rim Rock Drive. However, to offset that they're also planning to reduce entrance fees during the winter months.
Beginning December 1 and running through February, a time period when the mid-section of the drive will be closed, daily entrance fees for vehicles will dip to $5, while cyclists and walkers can gain entry to the park for $3.
Standard entrance fees will apply for unlimited visits from two days to up to seven consecutive days: vehicles $7.00 and cyclists/pedestrians $4.00. The annual entrance pass remains the same for unlimited visits at just $20.00 for one calendar year.
Monument crews will continue to maintain the east hill of Rim Rock Drive and provide plowing and sanding by contracting with Mesa County to do this work, just as they've done for the past three winters at the monument’s expense. This provides Glade Park residents with a well-maintained route from the east gate of Colorado National Monument to the DS Road during the snowy and icy winter months.
In an effort to reduce operating expenses, monument officials will be closing the top portion of Rim Rock Drive from the DS Road to the Independence Monument overlook (14 miles) to all wheeled traffic throughout the winter season. The winter closure will take effect on December 1 and continue through February 28. The road will re-open to all traffic on March 1.
During the winter months, visitors can continue to drive or cycle in at the west entrance station at Fruita, Colorado, and continue up the west hill to the monument’s Visitor Center, which will be open daily from 9:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. On the west side of the monument there will be motorized access to five scenic overlooks; the Black Ridge Trailhead, the Saddlehorn Campground and Picnic Area.
Visitors may also continue to drive or cycle in at the east entrance station in Grand Junction, Colorado, and continue up the east hill to the Cold Shivers Point scenic overlook and also access five hiking trails on the east side.
Depending on winter conditions and the spring plowing schedule, there may be a time period when the road remains closed but is plowed open to allow it to dry out in preparation for the opening on March 1. During this time period, if conditions allow, cyclists will be invited to ride the closed section in the later part of February.
Monument officials will announce when the road will open to cyclists approximately one week to 10 days before March 1. It will be dependent on conditions and how spring plowing goes.
During the time period from December 1 to March 1, monument crews will not maintain or plow the top portion of Rim Rock Drive but will allow snow to accumulate. This section of Rim Rock Drive will be closed with three separate gates on Rim Rock Drive, one immediately west of the DS Road, one at 16 ½ Road and one at Independence Monument overlook.
This will enable the monument to make significant cost savings by reducing plowing, sanding and road patrol operations across the top of Rim Rock Drive, which receives very minimal traffic during the winter months. During this time period all Glade Park motorized traffic will be directed to the DS Road or Little Park Road as 16 ½ Road at Rim Rock Drive will be closed for the winter season.
If the closed section of Rim Rock Drive receives adequate snow, the public will be welcome to snowshoe or cross country ski on the closed roadway surface during daytime hours between 8:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. only. Day use parking will be available at the Independence Monument Overlook and at Otto’s Trailhead.
Bicycles will not be permitted on the closed sections of Rim Rock Drive during the winter closure. Furthermore, bicycles are not permitted to use any portion of Rim Rock Drive, including the east and west hills, during any time periods when snow plows are plowing and sanding the hills and other sections of Rim Rock Drive. Cyclists are requested to ride open sections of Rim Rock Drive only during daylight hours due to the icy nature of this road during the winter months.
The following facilities, trailheads, and scenic overlooks in the monument are open year-round:
Visitor Center 9:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. Open Daily
Saddlehorn Campground & Picnic Area
Scenic Overlooks: Redlands View, Balanced Rock View, Historic Trails View, Distant View, Fruita Canyon View, Bookcliffs View, and Independence Monument View
Trails: Black Ridge Trail, Alcove Nature Trail, Canyon Rim Trail, Window Rock Trail, Otto’s Trail
Devils Kitchen Picnic Area
Scenic Overlook: Cold Shivers Point
Trails: Serpents Trail, Devils Kitchen Trail, No Thoroughfare Canyon Trail, Old Gordon Trail, and Echo Canyon Trail