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Devils Kitchen. Photo by Jason J. Hatfield

CNM’s Hiking Trail Trifecta

Colorado National Monument has more than 45 miles of trails—consider these three moderate treks its Triple Crown.

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Monument Canyon to Wedding Canyon

Length: 5 miles, loop
Elevation gain: 550 feet
Solitue-O-Meter: 2.5

If it takes longer than it should to hike the 2.5 miles to the base of Independence Monument, it’s probably because of all the photo stops you’ll make. The popular first half of this loop, which begins at the Lower Monument Canyon trailhead, zigs and zags past sandstone crags popular with rock climbers and provides plentiful peeks at the Grand Valley. After you arrive at CNM’s 450-foot signature spire, bear north on the unimproved Wedding Canyon Trail. Hikers need to be surefooted and equipped with above-average route-finding skills for this section. Not you? Simply turn back the way you came for the same extraordinary views (and none of the uphill trudge).

Devils Kitchen

Length: 1.5 miles, out and back
Elevation gain/loss: 300 feet
Solitude-O-Meter: 4

Your eagle eye will get as much of a workout as your legs on this short climb: Cairns are your only guide as you ascend a stone slope on your way up to the rocky hideout that is Devils Kitchen. The grotto’s big boulders let adventurous types scramble up for artsy shots of the Grand Valley or—facing the other way—No Thoroughfare Canyon. (One of the least explored areas of the monument, No Thoroughfare Canyon boasts two small waterfalls in the springtime.) It can be windy up top later in the day, so if you’re planning a picnic—which we recommend—be prepared to chase an errant napkin or two.

Echo Canyon

Length: 3 miles, out and back
Elevation gain/loss: 300 feet
Solitude-O-Meter: 1.5

Mention that you’re going to hike Echo Canyon to CNM’s rangers, and you’ll see smiles tugging on their lips. That’s because this often ignored cruise through a verdant canyon (or as verdant as they come in these parts) to a seasonal waterfall is a quiet favorite among those who know the area best. After starting at the Devils Kitchen trailhead, your initial climb across cairn-lined slickrock is rewarded at the .75-mile mark with a shaded stroll along a (seasonal) stream through a treelined box canyon. Wildflowers take root here in the spring, but be wary: Poison ivy is also prevalent along the creek.

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