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Photo by Jason J. Hatfield

The Two-Hour Tour: Rim Rock Drive

If you can only do one thing, tour the 23-mile Rim Rock Drive by car or bike.

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Largely built between 1931 and 1950, Rim Rock Drive climbs steeply from near the Colorado River and traces the rim of the plateau, providing unrivaled perspectives on the park’s towering rock formations, the Grand Valley, and the Book Cliffs. Give yourself at least two hours (three by bike) to properly photograph the many pull-offs. Here, a mile-by-mile guide to some of our favorites.

Solitude-O-Meter: 2.5

West Entrance | Mile 0
Start at the west-side entrance (elevation: 4,690 feet), near Fruita.

Photo courtesy of Getty Images

Balanced Rock | Mile 1.5
Why Stop? To gander at a 600-ton boulder teetering on a sandstone pedestal. An illustrated sign provides a useful, if quick, lesson about how erosion shapes rock into improbable sculptures like the one in front of you.

Visitor Center | Mile 4.5
Why Stop? To get maps and hiking recs (if it’s open). The interactive exhibits inside provide overviews of the monument’s ecology and history with refreshing brevity. That leaves you plenty of time to follow the half-mile Canyon Rim Trail to Book Cliffs View and Window Rock, two of CNM’s most spectacular overlooks.

Grand View | Mile 6
Why Stop? The view, yes—but also to remember those who helped make your tour possible. Thousands of Civilian Conservation Corps workers carved these roads out of stone in the 1930s; a plaque here recognizes nine who died when blasting for Half-Tunnel collapsed a cliff on top of them.

Photo by Kasey Cordell

Coke Ovens Overlook | Mile 8
Why Stop? For an excellent look at the beehive-shaped rock formations that resemble ovens used in coal production (you can get closer to them on the half-mile Coke Ovens Trail, just down the road). Bonus: Bighorn sheep sometimes congregate here—as well as near Fruita Canyon—so have your camera ready.

Red Canyon Overlook | Mile 16
Why Stop? To ogle a remarkable example of a “hanging” canyon—essentially a canyon inside a canyon created by erosion. This one showcases the roughly 2,500-foot drop between the monument and the valley, beautifully framing the city of Grand Junction.

Photo by Jason J. Hatfield

Cold Shivers Point | Mile 19
Why Stop? To (carefully) take dramatic selfies on the rock platforms above Columbus Canyon. There’s a reason this place gives folks the willies: It’s a steep 300 feet from the edge of the cliff you’re standing on to the canyon floor.

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