Round Trip Distance: 1 mile
Elevation: 5791-5825 feet
Cellphone: 3 bars
Usage: Hiking -No Dogs
Time: 1 hr. 30 mins.
Facilities: Flush toilet, museum and bookstore at Visitor Center
Trailhead: Colorado National Monument Visitor Center
Fee: $5 individual - $10 vehicle - $25 annual pass
View Alcove Nature Trail in a larger map
The Alcove Nature Trail is located across from the Visitor Center on the Colorado National Monument. We had the pleasure of watching two of our grand kids for the week so we decided to punish them the same way we did their daddy and take them for a hike. The Alcove Nature Trail on the Colorado National Monument was the perfect adventure.
This hike begins at the Colorado National Monument Visitor Center. Before starting out we had a little picnic at the visitor center. The temperature was only about 50 degrees but it was pleasant sitting in the sun with little or no breeze.
The first thing we came to, after crossing Rimrock Drive, was the junction of the Black Ridge and the Alcove Nature trails. We followed the left fork in the trail and stopped at a box that contained trail guides. There was a coin slot to deposit the requisite 50 cents for the guide. The trail had 31 metal posts at different points along the way. Each post had a number on it that corresponded with information in the guide that explained different aspects of the trail. The quality of the guide with all of its information was a real bargain.
The trail traversed around an interesting cliff of 165 mya Entrada Sandstone passing between Junipers and Pinyon trees.
The upper portion of the cliff was potted with various holes and weather marks that gave the cliff an entertaining character.
The trail is very easy to follow and doesn't change much in elevation making it suitable for people of all ages.
As the trail wraps around the cliff the passage becomes increasingly narrow. The high walls block the sunshine from entering the narrow confines of the trail except in the early morning hours.
Eventually the trail terminates in an impressive little alcove.
The slender opening allows enough light to enter the small area to see but not quite enough open sky for the GPS to keep its fix on the minimal number of satellites to provide its required triangulation. The Google trail map looks a little odd for this portion of the hike.
Here is a look back at the narrow passage way into the alcove. Our grand daughter stopped at each sign post along the trail, recited its number, and greeted it with her best salutation, 'Hello, number 9'.
There is a short side trail that leads over to the edge of the hill above Rim Rock Drive. This bighorn ram was grazing between the road shoulder and the rim of the canyon.
We noticed a Juniper tree that had a lot of dead branches. Many of these trees are hundreds of years old. During drought years the Juniper can switch off water to some of its branches causing them to die but allowing the rest of the tree to survive. It's fascinating how each plant, tree, shrub and the various creatures in the desert adapt themselves to survive in the harsh environment.
We arrived back at the visitor center after hiking (playing) for about 90 minutes. The trail was only one mile round trip but our junior explorers were very thorough in their study of the area and probably required a little more time than others would find necessary. Once back at the visitor center we toured the museum. The kids enjoyed the exhibits of birds and reptiles. The warm restrooms with running water were a real bonus.
On our way out of the monument we came upon a herd of Desert Bighorn Sheep in the middle of the road. There were probably about 15-20 or more sheep in the mix of rams, ewes and lambs. Judging from the number of lambs it appears that the sheep are thriving.
The Alcove Nature Trail is one of several short hikes that can be enjoyed on the monument. The variety of different hikes on the monument provide an outing for a variety of occasions. The learning that the nature trail provides enriches the other hikes in the area by augmenting the beauty of the landscape with the amazements of nature. I suppose the beauty is not only in seeing but also in understanding. Of course, if you want to experience the Alcove Nature Trail for yourself then all you have to do is 'Take a hike'.