Round Trip Distance: 8.5 miles
Elevation: 6560 - 6575 feet
Cellphone: 3-5 bars
Usage: Hiking - Equestrian - No dogs
Time: 5 hrs.
Facilities: Flush toilet at Visitors Center
None at trailhead
Trailhead: Liberty Cap
Fee: $5 individual - $10 vehicle - $25 annual pass
Attractions: Arch, Historic site, scenic views
View Otto's Bathtub in a larger map
Otto's Bathtub is located on Monument Mesa, in the Colorado National Monument, in a cliff of Entrada sandstone that caps the east rim of Monument Canyon. I've read that John Otto was accustomed to making catch basins for watering horses. This particular basin apparently had another purpose. Whether truly for bathing or simply to catch water for drinking I'm not sure but perhaps it is aptly named as a bathtub. The location is very secluded and he went through the trouble to chisel out steps in the rock for access.
I began from the Liberty Cap trailhead, on Rimrock Drive, shortly before the sun was fully up over Monument Mesa. The Liberty Cap trailhead also servers as the south trailhead for the Black Ridge trail that runs from here to the Visitor Center. The Liberty Cap trail is 5 miles, one-way, from Rimrock Drive to the Liberty Cap formation. The classic route for the Liberty Cap formation, though, is to climb up the 2 miles from the Wildwood trailhead.
The trail across Monument Mesa to Liberty Cap was a motor route at one time. It has since been closed off and is now open only to hiking and horseback.
After hiking about 2 miles Monument Canyon begins to come into view on the left, or north side, of the trail. Not shown in the picture, Ute Canyon offers similar views on the right side of the trail. If you know where to look you can spot the location of Otto's Bathtub in the cliff on the right side of Monument Canyon.
The turnoff from the Liberty Cap trail for Otto's Bathtub is about 3.25 miles from the trailhead. The only indication of the trail was a small cairn that was easy to miss. There is now a second larger cairn marking the turnoff. Maybe someday there can be an actual sign.
After turning off of the Liberty Cap trail it is a little less than a mile to Otto's Bathtub. The trail cuts through the juniper and Pinyon trees to the rim. From here most of the trail is on the slick rock along the edge of the mesa. It makes for some very nice hiking with scenic views of Monument Canyon and the area along the rim. There are a few sections of the trail that depart briefly from the rim to make a short cut through the trees. I like to 'stay the trail' but walking the complete stretch on the slick rock won't leave a scar.
Towards the end of the trail the area on the right side drops off leaving a narrow ridge to cross. The ridge isn't all that narrow and if you choose you can drop down into the sandstone bowl to the right of the trail and scramble around it. If you decide to take the lower route you will be rewarded with several window arches that lie beneath the trail. Or you can do what I did and play around a little bit in the bowl then come back up and cross the little bridge. It isn't evident from the picture but the sides of the ridge aren't very precipitous and while a fall might result in some scrapes or a broken bone you won't end up in the bottom of the canyon.
For a long time I was under the misconception that the area in the picture above was Otto's Bathtub. The spot lies the requisite 4 miles from the trailhead and it does look like it could fit the bill. The west side is formed by an arch which I don't have a name for.
It is easy to scramble down the cliff to get a better look at the arch from the other side. It has a span of about 15 feet and a clearance of 4-5 feet.
The real McCoy can be found a few hundred yards further along the rim. As I studied it I became impressed with the adaptation of the natural shape of the rock and the ingenuity to turn it into an outdoor bathtub. The 'bathtub' is a very private spot, secluded from view and you would most surely hear anyone approaching from above in plenty of time to make yourself presentable.
Otto chiseled a series of steps into the rock and drilled several holes off to the side. One hole near the top of the steps still has a peg of juniper inserted that could be used for a hand hold or to attach a rope to.
Talk about a room with a view. This is looking west at part of Monument Canyon directly over top of Otto's Bathtub.
It's hard to hike over to Otto's Bathtub without spending some extra time playing around on the rocks and exploring the surroundings. It's like a playground where all the equipment is made of stone and wood. There are plenty of places to sit and enjoy a picnic and take in the scenic views. That is exactly what I did before heading back.
The crux of the hike is probably a couple of little hills that you have to ascend on the way back. Fortunately they aren't very high and once you get up them you are within 2 miles of the trailhead.
It took me a little less than 2 hours to hike each direction to the bathtub. The rest of the time was spent taking pictures and playing around. I went through 100 ounces of water and 60 ounces of Gatorade, 1 bagel and 2 energy bars. The temperatures were probably never above the 70's F the entire time.Here is a link to a winter outing. If you would like to see Otto's Bathtub for yourself then all you have to do is 'Take a hike'.