Wedding Canyon

Round Trip Distance: 4.6 miles
Difficulty: Strenuous
Elevation: 4690 - 5299 feet
Cellphone: 3-5 bars
Time: 2 hrs. 30 mins.
Trailhead: Lower Monument Canyon
Fee: none
Attractions: Scenic canyon

Wedding Canyon lies north of Independence Monument in the Colorado National Monument. Unlike the other well constructed trails in the monument with their meticulously placed stone slabs for steps the trail in Wedding Canyon is primitive in nature with loose dirt and scree to deal with on the steeper sections. All though the trail is primitive it is still well established and easy to follow. Wedding Canyon gets its name from the marriage ceremony of John Otto and Beatrice Farnham that was performed there in 1911.

Wedding Canyon can be hiked as a loop when combined with the Independence Monument hike. Since it is generally easier to hike up scree slopes the best way to enjoy this hike is by entering Wedding Canyon at the lower end and hiking up to Monument Canyon where you can follow that trail back to the Lower Monument Canyon trailhead. As you leave the trailhead watch for an unmarked trail that branches off to the right within the first tenth of a mile or about 500 feet. It is at the top of the rise just as the trail turns south towards Monument Canyon.

As the trail heads toward Wedding Canyon it drops down one rough section of cliff, across an open section of sagebrush, and around several red Entrada outcrops. It is right at 1 mile to the mouth of Wedding Canyon from the trailhead.

Once the trail turns up Wedding Canyon there is another fork to the right that runs over to Lizard Canyon and that is a whole different hike. The trail up Wedding Canyon runs along the east side of the canyon between the high wall of the Wingate cliffs and the rugged Precambrian era ravine that splits the canyon down the middle. To head up Wedding Canyon resist following the trail that drops down into the wash and stay to your left.

The trail climbs steadily as it heads up the canyon. The elevation gain on this hike is over 600 feet so you know you are going to get a little workout along the way. At around 1.4 miles into the hike you come to what is probably the steepest section of the trail as it begins climbing steeply up the side of the hill. It's not very far, about 500 feet, before the trail levels off again and once it does the going gets rather pleasant. I would have rated the trail as moderate if it wasn't for this steep section.

With the number of bighorn sheep in the monument continually growing they are becoming more and more common while hiking. While they seem docile and approachable at times and will occasionally move toward you it is best to keep your distance as with any wild animal. Any animal that can fight off a mountain lion would surely severely injure a hiker. Its best to invest in a pair of binoculars and a good telephoto lens. Like deer and elk the bighorn like feeding on the tender leaves of the oak brush and mountain mahogany.

Independence Monument is all that remains of the wall that once separated Monument and Wedding Canyons. At 450 feet high it marks the halfway point of the hike roughly 2.3 miles from the trailhead along either route. A person could turn around and return along the same route or continue down Monument Canyon to the trailhead.

The trail down Monument Canyon is much easier to hike. The trail passes alongside of giant boulders that have fallen from the cliffs and provide a playground atmosphere for hikers.

Most rock climbers come to conquer Independence Monument but at times they will take on one of the other cliffs. There are several spots on the monument where John Otto left behind evidence of some of his climbing routes.

Besides its historical significance Wedding Canyon is a fun hike with all the usual beauty that visitors to the monument have grown accustomed to. The monument staff have added the trail to the kiosk at the Lower Monument Canyon trailhead and there are signs that they have trimmed a few of the trees along the trail. Maybe with time they will be able to add a few markers or trail signs to help keep hikers on the path. If you would like to give Wedding Canyon a go then all you have to do is 'Take a hike!'.