Tag Archives: Wedding Canyon

boy standing on the saddlehorn formation, colorado national monument

The Saddlehorn

“You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him participate in synchronized diving.”
Cuthbert Soup, Another Whole Nother Story

I imagine that the first Colorado National Monument caretaker, John Otto, had at least a horse or two to his name while he lived and explored here.

John Otto with horse and mule

So it’s no surprise that this prominent sandstone formation was given the name “Saddlehorn”, since that’s probably what it looked like from the angles that he saw it first.

A few weeks ago when Matt and I were taking in the views from every viewpoint, we passed this formation, not for the first time.

But for the first time, I noticed the moki steps going up the side.

I, of course, was all like, “OMGOMGOMGOMG we have to climb up that! I’ll be the view is spectacularous!”

So, knowing my son Timothy’s penchant for climbing, and wanting to show his friend a little adventure, we pulled over and decided to give it a go.

Tim, of course, went right for the very shallow moki steps that allowed the greatest exposure.

He is a daring and fearless chap, after all.

But not 10 yards up I told him to shuffle his little bum down. A mother’s heart can only take so much.

Undetered, we found was was decidedly the more common route…. as indicated by ‘steps’ carved into the rock face as well as a plethora of graffiti [not all of which was from antiquity].

The boys and I stayed aloft whilst Matt roamed the base, and we all came down from it feeling…well… stunned.

It was stunning.

climbing the moki steps on the saddlehorn rock formation

Rider trying to follow Tim up the ‘steps’. You can just see Tim’s hunched back.climbing the moki steps on the saddlehorn rock formation

Can you see the ‘steps’ in the slickrock?MORE grafiti on the saddlehorn formation

A view from the more conventional route. Pretty sure I’ve seen ‘Valdez’ in several places around the monument. boys sliding on the snow

Sliding on frozen snow = a good time.view from the top of the saddlehorn formation, colordao national monument in winter

PANO = STUNNING!Elisa Jones and boys on top of the saddlehorn formation looking toward wedding canyon

Obligatory selfie from the top of the Saddlehorn. Wedding/Monument canyons in the background.two boys climbing the saddlehorn formation

Can you see why this feature is called the ‘Saddlehorn’? boy standing on the saddlehorn formation, colorado national monument

Tim standing on top. One of the more intense moments. “It’s okay, he’s okay, it’s okay, he’s okay…”graffiti on the saddlehorn, colorado national monument

Even MORE graffiti… and some of it as recent as this decade. Elisa Jones standing on the Saddlehorn


panoramic view from Window Rock, Colorado National Monument in winter

Window Rock Loop

“I discovered windows one afternoon and after that, nothing was ever the same.”
Anne Spollen, The Shape of Water

This particular trail is one of the easiest, shortest, and most spectacular in the Colorado National Monument.

The railings are marked “DANGER! Do Not Cross” and from them you can lean out into the nothingness, 400 feet of Wingate sandstone cliffs beneath you.

Or at least you think they are.

Hope they are.kids at window rock viewpoint looking down into wedding and lizard canyons in winter

Window Rock it’s self is not unique to the monument. Rather, most of the buttresses that are on the Grand Valley side have been carved out just below the Kayenta formation cap, revealing daylight through the expanding cracks beneath them.

This one just happens to be large enough to be named.

We took 3 kids: two of mine and one of a friend. The snow had melted and refrozen and the kids were able to trot along the top of it without leaving much of a footprint [and if you look carefully, you can see the area was trodden before by a large, wild cat.]


After reaching the point where you can look down and across the ‘window’, we headed along the cliff toward Bookcliff Shelter [which is on the National Historic Registry].

We found several things of interest:

○ a natural ‘picnic table’two children sitting on the edge of wedding canyon in winter window rock trail bookcliff view shelter colorado national monument

○ a boulder on the edge, looking like it was about to slip to it’s doom

○ a tree, framing Monument Canyonjuniper tree framing the view of monument and wedding canyon in winter with snow

○ a dry and decaying corpse of some poor rodent [I’m guessing rabbit], whose bones were delicate and bleached by the sunstratified layers of sandstone on the rim of monument canyon colorado national monument

Upon reaching the shelter, the kids enjoyed reading more about the valley below them, memorizing the names of the formations.

It was a very pleasant .6 of a mile. Kids reading about monument canyon in winter colorado national monument Matt Janson at window rock in winter looking toward fruita

Matt enjoying the view. panoramic view from Window Rock, Colorado National Monument in winter

A little pano action.Wedding canyon in winter colorado national monument

A backlit Wedding Canyonwindow rock in winter

Looking down through Window Rock.children on the edge of wedding canyon

Boys playing on the ‘frame’

Rim rock road colorado national monument east switchbacks grand mesa mount garfield serpents trail

Old View, New View

“The frame, the definition, is a type of context. And context, as we said before, determines the meaning of things. There is no such thing as the view from nowhere, or from everywhere for that matter. Our point of view biases our observation, consciously and unconsciously. You cannot understand the view without the point of view.”
Noam Shpancer, The Good Psychologist

© 2017 Matt Janson Photography

It was hard to decide where to begin.

Just like the first sentence of a novel can draw you in your spit you out, we felt that the first excursion on our “Discovering the Monument” project required something…special.



Something that would draw you in and make you want to stay, read on, and experience the adventure alongside us.

But we also had to consider the planning involved in this type of project- we needed to seek a larger view from a higher perspective. Though, to be fair, our perspective is quite clear because we do tend to have more experience that the typical National Park Service visitor.

Yet for this project what we truly desire is not just to introduce you to the views that everyone sees, or has seen, or will see, but rather to take you to the places you haven’t seen, probably won’t see, and never might see again.

So where to begin?

The answer was obvious once we stood back and took in the view: we needed to start with the view.

Or the viewpoints, rather.

Many a trail and exploration will take us into parts unknown, so today we went to the parts…well… known. We put on our tourist goggles and headed up the East Side. The goal: to stop at every viewpoint along the historic Rim Rock Road.

This was our first stop, on the East Side switchbacks, just before the tunnel. This side-ways slab of Kayenta Formation has always fascinated me. 

An iconic panorama…Serpent’s trail climbs the Wingate cliffs on the left, Mt. Garfield peeps out of the inversion, the Grand Mesa darkens the horizon….Grand Junction lies in between and at the center of it all. 

It quickly became apparent that taking in the sites as tourists was not going to happen. After all, we have biked this road and trekked down most of these viewpoints. So our objective quickly shifted not to seeing what has been seen, but to seeing what we haven’t seen before…and where we could explore some more.

[Ah, poetry that.]

You see, we have a map tacked to our kitchen wall. How else would we track the areas that we’ve covered? Plus, I’m kind of a map geek. Is there a word for that? Maybe… cartophile.

So I was surprised that this particular map had some lines on it that I was heretofore unfamiliar with. For example, a rim trail that follows along the top of No Thoroughfare. Another one along the bench…

I have even found some resources that indicate where there are some hidden arches.

The point is, as we cruised along, casually stopping at every viewpoint, we were also looking for some of these hidden gems.  And find some, we did.

We also ended up at the same viewpoint at the same time as my lovely daughter, Trinity, who was giving her grandmother the tour of the Monument. Because, yes, my kids can do that. They’ve hiked most of the trails that I have…and that’s saying something!

We also came across a small herd of sheep, a bunny that was too cold to move, and let Matt get right up close, a flock of bright-blue Pinyon jays performing dances mid-air, and one tunnel that I just had to explore.  [running under Rim Rock Road. See pictures below…]

After 4 hours of driving, hiking, photo ops, and lots of planning we feel an odd combination of excitement and overwhelm.

We’re going to show you some incredible places.

We’re going to experience some amazing things.

We’re going to display the Colorado National Monument in a way it hasn’t been exhibited before.  And that, my friends, is a daunting challenge indeed.


Matt…a man on the edge.

Another view from the east-side switchbacks. 

A little pano from the first of several Ute Canyon views. This one also sports an interpretive trail of ‘The Ute Garden’. I love how the snow in the drainage makes a “U”. Shout out to my sister, Wendy, who graduated from “The U”. Ha ha ha!

I couldn’t get over how the snow has reformed into lacy patterns. 

Looking down Ute Canyon from the Fallen Rock view. Can’t wait to go down this one, and again behind that slab of fallen Wingate. It’s simply breathtaking back there. 

Looking across a finger of Monument Canyon to the North Fruita Desert and Bookcliffs beyond. Taken at Artist’s Point.

Another shot of Fallen Rock from the Ute Canyon TH, where you can descend down a series of switchbacks to the hanging canyon 400 feet below you. 

The geology of the Monument simply astounds me EVERY SINGLE TIME. Check out the variety of colors here! 

Looking down from the [almost] upper-most point in Monument canyon. These are the Coke Ovens stretching out on the left. 

Looking the other direction, you see the Squaws Fingers formation. 

This is an amazing canyon that I can’t wait to explore more fully. We discussed how it might make sense to get a backcountry permit and pack in for a couple of days to make sure we can see everything….

This was a new view for me- one of the many drainages that run under Rim Rock Road. 

Another awesome tree specimen clinging to the edge of the canyon.

Another iconic scene toward the mouth of Monument Canyon.

A small herd of wintering sheep grazing along the road. 

I am so so so so excited to explore these historic trail[s] in question…. just you wait!

View of Balanced Rock through a juniper tree kind enough to act as a frame.

Matt standing right on the Redland’s fault line. 

If you look closely at this shot, you’ll observe one of the common sites as you travel along Rim Rock Road: drill holes. The men who built the road used a lot of dynamite. 

This made me laugh. I hope it makes you laugh, too!

© 2017 Matt Janson Photography The bunny that let Matt get nice and close. Don’t think he was real happy.
© 2017 Matt Janson Photography
Matt’s shot of the sheep.
© 2017 Matt Janson Photography
Yeah. I love trees. Yeah I’m a weirdo.
© 2017 Matt Janson Photography
I’m pointing at…something….with the Coke Ovens are in the distance.
© 2017 Matt Janson Photography
Promise it wasn’t a portrait shoot for me. I just kept finding these awesome little hiding spots.

© 2017 Matt Janson Photography

Check out that desert varnish on the echo wall in upper Ute Canyon.

© 2017 Matt Janson Photography

The hoarfrost was stunning.


© 2017 Matt Janson Photography

Antique graffiti at Cold Shivers Point [below]


© 2017 Matt Janson Photography
© 2017 Matt Janson Photography

This picture makes me laugh every time. “Don’t trash the monument.” but instead of showing a piece of garbage or a beer can on the trail it’s a !%^@&#^# VAN! Ha ha ha!

© 2017 Matt Janson Photography

Looking toward No Thoroughfare Canyon from one of the east side switchbacks. Here’s the view the other direction:

© Matt Janson Photography