Never hiked Serpents Trail? Then your time has come

Ann Wright, left, and Melinda Mawdsley begin hiking Serpents Trail, one of Colorado National Monument’s most well-known hikes. The trail snakes up the east side of the monument for 1.75 miles.

A grand view of the valley awaits hikers at the top of Serpents Trail.

Ann Wright, left, and Melinda Mawdsley hike up Serpents Trail on Colorado National Monument on Monday, Jan. 14.

Melinda Mawdsley, right, stretches before the hike down.


The Grand Valley is home, but how well do you know it? How often do you enjoy the region around it?

Throughout 2013, The Daily Sentinel features staff will highlight interesting or iconic experiences and locations around the region to inspire you to try something you’ve just never taken the time to do.

Some of our adventures will happen right here in Mesa County. Some of our adventures will take us on the road. But all will be regional.

Adventure awaits!

Colorado National Monument is iconic to Grand Junction, but how often do you take advantage of its proximity to your front door and venture off the paved Rim Rock Drive?

The answer, at least for me, is rarely.

And so The Daily Sentinel features department’s yearlong series on must-do regional experiences began at the base of Serpents Trail, one of the most well-known hikes in the monument. It was one I had never done, despite living in Grand Junction for nearly six years. It also was a hike features writer Rachel Sauer had never done, despite living here for nearly 15 years.

Michelle Wheatley, chief of interpretation, education and visitor services for the monument, said Serpents Trail is often billed “the local stairmaster.”

That would be an accurate label.

Serpents Trail, immediately above the east entrance to the monument, climbs 770 feet for 1.75 miles, and it is a consistent climb.

However, in my opinion, it wasn’t difficult. A good workout? Totally. Impossible? No.

I kept a light conversation for all but the final 15 or 20 minutes of the climb up, when I started to legitimately breathe heavily. It felt wonderful.

The way down is obviously much faster and easier.

Serpents Trail snakes — hence the name — up the monument, offering sweeping views of Grand Junction and No Thoroughfare Canyon.

When Rachel, features editor Ann Wright, and I hiked the trail on Monday, Jan. 14, the well-marked path was snow packed, so traction wasn’t an issue even in my tennis shoes.

(Rachel and Ann wore hiking boots, but I don’t own hiking boots. Hiking boots would be advantageous when the trail is icy or muddy.)

The hike round-trip took us approximately 80 minutes, which doesn’t include the five minutes I spent at the top of the trail stretching out because my legs were tired from climbing for 50 minutes.

We passed several people going up and coming down. Everyone was smiling, including us.

Hiking, at least for me, is a quintessential Colorado activity, and one I can do because it involves nothing more than me and the outdoors.

There are plenty of hikes in more remote locations, but the fact Serpents Trail is a great workout and so accessible makes it an approachable regional experience to enjoy at least once if not more.

Get going: Monday is a fee free day at the monument because it’s Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Otherwise, entrance fees to the monument are $10 per vehicle, $5 per motorcycle or $5 for walker/cyclist.)

Go to for information about the monument.


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