Liberty Cap Trail
With a length of 7 miles, Liberty Cap is the longest maintained trail in Colorado National Monument. It starts on the park’s Rim Rock Drive at an elevation of 6500 ft. For the next few miles, the trail travels the surface of a juniper covered plateau going down in elevation slowly while giving a few glimpses of the red colored canyons below. After 5 miles, the trail suddenly reaches the edge of the plateau where the city of Grand Junction can be seen 1200 vertical feet below walls and steep slopes that drop from right under your feet. A 50 ft tall slickrock dome known as Liberty Cap can be seen in this area. For information about rock climbing on Liberty Cap please refer to this page. The trail then begins to make very tight and steep switchbacks carved into the walls to get you down to the lower trailhead on Wildwood Drive in a suburb of Grand Junction.
At 3.35 miles from the upper trailhead, you will see an unmarked trail on the north side of Liberty Cap Trail. This trail takes you to the rim of a branch of Monument Canyon. After 0.65 miles, it reaches the tip of a narrow slickrock peninsula where steep slopes and rocky formations make it hard to hike any further. I am not sure which one of the area formations is known as Otto’s Bathtub. Please refer to the External Link at the bottom of the page. Views of the canyons from this spot are fantastic. I wonder why the park service does not show this trail on its maps.
Liberty Cap Trailhead sits on the park’s Rim Rock Drive 11 miles from the west entrance of the park and 12 miles from the east entrance.
From the junction of Monument Rd and Broadway (Route 340) in Grand Junction, drive 2.9 miles west and turn left onto Redlands Parkway which later becomes South Broadway. After 1.3 miles, turn left onto Wildwood Dr. and see the trailhead parking shortly.
This is a description of the trail from the upper trailhead to Otto’s Bathtub and then down to the lower trailhead.
Otto’s Bathtub Trail Junction
Edge of plateau
Total One Way
Otto’s Bathtub Roundtrip
The trail starts by traveling over the surface of the plateau in a juniper forest.
You will only get glimpses of the red colored canyons below.
A range of eroded mountains known as Book Cliffs can be seen to the distant northeast.
The trail goes down in elevation somewhat but still remains on the surface of the plateau.
To the north, you get a view into one of the branches of Monument Canyon.
Branch of Monument Canyon
Branch of Monument Canyon
Otto’s Bathtub Trail
At GPS coordinates 39 degree 3.699 minute North, 108 degree 41.704 minute West you will reach an unsigned trail on the north. This is the trail to Otto’s Bathtub. This 1.3 mile roundtrip trail will get you spectacular views of Monument Canyon and is well worth the extra effort. Turn left (north) onto this trail until you reach the slickrock edge of the canyon.
Continue north until after 0.65 miles from Liberty Cap Trail you reach a slickrock peninsula where hiking further north becomes difficult/impossible. Many interesting slickrock formations can be seen here. I am not sure which one is Otto’s Bathtub.
Great views of a branch of Monument Canyon.
Returning to Liberty Cap Trail
Grand Mesa will be in view. This is said to be the largest flat-top mountain in the world.
Grand Mesa, largest flat-top mountain in the world
You will soon reach the edge of the plateau. Standing at an elevation of 5950 ft, the city of Grand Junction can be seen 1200-1300 feet below.
The trail then makes a number of tight switchbacks going down a very steep slope.
Looking down the steep switchbacks
Looking back up from the bottom of the switchbacks.
Looking up the steep switchbacks
Liberty Cap will now appear.
Continuing down, sometimes on airy ledges.
Trail carved in cliff
Continue downhill beyond the junctions with Corkscrew and Ute Canyon Trails. As you go down, the rock turns black. This black layer is said to belong to the Precambrian period whereas the red rock higher up is a newer Chinle Formation.