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Colorado National Monument: Bench Trail Arch

Thursday, April 9, 2020

This evening I went for a short hike into the Colorado National Monument so I could finally get a closer look at Bench Trail Arch. While I’ve hiked below this arch on the Bench Trail a number of times before, it’s always been in the middle of a longer hike through the Monument, so I’ve skipped climbing up to it to save my energy. After work I drove over to the Wildwood Trailhead and arrived just as the temperature out dropped by about ten degrees and it started to rain and get windy. I guess a good thing about the bad weather was that there were only a few other vehicles in the parking lot, which can sometimes be a busy location. I checked the radar on my weather app and saw that this storm system was going to pass through pretty quickly, so I started hiking anyway. It was a little chilly and I got soaked at first, but once the rain and wind stopped, I dried off pretty quickly and warmed up again. Of course, all the rain made it pretty humid out for the rest of the hike, which was not very comfortable.

Light on the Book Cliffs through the rain shortly after I left the trailhead.

Book Cliffs Through Rain

Instead of following the popular Liberty Cap Trail onto the Precambrian Bench, I hiked to the next little side canyon to the west and climbed a steep rocky ridge to the top of the bench, which made a good shortcut. I followed a few bighorn sheep trails that were a little steeper than I was anticipating and hoped to find an easier way down on the way back. After following the Bench Trail into the next canyon over I spotted Bench Trail Arch high above and started climbing the steep slope to get underneath it.

I followed a rocky wash to a short side canyon where I climbed up a steep ridge onto the Precambrian Bench.

Through The Wash

Once I reached the top of the bench there was a good trail to follow for a little bit.

Bench Trail

Looking back across the valley to the Grand Mesa on the horizon.

Grand Mesa View

The clouds started to clear up a little and light struck the edges of Monument Mesa above me.

Touch of Light

A nice view as I entered the next canyon to the west.

Boulder Light

Rain in the Valley

Rain in the Valley

When I spotted Bench Trail Arch from the trail, it was time to start climbing the steep slope to get closer.

Climbing to Bench Trail Arch

There was a nice view from the pourover just below the arch.

Pourover View

The rock below the arch was slippery from the rain, so I had to be careful as I approached.

Approaching The Arch

Arch in an Alcove

Arch in an Alcove

The view from right below Bench Trail Arch.

Bench Trail Arch

After taking a few photos from different angles it was time to start heading back down. As I returned to the Bench Trail it started to rain again and would continue to drizzle on and off for the remainder of the hike back. There were even a few distant rumbles of thunder. I found a slightly different route back down off the bench that was a little less steep than my climb up, although still pretty loose in some places.

Another storm was moving in as I returned to the edge of the bench and started my descent.

Over The Edge

The sky above was cloudy for my entire hike back to the trailhead, so it figures that the sun came out again just as I started driving away. The rainy weather probably kept people away from the trailhead this afternoon since there were not a lot of cars parked there, but since I didn’t stick to the popular trails I never saw another person while hiking, so it was a good place to practice social distancing.

>> Bench Trail Arch Photo Gallery


  1. Dianne
    Dianne April 13, 2020

    I love the arch photos. Lovely.

  2. Stephanie Barnard
    Stephanie Barnard April 13, 2020

    Thanks for sharing, Randy. I always enjoy your trip reports and photos, especially so in these trying times.

    JOHN MCCOPPIN III April 14, 2020

    Thank you for taking time to post your comments and beautiful photos. They are a welcome respite from social distancing down here in Texas!

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