Liberty Cap, Liberty Cap Trailhead, Colorado National Monument, Colorado
Liberty Cap - 10.4 Miles
Liberty Cap Trailhead
|Round-Trip Length:||10.4 Miles|
|Start-End Elevation:||6,508' - 5,902' (6,542' max elevation)|
|Elevation Change:||-606' net elevation loss (+865' total roundtrip elevation gain)|
Liberty Cap is located 5.2 miles from Rim Rock Drive in Colorado National Monument. This large sandstone dome along the Ute Canyon rim is a 160 million year old sand dune that's been compressed into sandstone and sculpted by erosion.
The Liberty Cap Trail winds gently down Monument Mesa through pinyon-juniper woodlands and open sage flats to the formation, and continues another 2 miles to its eastern terminus on Wildwood Drive.
While Liberty Cap is the primary destination, spectacular slickrock benches and views over Ute Canyon are the Liberty Cap Trail's main attraction:
The Liberty Cap Trail drops gently through dense pinyon-juniper stands to the first of several open sage flats, which are good places to find wildlife (1.15 miles : 6,490'). Enjoy these aromatic stretches but remain on the trail to avoid damaging cryptobiotic soil crusts.
Views of Monument Canyon (north), Ute Canyon (south), and the Book Cliffs (horizon) emerge as you progress down the mesa. At 3.4 miles (6,230') a cairn-marked spur branches .15 miles north to the Monument Canyon rim, a worthwhile excursion.
The trail moderates along the Ute Canyon rim (4.0 miles : 6,162') before edging back into the woodlands and dropping to a set of steep, rugged, and tightly wound switchbacks (5.05 miles : 5,982'). Anticipate drop-offs on this short section.
The trail abruptly levels to Liberty Cap, located on a slickrock saddle high along the Ute Canyon rim (5.2 miles : 5,902').
Views of Grand Junction, the Colorado River valley, and Ute Canyon are exceptional from this large, open area. Morning travelers will enjoy good light over the canyon, while the afternoon provides better light on Liberty Cap. Scale Liberty Cap, or scramble over the slickrock to a series of large grottos and ledges over Ute Canyon.
GPS Coordinates - DATUM WGS84View these GPS points on a Google Map
- N39 03.326 W108 44.214 — 0.0 miles : Upper Liberty Cap Trailhead
- N39 03.133 W108 43.621 — .75 miles : Mild drop thru dense pinyon-juniper forest
- N39 03.204 W108 43.226 — 1.15 miles : Enter first sage flat
- N39 03.166 W108 42.763 — 1.75 miles : Exit flat, re-enter pinyon-juniper forest
- N39 03.250 W108 42.085 — 2.5 miles : Steady drop with partial canyon rim views
- N39 03.701 W108 41.703 — 3.4 miles : Spur to Monument Canyon rim
- N39 03.762 W108 41.062 — 4.0 miles : Brief stretch along Ute Canyon rim
- N39 03.534 W108 40.436 — 4.75 miles : Pace quickens on steeper grades
- N39 03.486 W108 40.153 — 5.05 miles : Steep switchbacks to Liberty Cap
- N39 03.431 W108 40.089 — 5.2 miles : Liberty Cap
- The Liberty Cap Trail's mild grades and wide track are well-suited for running and winter recreation.
- The Liberty Cap Trail is highly exposed to sun, heat, and lightning storms. Manage travel time wisely, and remember that you must climb over 600' back to the trailhead. Be mindful of changing weather and begin your return before storms develop.
- Avoid ledges and open slickrock when wet. Maintain a safe distance from canyon rims, which can be deceptively unstable, particularly after rain.
- Cryptobiotic soil is a living ground cover comprised of cyanobacteria and varying amounts of lichen, moss, green algae, micro fungi, and bacteria. Cyanobacteria is one of the oldest known life forms; it's thought these organisms were among the earth's first land colonizers, and integral in the formation and stabilization of the earth's early soils.
- Cryptobiotic crusts are critical to vascular plants, which are unable to utilize nitrogen as it occurs in the atmosphere. Cyanobacteria is able to convert atmospheric nitrogen to a synthesizable form plants can use. Stay on designated trails, and avoid trampling this sensitive resource.
Camping and Backpacking Information
- The Saddlehorn Campground is located near the Saddlehorn Visitor Center, four miles from the west entrance.
- $20 per site per night (in addition to the entrance fee). $10 per site per night discount for holders of Inter-agency Senior or Inter-agency Access Passes.
- There are 80 sites available on a first-come, first-served basis with a self-registration kiosk at the entrance.
- Sites accommodate tents and RVs, with some pull-through sites (length limit is 40' for RVs).
- Restrooms have flush toilets and water available during the summer. Each site includes a picnic table and charcoal-only grill. There are no electric hookups or showers.
- Wood fires are not permitted anywhere in the monument.
- 7 person per site limit, 3 tents per site, and two 2 vehicles per site.
- Generator use is prohibited from 8 p.m. to 8 a.m.
Backcountry Camping Regulations
- Backcountry Camping Permits are required in Colorado National Monument. Permits are free. The permit must be in your possession while traveling in the backcountry.
- Group size is limited to 7 people.
- Campers must camp 1/4 mile or more from any road or developed facility and 150' from any trail. Camping is not permitted in streambeds.
- Fires are not permitted, with the exception of gas or alcohol camp stoves.
- Pets, bicycles, motorized equipment, and devices such as radios, generators, etc., are not allowed in the backcountry.
- In any calendar year, backcountry campers are limited to 14 overnight stays, whether accrued consecutively or in any combination of separate visits. Single trips are limited to 7 nights.
- Water is not available in the backcountry, even during the spring runoff. Springs, streams, and pools may contain harmful substances like selenium or bacteria like Giardia.
Rules and Regulations
Private, non-commercial vehicle: $10
Individual (hiker, bicyclist ): $5
Fees are good for seven consecutive days. Fees apply to persons 16 years and older.
The Liberty Cap Trailhead is located 6.5 miles from the Colorado National Monument Visitor Center along the main park road. The trailhead is located 10.8 total miles from the west entrance station.
Colorado National Monument
Fruita, CO 81521-0001