The Newest National Monuments: Browns Canyon, Colorado
Throughout his second term, President Obama has declared nearly a dozen new national monuments, most of them dedicated to sleepy historic sites or remote marine sanctuaries no one would actually visit. That's not the case with Browns Canyon. The 30-mile-long gulch is one of the most purely recreational gateways in the country: It has world-class rafting, blue-ribbon trout fishing, and high-desert trails. The best way to access it is via raft. A 22-mile float starts in cottonwood-lined farmland, but the Ark, as locals call the Arkansas River, quickly bucks, with a dozen thrilling — but not death-defying — Class IIIs that form at the bottom of the 500-foot-deep canyon. "You'll see a road twice all day: once at the put-in and once at the take-out," says Justin Bobb, a longtime guide.
Beyond the river, there's the Monarch Crest Trail, a 30-mile downhill bike ride that traces the Continental Divide and rivals any stretch of singletrack in the country. There's also the 102-degree hot springs gurgling from 14,000-foot Mount Princeton, and rock climbs at the cliffs in Granite Gulch. Even better, the monument is a short drive from the kayaking-obsessed town of Buena Vista: At day's end, folks gather at the Eddyline Restaurant, which specializes in green-chili pizza and a pale ale named River Runners. Naturally.