23 NATIONAL MONUMENTS, RANKED

I have visited 23 of the 120 U.S. protected areas known as National Monuments, which are dedicated to "landmarks, historic and prehistoric structures, and other objects of historic or scientific interest." Ranked by my favorites based on personal experience.
  1. 1.
    Dinosaur Natl Monument - Colorado
    So cool. Camped twice, day visits two other times. Beautiful big Western river valleys, where the Green and Yampa rivers converge, plus an amazing collection of dinosaur bones on display at the quarry. Would love to raft it someday.
  2. 2.
    Craters of the Moon Natl Monument - Idaho
    I've visited twice, once as a child and once camping with my son when he was about 12. Lava fields, cinder cones and other extinct volcanic features. Would go again.
  3. 3.
    Devils Tower Natl Monument - Wyoming
    Huge tower of ancient volcanic rock. You've seen it in Speilberg's Close Encounters, in mashed potatoes and when the aliens arrive. This was the first national monument. Camped once and driven past twice. Will go again.
  4. 4.
    Canyon de Chelly Natl Monument - Arizona
    An amazing hikable canyon within the boundaries of the Navajo Nation, it preserves the valleys and rims and ancient dwellings of the northern Arizona canyons. Loved my expeirence hiking into and out of the canyon to see the red rock canyon walls. Can't wait to go again.
  5. 5.
    White Sands Natl Monument - New Mexico
    We spent an afternoon driving and hiking the amazing white sands of southern New Mexico while my son attended a workshop at a film festival. The sand is amazingly cool to the touch. It's part of the White Sands Missile Test Range so it sometimes closes to the public.
  6. 6.
    Colorado Natl Monument - Colorado
    I have visited several times and enjoyed the gorgeous eroded cliffs and canyons in the western part of the state. Looks like a Roadrunner cartoon. Will return.
  7. 7.
    Scotts Bluff Natl Monument - Nebraska
    It's an eroded rocky landmark on the old Oregon/Mormon Trails. Visited on my daughter's fifth grade school trip to Mount Rushmore. I love the history of the old west trails.
  8. 8.
    Little Bighorn Battlefield Natl Monument - Montana
    A moving tribute and graveyard to Custer's Last Stand against the Cheyenne, Araphoe and Lakota nations, altho we know it was more like the Native Americans' last successful resistance. It's totally worth a two-hour visit if you ever find yourself on I-90 in eastern Montana, which is unlikely.
  9. 9.
    San Juan Islands Natl Monument - Washington
    Bike camped my way from island to island via ferry boat while in college. Good memories.
  10. 10.
    Fossil Butte Natl Monument - Wyoming
    I spent an enjoyable afternoon here with my then 12-year-old son looking at fish bones and other aquatic fossils.
  11. 11.
    Cedar Breaks Natl Monument - Utah
    It's like Bryce Canyon Nat'l Park filled with colorful hoodoos, but smaller in overall area. Just as scenic.
  12. 12.
    Muir Woods Natl Monument - California
    I made a couple visits as a young person to this old growth stand of redwood trees near San Francisco. Easily accessible. (Altho' we normally took out of state visitors to Armstrong Redwoods Park up in Sonoma County.)
  13. 13.
    Fort Union Natl Monument - New Mexico
    Ruins of 19th center US Army fort on the old Santa Fe trail near where the Cimarron cutoff meets up. Driven past at least 16 times, visited once.
  14. 14.
    Grand Staircase-Escalante Natl Monument - Utah
    I've driven past and through this beautiful/bleak southwest canyon country, taken bathroom breaks at a visitor's center. Would like to return and explore off road areas.
  15. 15.
    Bandelier Natl Monument - New Mexico
    Bandelier contains canyons and ancestral Pueblo homes, kivas, rock paintings and petroglyphs. Had a very short visit once. Will go back.
  16. 16.
    Cabrillo Natl Monument - California
    Marks the landing of Cabrillo at San Diego Bay in 1542, which was the first European expedition on what later became the west coast of the U.S. Visited twice, once as a child and once by bike in college.
  17. 17.
    Montezuma Castle Natl Monument - Arizona
    I visited as a teen the ancient Anasazi's cliff dwelling ruins.
  18. 18.
    Hovenweep Natl Monument - Arizona
    Visited the ancients ruins on a road-trip with my parents to the Grand Canyon area.
  19. 19.
    Tuzigoot Natl Monument - Arizona
    I visited these ancient pueblo ruins as a teen.
  20. 20.
    Pipestone Natl Monument - Minnesota
    Visited once because my folks grew up near here and always talked about it. A rock quarry used by native Souix and Lakota for stone carving.
  21. 21.
    Sunset Crater Volcano Natl Monument - Arizona
    Driven past several times and once stopped and admired the extinct volcano up close.
  22. 22.
    El Malpais Natl Monument - New Mexico
    Driven past a few times, picnicked once at the visitor's center. Intend to return.
  23. 23.
    Capulin Volcano Natl Monument - New Mexico
    I've only driven by and seen the extinct volcano cinder cone in the distance.