Plan some fun — and a break from summer's high temps — by floating down one of Grand Junction's majestic rivers or paddling around one of its hundreds of sparkling lakes. Western Colorado serves up some of the most spectacular H2O-driven activities around, everything from relaxed tubing through town and fun raft float trips to adrenaline-infused whitewater rafting and canoeing on crystal-clear mountain lakes.
Here's a quick guide to finding the adventure just right for you.
Floating and Tubing
Popular rafting trips down the Colorado River include short 90-minute and longer three-hour sojourns running from Grand Junction to the neighboring town of Fruita that are "nice, calm, scenic floats," says Travis Baier, owner of Rimrock Adventures, which runs trips and shuttles, plus rents gear for do-it-yourselfers. Rimrock also offers a calm-water, full-day trip that spends time in the towering Ruby and Horsethief canyons.
For those hankering to log some time on the Gunnison River, the outfitter also has a two-day trip that delivers views of rock art and bighorn sheep, plus time to hike in Dominguez Canyon.
The whole family will revel in tubing on various stretches of the Colorado River (which reaches temperatures in the 70s in July and August), including the "Town Run," which meanders right through downtown Grand Junction. Tubes, along with everything else from canoes and inflatable kayaks to rafting gear and water squirt guns, can be rented from Catfish Canoe Company.
You can also rent river gear at the Cabela's at Grand Junction's Mesa Mall.
Adrenaline junkies flock to Grand Junction for its easy access to some of the West's wickedest whitewater. Feeling adventurous? Local outfitter Adventure Bound offers three- and five-day trips through Cataract Canyon on the Colorado River that end in Lake Powell.
"You can get solid, big Class V rapids here and some of the biggest run-able water anywhere," says Tom Kleinschnitz, president of Adventure Bound. The rapids to fear? Kleinschnitz points to this river run's three Big Drops. "They feature places called 'Little Niagara' and 'Satan's Guts' that are spots you don't want to get your boat stuck in," he says.
Paddling and Riding
More mellow outdoor activities await on the area's Grand Mesa, which boasts more than 300 pristine lakes situated at 10,000 feet (an elevation that makes Grand Mesa the largest flat-top mountain in the world). Rent a canoe or rowboat at the Grand Mesa Lodge to tool around any of the lakes or catch some fish.
With a vast network of trails meandering through the Grand Mesa National Forest here, visitors can also soak up the Colorado scenery from the back of a trusted steed. Rimrock Adventures offers guided horseback rides in the Grand Junction vicinity in the Little Bookcliff Wild Horse Area and the McInnis Canyons National Conservation Area.
We recommend you wear a lifejacket or other personal flotation device when participating in any water activity. Please check with your guide or outfitter for all proper safety precautions.