On the western slope of the Colorado Rocky Mountains, you’ll find Grand Junction. Well-known for its fruit orchards, as well as its proximity to the Colorado National Monument, this rising star has more unique adventures than meets the eye. With unique amenities like the lakes of Grand Mesa and wine country tours by bicycle, Grand Junction proves it can hold its own next to so many other idyllic Colorado destinations, with fewer crowds as a bonus!
Grand Junction is adjacent to Grand Mesa National Forest, which contains hundreds of lakes and thousands of miles of tributaries, and the Colorado River, which flows through the city and offers calm water flows, creating the perfect water sports haven.
Here are the best ways to explore our waterways in Grand Junction:
James M. Robb Colorado River State Park
A celebration of the city’s love for wildlife and environmental conservation, James M. Robb Colorado River State Park is a 35-mile park and trail system stretching like a strand of pearls along the waterfront. Each “pearl” is a specifically designed section of park land that caters to distinct interests.
Best for a Classic River Day: Island Acres
Open year-round, Island Acres is the first section you will hit if you’re traveling west on I-70. This park offers water-friendly activities like swimming, and hiking trails and campsites with gorgeous lake and river views.
Best for Fly Fishing: Corn Lake
The headquarters of James M. Robb, Corn Lake provides many of the on-the-water adventures you’re looking for. Cold and warm water fishing, a boat and raft launch, as well as a lakeshore trail are just some of the amenities available at the park.
Best for Bird Watching: Wildlife Area
The Wildlife Area section, often referred to as Pear Park, is where you’ll find great wildlife viewing and waterfowl hunting in addition to orchards planted by settlers along the Colorado River. These lands are focused on protection and enhancement of wildlife and wetlands habitats, so recreational facilities have been kept to a minimum. View a Colorado Parks & Wildlife brochure on hunting in the James M. Robb Park.
Best River Launch Point: Connected Lakes
The Connected Lakes pearl affords water-bound folks a river launch site for boats and rafts, fishing piers with warm water fishing, and a network of waterfront trails.
Best Local Outfitters: Palisade River Trips
Float past vineyards and Palisade’s Riverbend Park from the Colorado River on a kayak, raft or stand up paddleboard. Offering guided, unguided tours and custom float trips, Palisade River Trips creates memorable experiences for any guest.
Grand Mesa National Forest
One of the most fascinating features of Grand Junction is Grand Mesa National Forest, which envelops the largest flattop mountain in the world, Grand Mesa. This national forest contains over 300 lakes and 3,600 miles of tributaries, so enjoying the water in the solitude couldn’t be easier.
Best for Lake Fishing: Bull Creek Reservoirs
Popular for fishing, Bull Creek Reservoir #1 and Bull Creek Reservoir #2 offer opportunities for rainbow, cutthroat, brook, brown, splake, golden lake and snake river trout. Don’t miss the nearby connecting streams following the Lake of the Woods Trail, as well as Youngs Creek Reservoir, Kitson Reservoir, and Griffith Reservoir.
Best for Boating: Grand Mesa National Forest
Favorite motorized boating lakes in Grand Mesa National Forest include Sunset Lake, Griffith Lake, Glacier Lake and Granby Reservoir #1. For non-motorized or electric motor boats, try Forty Acre Lake, Kitson Reservoir, Kenney Creek Reservoir or Rimrock Lake.
Highline Lake State Park and Mack Mesa Lake
About half an hour northwest of Grand Junction, you’ll find a water sports lover’s paradise. Since Highline Lake State Park has joined the fight against aquatic nuisance species, Mack Mesa Lake and Highline Lake offer different amenities and boats must be inspected before entering the water.
Best for Paddle Boarding: Mack Mesa Lake
Mack Mesa Lake permits paddle boarding, cold and warm water stocked fishing, wetlands and waterfront hiking and biking, and hand or electric-powered boats.
Best for Water Skiing: Highline Lake
Highline Lake is open to power boating, jet skiing, water skiing, sail boating, sailboarding, swimming and stand up paddleboards. Both Mack Mesa and Highline Lakes often reach boating capacity on weekends during their busy season, May through September, so be sure to plan your trip in advance.
Best Guided Paddle Board Tour: Grand Junction Stand Up Paddle Boarding Co.
For something a little different or for beginner SUP enthusiasts, contact Grand Junction Stand Up Paddle Boarding Co. They provide paddleboard lake and river lessons, rentals and SUP yoga, and also have locations in Grand Junction, Fruita, and Connected Lakes Park.
Best for Floating the River: Ruby-Horsethief Section of the Colorado River
For an adventure off the beaten path, try the highly-rated 25-mile stretch of the Colorado River from Loma, CO to Westwater, UT. Part of the McInnis Canyons National Conservation Area, the Ruby-Horsethief section of the river is mostly calm waters with occasional mild rapids surrounded by red rock canyons. View wildlife like bighorn sheep, bald eagles and great blue herons from your motorized or non-motorized watercraft. Since cell phone service is spotty, streamflow and water levels vary depending on the time of year, and campsites are limited, always make a thorough plan and tell a friend before you head out. Check water conditions online with AmericanWhitewater.org.