There is no other place in Colorado where you experience the intersection of so many prized ecosystems. Mountains. Rivers. Canyons. Lakes. High Desert. Forests. For people who define themselves by the amount of time they spend outdoors, this is their mecca. So check out this bucket list, and before you know it, you'll be alongside the rest of the outdoor adventurists who have made Grand Junction their playground.
Even if you have visited Grand Junction, we guarantee there are experiences in this Bucket List you are not aware of or have not yet done. Consider making it a personal goal to venture out and do something new in 2022 and for the over-achievers, start checking off the list. One thing we can promise is that you will feel accomplished and happier. According to this February 2022 article from Mental Floss, here are 11 scientific benefits of being outdoors.
While it’s true that the Grand Junction area is made up of gorgeous and easily accessible public lands, you may be surprised that fine dining, local art and cultural events abound in Grand Junction as well. So, venture out and explore – we’ve made it easy for you with this 2022 Bucket List.
Things to Do in Grand Junction 2022 Bucket List
1. Rattlesnake Arches
Discover the 2nd largest concentration of arches outside of Arches National Park at Rattlesnake Arches in McInnis Canyons National Conservation Area. Located just outside of Grand Junction, Rattlesnake Arches boasts some spectacular rock formations. After the 3.1-mile hike, enjoy your lunch at the bottom of Cedar Tree Arch or continue on to Centennial Arch, which stands at 120 feet tall and spans over 40 wide. Before you go, please note that some spots on the road require a high clearance vehicle, and always remember to pack plenty of water!
2. Lunch Loops
The Lunch Loops trail system was aptly named by locals who frequented this hotspot during their lunch hour, due to its close proximity to Downtown. The variety of beginner, intermediate and advanced-level trails, along with the awesome views, make this a go-to spot for locals and guests. There’s a huge parking lot and picnic areas to rest and get some shade. Local secret – Cross Monument Road and try out bouldering on the famous Millennium Falcon. It looks as rad as its name.
3. Dining Under the Stars at the Hotel Maverick’s Rooftop Restaurant
Stargazing is one of our favorite things to do in Grand Junction. Combine that with local wine and gourmet dining at Devil’s Kitchen, Grand Junction’s boutique rooftop restaurant. Located on top of Hotel Maverick, an upscale hotel on the campus of Colorado Mesa University, Devil’s Kitchen offers locally-sourced and inspired cuisine set against a picture-perfect backdrop of Colorado sunsets and starlit skies.
4. Try Out Off-road Sports
If you’ve never tried dirtbiking, ATV-riding or rock crawling, Grand Junction is a great place to try it out. The stunning landscape that is 76 percent public land makes an ideal setting. Additionally, you’ll find an assortment of tour companies who are happy to introduce you to the sport and can get you set up on a dirtbike, RZR, or jeep. They also offer OHV classes and rentals. Check out Adrenaline Driven Adventure Company – they have a massive fleet, experienced guides, and scenic riding excursions. If you prefer to ride on two wheels, check out Grand Valley Adventures. They offer guided motorcycle tours for all experience levels.
5. Downtown Grand Junction
There are many reasons locals and guests love Downtown Grand Junction. Everyone appreciates that there are no franchise shops or restaurants, so you can truly expect a unique and boutique experience. Because Grand Junction is rich with farms, orchards, and ranches, area restaurants highlight seasonal menus incorporating fresh ingredients. The art scene Downtown is world-renowned – over 115 sculptures and murals adorn the wide sidewalks and alleys. Many are built to pose on for the perfect Instagram post. It’s no surprise that it’s been recognized as a Colorado Creative District. Keep an eye on Grand Junction's events at the Avalon Theatre and Mesa Theatre – both are packed with live concerts year-round.
6. Unaweep Canyon
The “canyon with two mouths,” Unaweep Canyon is the only canyon in the world with streams flowing in opposite directions, a fact noted by the Utes who first discovered it and gave it its name. More recently, Unaweep Canyon has become famous for its incredible rock climbing. With more than 2,300 climbing routes – from bouldering to multi-pitch – Unaweep Canyon is said to offer the best granite climbing outside of the Yosemite Valley. But even non-climbers will be rewarded with exceptional views, invigorating hiking and perfect photo ops.
Grand Junction has much to offer dinosaur enthusiasts, which delight both children and adults. In fact, the wealth of dinosaur-related things to do in Grand Junction is one of the many reasons it’s such a popular vacation destination for families. Dinosaur Journey Museum offers interactive exhibits that are both educational and fascinating, including an earthquake simulator. Meanwhile, multiple interactive hiking trails let explorers stretch their legs and their brains at the same time. Dinosaur Hill and Riggs Hill are mild hiking trails that take visitors through real archeological dig sites. Also check out the Fruita Paleontological Area and the Trail Through Time, where work at the active dinosaur quarry takes place during the summer.
8. Climb Independence Monument, a 100-year-old legend
After spending a decade petitioning the U.S. Government to designate Colorado National Monument a national park, John Otto celebrated his successful campaign by climbing a 450-foot spire. Since his climbing celebration took place on July 4, he decided to name the red rock pillar “Independence Monument” and repeated the feat every year on that date. Of course, climbing Independence Monument on the 4th of July seems uniquely appropriate, but you’re certain to enjoy it no matter which day of the year you schedule your climb. Check out Grand Junction Adventures to get your climb set up with knowledgeable guides eager to assist you and teach you about the area as well.
9. Adrenaline-Packed Palisade Plunge
The Palisade Plunge has quickly earned bragging rights in the mountain biking world due to its advanced, highly technical, downhill single-track trail. One of the longest downhill trails in the country, the Palisade Plunge’s 32 miles begins on the top of Grand Mesa and drops roughly 6,000 feet to the valley floor below. Granted, few mountain bikers are skilled enough to ride the trail, but if you are an advanced rider, tackling the Palisade Plunge is absolutely a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
10. Petroglyphs at Dominguez-Escalante National Conservation Area
Only 30 minutes from Grand Junction, Dominguez-Escalante National Conservation Area offers over 200,000 acres of public land, including the 66,280-acre Dominguez Canyon Wilderness. But one of the most rewarding trips you can do here is to step back in time and hike the Bridgeport Trail where numerous, well-preserved petroglyphs are visible from the trail.
11. Colorado’s Only Lavender Festival
The only lavender festival in Colorado takes place in Grand Junction every summer and offers not only the beautiful sight and smell of vendors who are selling lavender products, but entertaining events and educational opportunities as well. From the live music and wreath-making seminars, to wine-pairing dinners and self-guided lavender farm tours, the Colorado Lavender Festival is a sensory celebration scheduled for June 22 – 26, 2022.
12. Book Cliffs
Stretching from Colorado to Utah, the Book Cliffs are the longest continuous cliff face on the planet and one of the top things to do in Grand Junction. Sightseeing and hiking are popular, as well as horseback riding and ATV tours. The most popular draw is the wild horses who roam this open land. It is one of the country’s few wild horse reserves that are left. You will feel extra accomplished if you hike Mount Garfield, which is the highest point on the cliff range and has an elevation change of 1,886 feet in 1.9 miles.
13. Country Jam
The largest country music festival in Colorado happens right here in Grand Junction. Country Jam offers three days of live performances by country music stars, games, food and dancing. If you missed the Country Jam in 2022, don't worry! Country Jam 2023 is June 22 - 24, 2023 and the lineup features Jason Aldean, Blake Shelton and Cody Johnson as headliners as well as many others. Plan ahead, as they often sell out!
14. Ride the Kokopelli Trail
As one of Colorado and Utah’s premier mountain bike trails, the Kokopelli Trail begins in McInnis Canyons National Conservation Area. This 142-mile single-track trail goes all the way to Moab. Whether your goal is to ride the entire trail at once or break it into smaller sections, the Kokopelli Trail should definitely be on your 2022 Bucket List.
15. Junior College Baseball World Series
For over 60 years, Grand Junction has played host to the National Junior College Athletic Association Baseball World Series, where talented young baseball players compete not only for the series championship but also the chance to stand out to Major League Baseball recruiters who fly in to scout the talent. Little known fact – Junior college baseball athletes are eligible for the Major League Baseball draft in their first and second year; as opposed to four-year universities where athletes must wait for their junior year of college. While baseball is the all-American pastime, watching an action-packed game at the JUCO Baseball World Championship is a Grand Junction summer tradition. Even though JUCO 2022 has already passed, it's never too late to gear up for 2023. Next year's JUCO dates are May 27 - June 4, 2023, so plan ahead!
16. Downhill Mountain Biking at Powderhorn
Powderhorn also offers an exhilarating summertime draw. The Powderhorn Bike Park is equipped with lift-served downhill trails and an extensive trail network. From beginner bikers and youth to advanced riders, an assortment of trails guarantee you’ll find challenges and thrills.
17. Craft Beverage Vacation
Yes, Grand Junction is the hub of Colorado’s Wine Country and its bounty of fruit orchards also yields local ciders. But its craft beverage scene, powered by numerous local breweries and small-batch, artisan distilleries, is worthy of sampling. From ciders to suds, from grapes to grains to gin, Grand Junction is a great place to dive into the local craft beverage scene.
18. Grand Junction Mountain Bike & Music Festival
Block your calendar for May 20 – 22 as a racer, spectator, or music lover. The Downtown music festival is celebrating its 32nd year. It’s the most popular Downtown event offering FREE music on multiple stages, beer & wine gardens, and spans four blocks on Main Street. The off-road racecourse starts on Main Street and tours athletes over scenic and varied terrain from the Tabeguache trail to the distant reaches of the Magellan Loop. Racers who compete for points entering into the Olympics have participated in this challenging and exciting course so don’t sell this racing event short.
19. Hike the Crag Crest Trail on Grand Mesa
The Crag Crest Trail is one of the most iconic hikes in an already iconic place: Grand Mesa National Forest. The largest flat-top mountain in the world, the Grand Mesa rises 11,000 feet above sea level and is bursting with over 300 lakes. The Crag Crest Trail covers a 10-mile loop along the spine of the Mesa. It affords views of the lakes on the Mesa and expansive vistas of peaks hundreds of miles away.
20. OK, Do Anything on Grand Mesa
From fishing one of 300 lakes, to hiking, mountain biking, canoeing, SUPing, driving scenic byways and more, visiting Grand Mesa is one of the top things to do in Grand Junction. With a land area covering 500 hundred square miles, you’ll find endless space, bountiful activities and no crowds.
21. Skiing at Powderhorn
One of the top things to do in the winter is skiing or snowboarding at Powderhorn Mountain Resort. Thankfully, Powderhorn doesn’t have the crowds and inflated prices of other Colorado ski resorts. Couple that with incredible terrain, 250 inches of powder, and jaw-dropping views from atop the Grand Mesa, and you’ll be wondering why you haven’t checked out this mountain before. Powderhorn is the antithesis of an expensive ski resort with options like free lessons for newcomers and epic tree skiing. With affordable lodging available in Grand Junction, this family-friendly ski resort makes it possible to take a winter vacation without sacrificing the amenities and terrain you expect.
22. Winter Camping at Colorado National Monument
With over 40 miles of hiking trails through spectacular rock formations and canyons, some as deep as 500 feet, the Colorado National Monument is worth a visit every season of the year. But winter in Grand Junction is so mild that you’ll be able to enjoy hiking and sightseeing in plain ol’ sneakers and light attire during most days. It’s also a great time to dip your toe into winter camping in Colorado National Monument, thanks to the warm restrooms with running water. Night skies are generally clear and perfect for stargazing.
For more Grand Junction adventures, check out the Official Grand Junction Visitor Guide.
Or, sign up for exclusive updates and discounts on Grand Junction experiences with the Grand Junction Outdoor Adventure Pass.