Although Grand Junction is known for the Colorado National Monument, the temperate climate, and thousands of miles of trails interconnected, the area also boasts some of the best access to water sports in the state. Named after the convergence of the mighty Colorado River and the Gunnison River, Grand Junction is a playground for those looking to get out on the water. Enjoy over 300 lakes on the Grand Mesa, the world’s largest flat-top mountain, or discover why the area’s state parks are often referred to as the “String of Pearls.” Combine all that H2O with warm summer days and striking scenery, to make your next vacation a water-filled adventure!
Rafting & Kayaking
Grab your friends, air up the raft or load up the kayak and get rolling on the river! If you’re looking for a relaxing and scenic float trip powered by the steady flow of the river, start your float at the James M. Robb State Park – Corn Lake Section and effortlessly drift for about 5 miles until you reach Las Colonias Park. Depending on how fast the river is moving or how many pitstops you make, this trip can take anywhere from an hour to three. Along the way, keep an eye out for the wildlife that frequent this section of the river. Blue heron, Canadian geese and even bald eagles are often spotted in this area. If you’re hoping to spend a full day on the water, you can extend your float trip almost 8 miles by starting at Riverbend Park.
Another great option for a flatwater float is Ruby-Horsethief Canyon. Take your kayak or raft down the river to the Loma Boat Ramp and take on this section of the Colorado that spans 25.3 miles and offers class 1 rapids. This stretch is perfect for those who are just looking to enjoy the beautiful scenery while relaxing to the hypnotic roll of the mild current. This trip can be done in one full day of rafting, but a night of camping is the perfect overnight trip.
If you are looking to feed your adventurous appetite by hitting some whitewater rapids, we have just the spot for you! Grab your gear and your adrenaline and take the short 45-minute drive from Grand Junction to the Westwater Canyon section of the Colorado River. This 17.7-mile stretch offers Class 3 & Class 4 rapids with names like “Sock-it-to-me Rapid” and “Skull Rapid.” There are plenty of historical and geological sights along the way that make this stretch even more awe-inspiring. Discover a cave carved in the hillside that was used by outlaws in the wild west and don’t forget to give Good Luck Wall a kiss! It’s a cliff face that delicately stretches down to the river - it’s been a long tradition of passing on some love to this special spot.
Need some gear? Check out the Colorado Mesa University Outdoor Program. They offer a variety of rentals including kayaks, rafts, tents, SUP’s and safety equipment. Most of the employees at the Outdoor Program have had their fair share of float trips and would be more than happy to provide you with some tips and tricks before you go.
Stand Up Paddle Boarding (SUPing)
If you are looking to try out stand-up paddleboarding for the first time or if you just want to spend the day in the sun, Grand Junction boasts some excellent lake options that are both accessible and convenient! Check out the Butterfly Pond at Las Colonias Park. This newly developed city park offers some great stillwater SUPing and is right next to Grand Junction Adventures, who offer rentals and instruction.
Another option to consider is any of the four main James M. Robb State Parks. This “String of Pearls” parallels the Colorado River and is easily accessible. A local favorite is Red Rocks Lake and if you’re lucky, you might just see some turtles relaxing on a log.
You can also check out Highline Lake State Park. This state park offers a large swim beach where you can SUP all while watching the kiddos play in the sand. Pack a lunch and enjoy sitting in the shade at one of the many picnic areas.
Looking to beat the heat during a Grand Junction summer? Head up to the Grand Mesa, and try your hand at Alpine Lake paddleboarding. The Grand Mesa is bursting with over 300 lakes just waiting to be explored. Pack a portable paddleboard for a long hike to a remote location or drop into one of the lakes right off the Grand Mesa Scenic Byway for a convenient and accessible float.
Ready to advance from lake paddleboarding to the river? Surprisingly, SUP’ing on the river can be even easier than on a still-water lake. The river keeps you moving, so you have to steer less and can just relax while the board flows along with the river naturally. The Colorado River in the springtime can be a little bumpy in a few sections, but nothing significant – just bend your knees. As summer progresses, the water becomes even more shallow and slow.
If you want to go paddleboarding but you don’t have a paddleboard, Grand Junction Adventures has you covered! Their convenient rental kiosks are located at Las Colonias Park, James M. Robb State Park – Connected Lakes Section, and Highline Lake State Park. Their helpful, experienced staff and professional guides are happy to share tips and tricks to ensure your float trip is fun, safe, and memorable.
Oh, boy, did you come to the right place! Fishing in Grand Junction is both abundant and diverse. Some excellent fishing locations that are close by are any of the James M. Robb Colorado River State Parks. This 35-mile network of trails and parks includes Corn Lake, Red Rocks Lake and Island Acres, which are not only great for fishing but for other Colorado water activities like birdwatching, swimming and lakeside hiking as well. These lakes are stocked with catfish, carp, bass, bluegill, and rainbow trout. So cast your line and cross your fingers that they are hungry!
For cooler temperatures and higher elevations, head to the Grand Mesa. Located 45 minutes away, Grand Mesa’s 300 lakes are filled with a wide variety of trout like rainbow, cutthroat, brook, and brown – just to name a few. Bull Creek and Bull Basin Reservoirs are popular options to consider but there are plenty of others (OVER 300!) to explore. Don’t forget to grab a Colorado fishing license before you go. You can order one online, stop into one of the James M. Robb State Park offices, or you can pick one up at Sportsman’s Warehouse here in Grand Junction.
For more outdoor adventures in Grand Junction, check out page 18 of the Official Grand Junction Visitor Guide.