As the colorful fall season slowly transitions to a snowy Colorado winter, you might feel resigned to focusing on snow sports – or just staying indoors until spring comes along. But in Grand Junction, hiking, biking and many other non-snow outdoor adventures continue year-round. With an average November temperature of 52 degrees Fahrenheit, there are plenty of opportunities to see majestic landscapes that are unique to the western side of Colorado. And no need for snow boots and puffy jackets!
While the Grand Mesa, just 45 minutes from Grand Junction, and other areas of high elevation receive the snow and cold temperatures that you expect of a Colorado winter, Grand Junction is lower in elevation and provides mild temperatures through the winter with hardly any snow. So, if you’re not ready to hang up your hiking boots or pack away the bike just yet, here are some of the best fall and winter adventures in Grand Junction.
Hiking in Colorado National Monument
Sunshine, magnificent views and no snow make the end of the year a great time to hike in Colorado National Monument. A light jacket is all you will need. For a short hike, try the Alcove Trail. This easy, self-guided nature trail will take about an hour and is only ½ mile round trip. For a longer hike, consider Liberty Cap or Monument Canyon. Rock spires, juniper forests and bighorn sheep provide unexpected and unique experiences. Guests refer to it as a mini Grand Canyon. Want to know the best part about the Colorado National Monument? It’s not crowded, so you can really escape and enjoy your time with nature.
If you prefer to hike from your car, the scenic 23-mile Rim Rock Drive over Colorado National Monument offers striking overlooks around every turn and more than a dozen overlook and pull-off areas for you to really take in the views. Just 10 minutes from Downtown Grand Junction, this 45-minute leisure route will make you realize that this is no typical monument.
Dominguez-Escalante National Conservation Area and Dominguez Canyon Wilderness Area
You can’t go wrong with any hike in this high-desert wilderness and conservation area near Grand Junction. The contrast of red rock canyons and pristine, blue skies is stunning. A highly recommended Colorado hike (which also includes a waterfall) is Big Dominguez Canyon. Late fall and early winter is a great time to spot wildlife, like bighorn sheep, as they stock up on food before winter frosts.
Dominguez-Escalante is also a great place to rip the RZR or OHV around and kick up some dust. Over 200,000 acres of public land provide wide open spaces to open up your throttle. Cutting through this vast area is over 30 miles of the Gunnison River and over 115 miles of streams and rivers, so you’re bound to see wildlife along the way. Elk, mule deer, bighorn sheep, golden eagles and turkeys all roam this land, so keep your eyes peeled and enjoy the ride!
Little Book Cliffs
Just eight miles east of Grand Junction, the Little Book Cliffs is a glimpse into Colorado’s Wild West. The area is one of only three designated wild horse sanctuaries in the U.S., so keep your eyes open for herds of mustangs and wild horses! This BLM area is open to hiking, horseback riding and biking. The horses often migrate toward De Beque during the winter months, so you might want to consider venturing in that direction if you are determined to see these wild giants.
For the best chance at viewing the wild mustangs, book a guided horseback tour with JR’s Carriage Service. Their knowledgeable guides will take you into the Little Book Cliffs Wild Horse Range atop one of their tame and well-trained steeds. So far, JR’s has a 100% success rate in seeing the wild mustangs, so you know you’re in good hands!
Just 45 minutes away from Grand Junction and standing at over 10,000 feet is the largest flat-top mountain in the world, the Grand Mesa. While the leaves have begun to fall in the high-elevation areas, the opportunities for some cool and comfortable hiking are still endless. For a scenic hike, check out the Lost Lake trail. This 2-mile roundtrip route takes you along three different stunning alpine lakes on a well-maintained trail. After passing by the second lake, South Mesa, you will begin to climb the switchbacks before the trail opens up to the crystal-clear water of Lost Lake. Don’t worry, there is only 220 feet in elevation gain.
If you are looking for popular Colorado winter sports, sitting on the edge of the Grand Mesa is Powderhorn Mountain Resort, Colorado’s most affordable and friendly ski resort. While Powderhorn normally doesn’t open for skiers until late November, now is the perfect time to begin planning your Colorado ski trip to Grand Junction. The Grand Mesa also boasts over 31 miles of professionally groomed Nordic ski trails for those looking to strap on the cross-country skis and cut up some corduroy. To top it off, the Grand Mesa is bursting with over 300 alpine lakes making it easy to drop a line and enjoy some sunny Colorado ice fishing. For more ways to experience Grand Junction this winter, check out these snow sports activities.
Grand Junction is surrounded by over 1.5 million acres of public land, much of which is just as delightful during the fall and winter months as it is during the summer. Read more about other outdoor activities around Grand Junction. No matter what adventure you choose, Grand Junction will not disappoint. Plus, you’ll have no shortage of affordable lodging opportunities, with 31 hotels and motels in the city, plus roomy vacation rentals.