4 Minute Read
If you expect fall in Grand Junction to feel like it does in other states – or even elsewhere in Colorado – you’d be mistaken. We hope you aren’t attached to chilly temperatures, cloudy skies or rainy weather because the average October daytime high is 67 - 70 degrees and evenings are comfortably cool with very little rain, if any at all. So, grab your binoculars, shades, and friends, and head to Grand Junction for a perfectly temperate fall getaway!
Grand Mesa Scenic Byway, Grand Mesa National Forest
Distance: 63 miles
Time: 2 hours (allowing for stops and photos)
Arguably one of the highlights in autumn sightseeing in Colorado is the Grand Mesa. At 11,000 feet above sea level, the Grand Mesa affords unique views of mind-blowing geologic masterpieces like the Book Cliffs and the Sneffels Mountain Range. Leaves are starting to change right now and will last at various elevations through October 10. They peak at the top first, and then the colors change each week at lower elevations. Don’t fret if you miss the Grand Mesa autumn colors - there is still much to feast your eyes on in the area. Grand Junction’s elevation is 4,583 feet, so colorful foliage in town peaks mid through late October.
Grand Mesa is the largest flat-top mountain in the world bursting with over 300 lakes that reflect on the clear tranquil alpine water. Combine that with hundreds of hiking and biking trails, and you are guaranteed no crowds. The Grand Mesa Byway leads you to the aptly named Skyway Ski Trail (elevation 10,500 feet) and the popular Grand Mesa Lakes. The northern entrance to the byway is the small town of Mesa, where you can pick up snacks and picnic items for your autumn escape at the Mesa Bloom Market, packed with locally sourced goods. The highlight of this scenic drive is Land’s End Overlook, perched on the edge of Grand Mesa at 10,500 feet. The views are uniquely magnificent – even in a state blessed with an abundance of incredible vistas. Land’s End Road closes during the winter months, so don’t put off your plans.
Colorado River Scenic Drive: James M. Robb State Park
Distance: Roughly 40 miles, depending on the route
Time: 2 hours – full-day
Known as “the string of pearls,” there are five parks within the James M. Robb – Colorado River State Park, all connected along the Colorado River. Starting at the Island Acres section near Grand Junction, the park continues all the way to Fruita. At a minimum, drive along each section to enjoy some beautiful riverfront scenery. For a more immersive experience, take a short walk or bike ride to the various viewpoints or along the nature trails. Depending on whether your interests include birdwatching, fishing, riverside picnics or photography, this scenic route can take two hours, or you can turn it into a full-day, multi-activity trip. Take your bike, as the path is a leisurely ride, making it perfect to take in all the sights.
Driving Tour of Colorado Wine Country
Distance: Roughly 20 miles, depending on the route
Time: 2 hours – full-day
The warmth of sunshine, bluebird skies, and bucolic landscapes of rolling hills draped in fruit orchards and vineyards are the sights that make a drive through the vineyards of the Grand Junction area so appealing. The landscapes at this elevation are a striking contrast to the Mesa, but its scenic appeal can’t be denied. Authentic country farms, rows of over 30 vineyards in Palisade framing the landscape, peach trees waving in the fall breeze and even distilleries peppered in provide you opportunities to feast your eyes and your palate. Start at Two Rivers Winery and Chateau and then explore the craft beverage scene in Grand Junction.
The Pinnacle of Grand Junction Scenic Drives: Rim Rock Drive, Colorado National Monument
Distance: 23 miles
Time: 1-2 hours
Colorado National Monument, part of the National Park Service (NPS), is often called the mini Grand Canyon. Couple that with the fact that there are no crowds to hinder your experience, and you can look forward to a peaceful day of hiking from your car or on foot. Rim Rock Drive’s 23 miles of majestic views is known as one of the grandest scenic drives in the American West. There are 19 well-marked viewpoints, with easy parking, along the route and 14 hiking trails (some as short as a half-mile). If you zip through the 23-mile Rim Rock Drive and make a few stops, you can experience the park in less than two hours. However, we recommend spending at least half a day in this unique natural wonder. Be sure to stop at the Upper Ute Canyon View pull-off (it’s on the right side as you drive up Rim Rock Drive from the Grand Junction East Entrance), walk to the left of the “mummy,” and yell! We guarantee you will be surprised and delighted.
If the historic endeavor that is Rim Rock Drive (it was built by the Civilian Conservation Corps during the 1930s, often with simple hand tools) appeals to you, you’ll be even more impressed by the monumental forces of erosion that created the enormous spires and cliffs you see jutting out from the ground and reaching to the clouds. That is two million years of erosion you are looking at!
Autumn’s comfortably warm daytime temperatures are very pleasant for hiking and a picnic in Colorado National Monument. Evenings are comfortably cool and perfect for clear night sky viewing if you prefer to catch a glimpse of the Milky Way.
Grand Junction, Colorado Lodging Options
With 38 affordable hotels and numerous vacation homes, restaurants that incorporate local produce to inspire their seasonal menus, wineries, Downtown boutique shopping, and epic outdoor recreation - now is the time to make plans to visit Grand Junction before fall passes you by.