Six Ways to Experience Your Public Lands in Grand Junction

 

There is no other place in Colorado where you experience the intersection of so many prized ecosystems: Mountains. Rivers. Canyons. Lakes. High Desert. What was once a secret adventure spot for those in the know, Grand Junction has become one of Colorado’s most celebrated outdoor playgrounds. It’s time to discover the classic Western hospitality you expect in Colorado, while exploring the wide open public lands that you own. Hike along a trail with dinosaur tracks or make your own while mountain biking through thousands of miles of trails. For downhill fanatics catch a chairlift at Powderhorn Mountain Resort and rush down the slopes or for adrenalin junkies, the one-of-a-kind Palisade Plunge descends 6,000 feet through 32 miles of pristine public lands.  

Check out this go-to guide with to ensure your getaway provides just the right balance of unique adventure and a peaceful escape, leaving you refreshed and rejuvenated.

 

1. The National Park You've Never Heard Of

 

As part of the National Park Service, the Colorado National Monument highlights nature's striking beauty. Drive the 23-mile Scenic Rim Rock Drive in the Monument, where convenient pull-offs provide magnificent views, and you might be lucky enough to see bighorn sheep climbing the ridges. Admire the red rock canyons and spires jutting up into the clear blue sky. Once you visit, you'll understand that Mother Nature really does play favorites. The trails range from easy, half-mile hikes to 14-mile backcountry treks. No matter what trail you choose, as soon as you enter the Monument,  the sight of the towering cliffs and intricate spires will leave you speechless. 

 

2. Wild Mustangs

 

The Grand Junction area is the size of Rhode Island and Delaware combined, boasting 76 percent public lands totaling 1,559,551 acres. It's famous for being an outdoor adventure destination due to its year-round temperate climate. With wide-open spaces and no crowds, Grand Junction makes you feel like you own the trail. The Lunch Loops offer some of Colorado’s best and most demanding mountain bike trails that will have you pushing yourself to a whole new level. The Kokopelli Trail Network has an abundance of fast and flowy trails with various technical sections mixed in. It also provides you with some of the best views, that are guaranteed to put a smile on your face. View Wild Horse Range to view the protected bands of wild mustangs who roam there, or giddy-up on your own horse to explore.

 

3. Splish Splash

 

Grand Junction is the perfect place to get out on the water. James M. Robb-Colorado River State Park is designed with different sections that run along the Colorado River, each providing a different experience, including kayaking, stand-up paddleboarding, fishing, rafting, or simply enjoying a leisurely float on a tube to relax with nature - all the way to Utah. Highline Lake State Park is the go-to lake for locals, and Imondi Wake Zone is the hotspot for those looking to cool off on a wakeboard – the cable system designed for beginner to expert water enthusiasts (open April – October). The newest riverside addition to Grand Junction is Las Colonias River Park, offering a new dog park, Butterfly Lake and river surfing.

 

4. Step Back in Time

Who isn’t at least a little bit fascinated by dinosaurs? Considering that so many dinosaur bones have been found in this region of Western Colorado, it is no surprise that there are ways to get up close and personal with these ancient beasts. Featuring robotic dinosaurs, a vast collection of fossils, and a real working paleontology lab, the Dinosaur Journey Museum is a fun place to start for the kiddos. Check out the one-mile Dinosaur Hill Interpretive Trail which was the site of the 70-foot long, 30-ton Apatosaurus that was collected in 1901 by Elmer Riggs - one of the biggest dinosaurs ever discovered. The Trail Through Time is another popular dino trail, a 1.5 mile moderate round trip in the Rabbit Valley, 20 miles west of Grand Junction. Interpretive signs will help you see the 140 million-year-old Jurassic Age dinosaur and plant fossils along the way. Grand Junction brings the dino movies you grew up with to life.

 

5.Over 100 Outdoor Sculptures in Downtown

Downtown Grand Junction is a designated park, so you won’t be surprised to see lush trees, fountains, murals, wide sidewalks and convenient benches to relax on. What might surprise you, is that this Downtown park is also a designated Creative Art District, adorned with 100 high-end outdoor sculptures. Take a walk down the pedestrian-friendly Main Street and pose with this nationally famous collection of 100 sculptures, perfect for Instagram-worthy selfies and fun group photos. Close by is the Western Colorado Center for the Arts and also the Art Center which displays several rotating exhibits that will leave you feeling creatively inspired!

 

6. Taste of the Harvest of the Area

This verdant valley provides much of the produce that chefs across Colorado use to develop their cuisines. Wine grapes from this region are poured into 90 percent of all Colorado wines, so you won’t be surprised that the area itself is home to 30 wineries and tasting rooms. The City of Grand Junction even owns land that it leases to local farmers, including cattle ranches. 

Since the fresh bounty is always in season, we’ll leave you with some farm-to-fork cuisine to provide you sustenance for your adventure. For something casual and unique, stop by TacoParty in Downtown Grand Junction. Every week they offer a new menu of six appetizers, six tacos, and gourmet soft-serve ice cream (yes, we just said gourmet) —all made with an intention to showcase local farmers, ranchers, brewers, distillers, and winemakers. And we promise you haven’t had guacamole like this before. 

If you’re intrigued by what’s going on at TacoParty, you’ll also like Bin 707 Foodbar. Both are owned by Josh Niernberg, a James Beard Award-nominated Chef, known for showcasing fresh, innovative, and local ingredients. At Bin 707, the menu is seasonal, which guarantees you a quality experience. The famous Bin Burger topped with Beehive white cheddar, complemented by twice-cooked, hand-cut skinny French fries has been a long-time local favorite. It became so popular that Chef Niernberg had to open a sister restaurant, Bin Burger, to support the demand.

As you can see, Grand Junction offers authentic Colorado experiences that are unique to this area: trails that provide you the peace and quiet you long for, the agricultural bounty of nearby farms and orchards that treat your palate with new and progressive culinary bites, history to bring the past to life, and arts to leave you uplifted. Stop by the Grand Junction Visitor Center at 740 Horizon Drive right off I-70 or visit VisitGrandJunction.com for more trip ideas and information on the area’s many affordable lodging options.

 

Looking for more ideas on how to spend your day in Grand Junction? Check out itineraries starting on page 16 of the Grand Junction Adventure Guide.