With a National Monument, over 1.5 million acres of public land, easy access to two major rivers, and the world’s largest flat-top mountain, Grand Junction is a mecca for outdoor adventure. From hiking and mountain biking to rafting and boating, there is plenty to be explored in Grand Junction. Here’s how to enjoy three days of adventure in Colorado’s Western Slope.
Grab an energizing breakfast from Main Street Bagels in downtown Grand Junction. Their bagels and bread are baked fresh every morning. Not sure what to get? Try the Tabaguache Turkey bagel sandwich, a parmesan bagel piled high with smoked turkey, cream cheese, jalapeno, lettuce, and tomato.
Next, you’re heading to Colorado National Monument, a 20,500-acre miniature Grand Canyon only ten minutes from downtown. The main road through the Monument, Rim Rock Drive, stretches 23 miles from end-to-end and follows the rim along red sandstone canyons. The drive itself is an adventure. Each turn is filled with sweeping vistas of vast canyons and massive stone towers. There are also over 40 miles of easy to extreme hiking trails throughout Colorado National Monument, and we’ve provided a couple of options here to help you.
For something more comfortable, try Devil’s Canyon. This short hike is the very first one you’ll come to when entering the park from the East Entrance. Just over a mile out and back, Devil’s Kitchen goes up into a large bowl, surrounded by giant upright boulders. This hike also has excellent views of No Thoroughfare Canyon.
For something a little more challenging, take the Coke Ovens trail. This mile loop is a steeper trail that goes downhill with a series of switchbacks before following a ridgeline to the Coke Ovens Overlook. From here, you’ll have unmatched views of the large, dome-shaped rocks that jut out into the canyon, high above the canyon floor.
There are dozens of other trails and pull-offs along the drive to explore. Some are short and sweet, while others are longer and more technical, but all lead to rewarding views. After hiking, follow Rim Rock Drive the rest of the way and into Fruita. If you've worked up an appetite with all that adventuring swing by the Pablo’s Pizza in Fruita. Inspired by Pablo Picasso, this little pizza shop serves up innovative pies full of flavor and teeming with local ingredients.
Today you’re headed to Lunch Loops, about 15 minutes outside of Downtown Grand Junction. Lunch Loops is home to some of the best mountain biking in the country, and people travel from all over the world to ride these beautifully crafted trails. Before you take on the twists and turns of these trails, you're going to need some energy.
Dream Café specializes in healthy, natural dishes that will leave you smiling and feeling energized throughout the day. This is the perfect opportunity to switch up your breakfast routine. Fill your plate with AM tacos, or go straight for the capicola breakfast sandwich, loaded with capicola, bacon, eggs, Monterey jack cheese - all on a toasted ciabatta bun.
Now that you are fueled up, it’s time to ride. Didn’t bring your mountain bike? No worries, the folks over at Brown Cycles can set you up on a full-suspension mountain bike. Or, check out Ruby Canyon Cycles to test out the latest rides from Yeti and Specialized. For a Lunch Loops icon, set out on Gunny Loop. This 12-mile loop pieces together some of the best sections that Lunch Loops has to offer with tough climbs, wonderfully fast and furious descents, and plenty of tricky technical features to keep things interesting. For something a little easier, try Kids Meal, a smooth single-track loop on a rugged landscape that will leave you wondering if you’re riding on the moon.
Afterward, on your way back into town, drop in at Handlebars Tap House, a local favorite, for a post-ride meal. Create your own loaded burgers and sandwiches, or snack on appetizers like a Cowboy Poutine, fries smothered in house-made chili, cheddar cheese, and sour cream. Handlebars also has over 25 beers on tap and is a friendly place for bikers to hang out and share trail stories.
Today you’re switching gears from dirt trails to alpine lakes. Grab breakfast to go and a picnic from Café Sol and jump on the road towards Palisade. If you don’t have a paddleboard, Rapid Creek Cycles and Paddleboards has you covered with 24-hour rentals.
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From Palisade, get back on I-70 East and take Exit 49 for the Grand Mesa. Enjoy Scenic Byway 65 as the road takes you through winding canyons that give way to rich pine forests. A breathtaking 45-minute drive, sends you climbing 6,000 feet leaving the desert behind for crisp mountain air. Island Lake is near the top of the world's largest flat-top mountain, and this long skinny lake is the perfect place to spend a day on the water.
From the boat ramp in the parking area, it's easy to unload your paddleboard directly into the water. As you paddle, let the translucent blue and turquoise water splash over your feet. It might seem chilly at first, but it quickly becomes refreshing. Keep your eye peeled for Bald Eagles. The tall pine trees make perfect perches while the clarity of the lakes makes it easy to spot fish. If you're lucky, you might see one swoop down for a fish right in front of you. The island is in the middle of the lake and when you’re ready, paddle over to explore the small island. What better place for a picnic than on your island relaxing in the shade of pine trees?
If these activities don’t float your boat, there are numerous other recreational options and things to do in the Grand Junction area. And with a variety of affordable lodging options, it’s an easy trip to plan. We hope to see you soon!