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 bursting with 300 lakes, Grand Junction is a mecca for outdoor adventure. From hiking and mountain biking to OHVing and boating, there are wide open spaces to explore in Grand Junction. Check out this action-packed three-day adventure itinerary.
Grab an energizing breakfast from Main Street Bagels in Downtown Grand Junction. The bagels and bread are baked fresh every morning. Try the Mile High Scram bagel sandwich packed full of eggs, bacon, ham, red onions, bell peppers, sauteed mushrooms and swiss cheese. Their granola is a local favorite, so grab some for your day’s excursion. Have Fido with you? Main Street staff gives out FREE dog treats so be sure to ask.
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, so throw you hiking boots in the car and venture out.
Photo by Frank Colorado
For an easy and scenic trail, try Devil’s Kitchen. This short hike is the first one you’ll come to when entering the park from the east entrance. As you approach the large bowl, you’ll soon be surrounded by giant upright boulders. This hike also offers excellent views of No Thoroughfare Canyon.
For something a little more challenging, take the Coke Ovens trail. This mile loop is a steep trail that descends into 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 Monument floor.
There are dozens of other trails and pull-offs along the drive to explore. Some are short yet always scenic, while others are longer and more technical, but they all lead to rewarding views. If you've worked up an appetite with all that adventuring, swing by Pablo’s Pizza. Inspired by Pablo Picasso, this local pizza shop serves up innovative pies full of flavor and teeming with farm-fresh ingredients grown right here in the Grand Junction area.
Start day two off at Lunch Loops, which is located just a few minutes from 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, you're going to need some energy.
Dream Café has a fun and hip atmosphere with an extensive breakfast and lunch menu, including cinnamon rolls the size of your face. Treat yourself to a bloody mary or mimosa, perfect with the Baked Avocado Benedict, which consists of two half avocados filled with poached eggs and topped with Monterey jack cheese and pico de Gallo.
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 an iconic Lunch Loops ride, 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, drop into Handlebar Tap House 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. Handlebar also has over 25 rotating beers on tap and is a friendly place where local bikers hang out and share trail stories.
Switch gears and go from dirt trails to alpine lakes. Grab breakfast to go and a picnic from Café Sol and head East on I-70. Make a pit stop to float the Colorado River or pick up a paddleboard on your way to Grand Mesa. If you don’t have a paddleboard, Rapid Creek Cycles and Paddleboards has you covered with 24-hour rentals or check out Grand Junction Adventures - they have four convenient locations in the Grand Junction area, so take your pick.
Hop on I-70 East and take Exit 49 toward the Grand Mesa National Forest. Enjoy the Scenic Byway along Highway 65, as the road takes you through winding canyons that give way to aspen groves and rich pine forests. A breathtaking 45-minute drive sends you climbing 6,000 feet in elevation while leaving the high desert behind and making way for crisp mountain air. Island Lake is near the top of the world's largest flat-top mountain, and this long alpine lake is the perfect place to spend a day on the water.
Photo by Rhonda Mock
The boat ramp in the parking area makes it 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. Don’t forget to keep your eyes peeled for bald eagles because the tall pine trees make perfect perches and the clarity of the lakes make 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 it. There is no better place for a picnic than on your own island while relaxing in the shade of pine trees. Be sure to always wear your PFD (personal flotation device) when recreating on any body of water.
If these activities don’t float your boat, there are numerous other recreational options and things to do in the Grand Junction area. With a variety of affordable lodging options, it’s an easy trip to plan. Most of the hotels are on Horizon Drive where Enzo’s Restaurant is located – an authentic Italian restaurant with a vast menu. The pomodoro Penne Vodka is a must-try., and be sure to add the meatballs.