Your 2020 Grand Junction Bucket List

It’s time to make a New Year’s resolution you can actually keep! Get out and discover something new in Grand Junction. Check out these 20 quintessential Colorado experiences, then resolve to check them off your bucket list in 2020! Whether you’re just visiting or a local, you won't want to miss out on these one-of-a-kind moments. This list has everything New Year's resolution dreams are made of - travel, adventure, and relaxation.

1. Explore Colorado National Monument, You're New Favorite Park

Birders, hikers, climbers, cyclists, geologists, photographers, and outdoor-enthusiasts need to add the Colorado National Monument to their bucket list. The stunning landscape is part of the Colorado Plateau and is chock-full of memorable experiences for explorers of all ages. View the massive rock formations and stone monoliths, which date back hundreds of millions of years. While you're motoring along the historic 23-mile Rim Rock Drive, be sure to look out for wildlife. Mule deer, bighorn sheep, and red-tailed hawks all call these canyon walls home. With over 40 miles of hiking trails through numerous canyons, some plunging 500 feet, there is hiking for everyone, from short out and backs to all-day treks! Never been to Colorado National Monument before? Check out this insider's guide to make the most of your first visit. 

2. Take on the Palisade Plunge

 
 
 
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If spending the day on your mountain bike ripping downhill through alpine forests sounds like your idea of a good time, then the Palisade Plunge is for you. The plunge, scheduled to open summer 2020, will be one of the longest downhill-only trials in the country. This brand-new trail will run from the top of the Grand Mesa, the world’s largest flat-top mountain, for 30 miles with a 6,000-foot descent arriving at the Colorado River. Mix it up by jumping on the Powderhorn Connector to ride into Powderhorn Mountain (ski) Resort and shred the downhill trails while taking advantage of easy lift access to keep the good times rolling.

3. Attend Colorado’s Only Lavender Festival

 
 
 
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A post shared by Nathalie Ames (@nathalieames) on Jun 28, 2019 at 4:23pm PDT

Walk among fields of lavender with the mountains as your backdrop at Colorado's only lavender festival. The Annual Lavender Festival takes place less than 15 miles from Downtown Grand Junction and is the only one in Colorado. Tour lavender fields, or attend workshops on growing the fragrant flower. There is no shortage of lavender-infused treats to snack on, and you can shop from a variety of local vendors and artisans. This one of a kind festival takes place every July and is a must-do for Colorado locals and visitors alike!

4. Bite into the Peachy Side of Life

If you haven’t tried a mouth-watering Palisade Peach, this is the year to do so. Located in the crux of the Colorado River and the Book Cliffs, the Grand Valley’s temperate climate creates the perfect conditions for growing unrivaled large, sweet, and juicy peaches. For a full Palisade Peach experience, check out the Palisade Peach Festival. This weekend festival takes place every August and boasts plenty of fresh peaches and produce, chef demos, activities, music, peach eating contests, and more.

 

5. Experience the Wonder of the Book Cliffs

 
 
 
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A post shared by Devon DiBona (@devon_dibona) on Jul 11, 2019 at 5:39pm PDT

Spanning from Colorado to Utah, the Book Cliffs are the longest continuous cliff face on Earth. Hiking in Grand Junction’s looming and beautiful backdrop is certainly one for any thrill-seekers bucket list. Mount Garfield is one of the most iconic hikes in the Book Cliffs. This challenging climb covers over 2,000 feet of elevation gain in just under two miles. That is steep! This demanding hike is well worth the views, and you may even see wild horses grazing in the Little Book Cliffs Wild Horse area, one of three remaining in the country, on your trek to the top. If you’ve already accomplished this feat, try to reach the summit at sunrise for a dazzling new perspective.

6. Journey the Grand Junction to Moab Trail

 
 
 
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A post shared by Noah Sears (@noahsears) on Aug 20, 2017 at 2:21pm PDT

Take your gravel grinding to the next level by journeying the Grand Junction-Moab Trail this year. Make your plans now, because the 155-mile hut-to-hut trip is only rideable two months of the year, May and October, when conditions are ideal. Huts are reserved months in advance but come fully furnished with sleeping bags, water, supplies, and cookware. The trail passes through stunning sites of the west, offering views of Unaweep Canyon, Paradox Valley, and more. If you missed the two-month window, no worries. Check out Lunch Loops, a local favorite for epic riding no matter what time of year. 

7. Wander into Grand Mesa National Forest

 
 
 
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A post shared by Megan Kindall (@megrenay08) on Nov 21, 2019 at 7:15pm PST

Grand Mesa rises 6,000 feet above Grand Junction, reaching an elevation of over 10,000 feet. Covering over 500-square miles, The Grand Mesa is the largest flat-top mountain in the world. More than 300 lakes are sprinkled across its flat summit. Whether you prefer camping, hiking, fishing, mountain biking, or cross-country skiing, Grand Mesa has an abundance of trails explore all year long. For a short but rewarding hike to vibrant, emerald waters teeming with large trout, check out Lost Lake Trail. And when the snow starts to fall, plan your backcountry skiing experience – the ungroomed West Bench Trail travels through snow-covered meadows, aspens, and spruce. For a rip-roaring time on downhill skies, visit Powderhorn Mountain Resort and carve some of the best tree skiing in the state.

8. See One of the Most Exclusive Car Collections in the Country

 
 
 
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A post shared by Kristina Wickham (@kristinawickham) on May 24, 2019 at 3:57pm PDT

You don’t need to be a petrol-head to appreciate the beauty of this collection. Take a scenic drive to Gateway Canyons Resort through Unaweep Canyon. After 40 miles of beautiful scenery, you’ll arrive at the Gateway Auto Museum. This museum has cars and motorcycles dating back to the early 1900s, all in mint condition and American made. Wander around and take your time to appreciate each vehicle. We’ve heard that even Jay Leno is envious of this collection.

9. Step in Prehistoric Footprints

 
 
 
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The Grand Junction area has a rich history with Dinosaurs. First, visit Dinosaur Journey Museum to get caught up in the amazing discoveries of this area. After checking out the fossils, skeletons, and working paleontology lab, it’s time to get up close and personal with the real thing. Explore Dinosaur Hill and Riggs Hill where bones of some of the largest dinosaurs ever discovered where found by Elmer Riggs himself. Next, check out the Fruita Paleo Area and Trail Through Time where you can see real dino bones still buried in the earth.

10. Plan a Getaway to Colorado’s Lesser-Known National Park

 
 
 
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Whether you’re a Grand Junction local or on vacation, the beauty of its surrounding areas is not to be missed. An easy day trip from Grand Junction, Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park shows off some of the steepest, narrowest canyons in the world. It earned the name “Black Canyon” because parts of the gorge only see a few minutes of sunlight each day. The Gunnison River is surrounded by imposing cliffs and craggy spires. The Black, as locals call it, has plenty of vigorous kayaking, beautiful hiking, and unmatched climbing, so you have plenty of options that will satisfy your adventurous spirit. 

11. Summit the Best Granite Climbing Outside of Yosemite Valley

 
 
 
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Unaweep Canyon is a miracle of nature. It is the only canyon in the world to have two streams flowing in opposite directions from the canyon. That’s not the only attribute that makes this canyon special though. The steep and massive granite walls that make up this canyon are covered in thousands of climbing routes. Unaweep has everything from bouldering to towering multi-pitch routes with none of the crowds you find at other world-class climbing destinations. See for yourself why Unaweep Canyon has the best granite climbing outside of Yosemite Valley.

12. Float the Colorado River

 
 
 
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A post shared by Ethan Ball (@ethanjohnball) on Apr 9, 2019 at 11:45am PDT

The section of the Colorado River that runs through Grand Junction is wider and calmer than it is in other sections. Instead of narrow channels of raging white water, this section is mellow and scenic. The calmer waters make it the perfect stretch of river for stand up paddleboarding. You can rent paddleboards from Rapid Creek Cycles and Paddleboards. If you’ve never paddle boarded before, take a lesson with Grand Junction Stand Up Paddle. They can meet you at the river and tailor a lesson to your skill level, from beginner to advanced paddler.

13. Conquer an over 100-Year-Old Tradition

 
 
 
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A post shared by Michael Gizzi (@mgizzi) on Jul 4, 2019 at 10:44am PDT

John Otto is a local legend around these parts. In the early 1900s, he worked tirelessly to create Colorado National Monument. He wrote hundreds of letters to congress, built trails by hand, and raised money to support his efforts. In 1911, President Howard Taft signed the act creating Colorado National Monument. To celebrate, John climbed a 450-foot tower in the middle of the Monument on July 4th, 1911 and planted an American flag at the top. He continued to climb every year what became known as Independence Monument. This tradition lives on today. Every year, the Mesa County Search and Rescue team climbs Independence on the 4th to plant the flag. You too can follow in Otto’s footsteps and summit this giant rock pillar.

14. Explore Grand Junction’s Vibrant Downtown

 
 
 
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A post shared by Downtown Grand Junction (@downtowngj) on Sep 3, 2019 at 1:38pm PDT

As western Colorado’s largest city, Grand Junction has a lively downtown overflowing with boutique shopping for one-of-a-kind finds, farm to table dining, popular entertainment, and so much more. Make it one of your goals to explore a new part of this very walkable and scenic downtown area, whether it be eating at a new, seasonally-inspired restaurant, visiting a museum, or viewing over 100 sculptures along Art on the Corner, now is a perfect time. A few notable places to visit are the Museum of the WestWestern Colorado Botanical Gardens, and Avalon Theatre.

15. See What Farm-to-Table Means in Grand Junction

 
 
 
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The Grand Junction area is known for its booming agriculture industry which not only supplies the Western Slope, but the rest of Colorado’s trendy restaurants as well. Apples, cherries, grapes, apricots, peaches and countless vegetables thrive here. A Grand Junction farm-to-table restaurant is able to get its ingredients from a farm only a few miles down the road and when it comes to maximum freshness, it’s hard to beat that! Here’s a list of nine delectably divine farm-to-table restaurants that incorporate local produce to inspire unique cuisine and ambiance you won’t find anywhere else.

16. Jam Out at the Largest Party in the Western Slope

 
 
 
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Every year country stars descend on Grand Junction for Country Jam. This giant party brings fans together from all over the country for four days of music, games, quality event food, and plenty of dancing. This year’s lineup includes country music stars like Kane Brown, Toby Keith, Clay Walker, and Dustin Lynch. Be sure to grab your tickets early and keep an eye out for the main headliner, soon to be announced!

17. See Dreams Come True at JUCO

 
 
 
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A post shared by Denise Townsend (@basscslater) on May 27, 2019 at 7:02pm PDT

For the last 60 years, Grand Junction has hosted the Junior College World Baseball Championships, also known as JUCO. Teams from around the country meet in Grand Junction and battle not only for the title of JUCO champions but also for a shot in the MLB. The big-league scouts are in the stands looking for talent during this weekly tournament. Both Monroes Justo, who now plays for the Cardinals and San Francisco Giants pitcher, Keaton Winn, both were scouted at JUCO.

18. Ski or Mountain Bike at Powderhorn Mountain Resort

 
 
 
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A post shared by Powderhorn Mountain Resort (@skipowderhorn) on Nov 13, 2019 at 11:03am PST

Did you know the Powderhorn Mountain Resort is open all year long? When ski season comes to an end, the Powderhorn Bike Park opens for the summer. No matter your skill level, the resort features trails ranging from novice to difficult, so you’ll find trails to have a hoot-hollering good time on. Take a lesson for skiing, snowboarding, or mountain biking if you're new to the sport or want to improve your technique. Powderhorn is a favorite for its short lift lines, family-friendly atmosphere, affordability, and amazing views.

19. Become Immersed in Grand Junction’s Craft Beverage Scene

 
 
 
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A post shared by Highlands Distillery (@highlandsdistillery) on May 26, 2019 at 10:21am PDT

The Grand Junction area is home to 27 wineries, six breweries, and two distilleries. When it comes to creating craft beverages, you won't find anywhere else as dedicated to making fresh, delicious drinks with ingredients grown right outside than right here in Grand Junction. Check out this bucket list craft beverage tour for the ultimate tasting experience.

20. Make an Appearance at Colorado Mountain Winefest

 
 
 
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A post shared by Christina Sadler (@trickstinaa) on Sep 22, 2019 at 9:51am PDT

Not only does the Grand Junction area have at thriving craft beverage scene, but it also plays host to Colorado Mountain Winefest, one of the biggest celebrations of wine in the country. Winefest takes place in the beautiful Riverbend Park, right along the Colorado River with stunning views of Mount Garfield. Hundreds of wineries and vendors set up for tastings, wine-themed gifts, chef demonstrations and chocolate & wine pairings. Grand Junction also hosts Wine Week, the week before and after Winefest, where local businesses offer wine-inspired specials, from specialty dishes to wine-themed activities. Winefest tickets sell out each year, so be sure to grab yours while there is still time! Not going to Winefest, don’t worry we’ve got you covered!

With ten new ideas to inspire your bucket list, start planning your epic adventure to Grand Junction. With plenty of affordable lodging options, stay an extra day or two and get further inspired with things to do and kick-off 2020 with a bang!

Check out pages 16 -23 of the Grand Junction Visitor Guide to find itineraries that will help you check off these Grand Junction experiences from your 2020 bucket list; you may even find some other adventures to keep your list going.