Temperatures are cooling off in the Grand Junction area and the vibrant colors are starting to turn red, gold, and orange, as the season transitions. Leaves are popping with jewel tones in the Colorado National Monument, known as the national park you’ve never heard of, to the Colorado Riverfront Trail, and the majestic Grand Mesa, which is the largest flat-top mountain in the world bursting with over 300 lakes.
1) Ride a Bike Along the Audubon Section of the River Front Trails for perfect views of the changing colorful landscape. The Audubon Section is 1.4 miles of the 30 mile flat, mostly paved Riverfront Trail. It leads you alongside the Colorado River, beneath a canopy of trees making it a tranquil setting for bird watching and spotting many of the other species of wildlife that live near the Colorado River. It isn't unusual to see bald eagles, blue herons, osprey, and a variety of hawks and ducks.
2) The Grand Mesa provides a majestic view of Colorado’s landscape and is a popular destination for photographers who travel the state looking for colorful panoramas of yellow, red, and gold aspens. With over 300 lakes, it is the perfect location to see the aspen trees reflect the hues on the water.
3) The small community of Glade Park, tucked behind Colorado National Monument, offers a variety of landscapes, pet-friendly hiking, and hundreds of miles of mountain bike and OHV trails. The area is also known for Miracle Rock and the Potholes – a 12,000 ton rock that is precariously balancing on inches of itself and is near some popular swimming holes. The several deep pools of water originate from the Little Dolores River that flows into an area of rock crevices. The potholes are particularly picturesque when surrounded by fall foliage accompanied by the soothing sound of waterfalls. If you do choose to swim or jump into the potholes, please use extreme caution and always wear a PFD (personal flotation device) when recreating in water. Just like any responsible Leave No Trace advocate, if you pack it in, pack it out – leave the area pristine for others to enjoy it the way you have.
Directions: From Glade Park, Colorado, travel west on DS Road. Then make a left (south) on 9 8/10 Road. Past the Miracle Rock Trailhead, continue for about a mile and make a right at the dirt road entrance. Then proceed to the creek.
4) Wine tasting in Colorado’s Wine Country, is enjoyable any time of year, but it is extra special during the fall harvest season. Two Rivers Winery & Chateau offers award-winning wines with a side of astonishing views of the Colorado National Monument. Although the vineyards often steal the show, lavender fields, apple orchards, and pears also grow abundantly in the Grand Junction area during the fall season. Speaking of lavender fields, Belli Fiori is part of a family business that also operates Highlands Distillery, located next door. Be sure to sip the Provence Lemon Lavender Cooler because when in Rome…
Photo by Kevin Keane
5) Discover the Colorado National Monument, which is only six miles from Downtown Grand Junction. The Colorado National Monument is often described as a mini Grand Canyon. With over 20,000 acres of vibrant reddish sandstone canyons and spires rising above the Colorado River, the Monument is one of the best-kept secrets in the National Park Service, which means no crowds. The 23-mile Rim Rock Drive is like hiking in your car with multiple pull-off areas that offer breathtaking overlooks and panoramic views that will leave you awestruck. Another jaw-dropping jaunt is the Canyon Rim Trail, just behind the Colorado National Monument Visitor Center. It is an easy one-mile round trip loop that offers dreamy vistas of Wedding Canyon and the Monument.