Five Ways to Explore Western Colorado's Breathtaking Fall Foliage

Temperatures are cooling off in Western Colorado as Grand Junction locals eagerly anticipate the splendor of colors that evolve as the season transitions. There are plenty of leaf-peeping opportunities and activities to enjoy, ranging from the spectacular Colorado National Monument, known as the national park you’ve never heard of, to the Colorado River Trails, 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 and takes you alongside the Colorado River, beneath a canopy of trees.  It is also a tranquil setting for bird watching and spotting many of the other species of wildlife that live near the Colorado River.

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, the world’s largest flat-top mountain is the perfect location to see the Aspen trees transform. Don’t miss Color Weekend at Powderhorn Mountain Resort, September 28-30.

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 off a cliff that is also nearby a popular swimming hole. The several deep pools of water originate from the Little Dolores River that flows into an area of rock crevices. Known as the favorite local swimming hole, 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, with 28 wineries, is enjoyable any time of year, but it is extra special during the fall harvest season. Although the vineyards often steal the show, lavender fields, apple orchards, and the famous Palisade Peaches also grow abundantly in these same fields. Speaking of lavender fields, Belli Fiori is located right in Grand Junction and is part of a family business that also operates Highlands Distillery, which is right next door. Be sure to sip the Provence Lemon Lavender Cooler because when in Rome… 

Photo credit: Moon & Back Photography

5) Discover the Colorado National Monument which is tucked in the back pocket of Grand Junction and only six miles from Downtown. The Colorado National Monument is also known as the national park you have never heard of. 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. 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 only a one-mile round trip loop that offers dreamy vistas of Wedding Canyon.


Photo credit: Beverly Zuerlein