Take your pick from these incredible public lands throughout the area, each offering a distinct outdoor adventure.
Colorado National Monument
Concentrated within a 31-square-mile area on the Colorado Plateau, this impressive enclave of brilliant red sandstone cliffs, canyons and rock formations will let your imagination soar. Picture-worthy scenic overlooks await when you drive or bike along the 23-mile Rimrock Drive, which winds through Colorado National Monument. Perhaps you will catch sight of the desert bighorn sheep.
Don’t Miss: a short hike along Canyon Rim Trail. This easy 1-mile round-trip trail begins at the Saddlehorn Visitor Center and leads to Bookcliff Overlook, offering panoramic views of the canyon and monoliths.
Escape to one of the world’s largest flat top mountains, a sprawling expanse of approximately 500 square miles of mostly flat terrain, where there are over 300 crystalline lakes and reservoirs, lush forests and cold streams beckon to hikers, anglers and campers at the Grand Mesa National Forest. Just an hour’s drive from downtown Grand Junction, Grand Mesa is close enough for a day trip, but the forested landscape offers a completely distinct experience.
Don’t Miss: the breathtaking views at Grand Mesa Lakes. Touting eight gorgeous reservoirs heavily stocked with rainbow trout, wild brown and brook trout may be present, these lakes boast scenic sportfishing, and they’re also the perfect place for picnicking and hiking.
Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Lands
Discover a little peace and quiet—and great adventures—in the isolated public lands of Western Colorado, overseen by the Bureau of Land Management. For an easy breakdown of all BLM managed lands surrounding Grand Junction, use this easy to follow guide. Here, you’ll find miles of trail systems for mountain biking, ATV riding, hiking and horseback riding though the desert landscape, as well as secluded campsites for overnight stays.
For a backcountry adventure off the grid, venture out into the canyon country of the two National Conservation Areas (NCAs) located just outside Grand Junction. These NCAs are part of the BLM's National Conservations Lands and they simply are not to be missed! Go on a whitewater rafting or kayaking trip through Escalante Canyon, scout out a primitive camping spot in Dominguez Canyon, or kick up some dirt on a spectacular singletrack trail in McInnis Canyon.
Located in the high desert canyon country of western Colorado and eastern Utah, McInnis Canyons National Conservation Area consists of approximately 123,430 acres of dog-friendly BLM-administered land directly adjacent to the Colorado National Monument's west entrance.
- Among its unique natural resources are the more than 75,000 acres of the Black Ridge Canyons Wilderness, which includes the second-largest concentration of natural arches in North America.
- Internationally important fossils have been uncovered during more than a century of excavation and are still visible and accessible today!. Pictograph and petroglyph sites abound, and the Old Spanish Trail, once referred to as the “longest, crookedest, most arduous mule route in the history of America,” runs through the NCA.
- The NCA is a mountain biking destination, drawing visitors to the world-class singletrack on Mack Ridge Loops and along the 142-mile Kokopelli trail, which extends to Moab, Utah.
- Plus, twenty-five miles of the Colorado River wind their way through the NCA, tracing the spectacular red rock walls of Ruby and Horsethief Canyons and attracting boaters who value a relaxing single-day or multi-day float with abundant wildlife and intriguing side hikes.
Don’t Miss: the second largest concentration of natural arches in North America along the Rattlesnake Arches Trail.
Don’t Miss: the best dog-friendly trails in the Grand Valley with a nice hike or a trail run at Devils Canyon. This area of the NCA is easily accessed and includes a multitude of loop trails that transition from urban to back-country depending on how far you choose to go!
Don’t Miss: incredible dinosaur fossils along the Trail Through Time. Explore this self-guided, 1.5-mile trail in the high desert of Rabbit Valley, and walk alongside streambeds with ancient dinosaur specimens.
Located on the estern edge of the Uncompahgre Plateau, you'll find a the 210,172-acre landscape known as the Dominguez-Escalante National Conservation Area, which includes the 66,280-acre Dominguez Canyon Wilderness. With elevations ranging from 4,800 to 8,200 feet, the breathtaking scenery, the Dominguez-Escalante is a perfect example of the spectacular canyon country of the Uncompahgre Plateau.
- Red-rock canyons and sandstone bluffs hold geological and paleontological resources spanning 600 million years, as well as many cultural and historic sites. The Ute Tribes today consider these pinyon-juniper–covered lands an important connection to their ancestral past.
- The Escalante, Cottonwood, Little Dominguez and Big Dominguez Creeks cascade through sandstone canyon walls that drain the eastern Uncompahgre Plateau. Unaweep Canyon on the northern boundary of the NCA contains globally significant geological resources.
- Nearly 30 miles of the Gunnison River flow through the Dominguez-Escalante NCA, supporting fish, wildlife and recreational resources. A variety of wildlife call the area home, including desert bighorn sheep, mule deer, golden eagle, turkey, elk, mountain lion, black bear, and the collared lizard. There are 115 miles of streams and rivers in the NCA, and there is habitat suitable for 52 protected species of animals and plants.
Don’t Miss: the rock art panels and waterfalls of Dominguez Canyon Wilderness easily accessed via the Big Dominguez Trail.
Don’t Miss: a heritage-rich scenic drive through Escalante Canyon, which includes the historic Captain Smiths Cabin adn Walker Homestead.
Don't Miss: the Old Spanish National Historic Trail, a 19th Century land trade route, also passes through it.
Little Book Cliffs - Get a glimpse into the untamed beauty of the Wild West when you visit the Little Book Cliffs, located just 8 miles north of Grand Junction. As one of only three wild horse reserves in the country, you can spot bands of wild mustangs roaming freely among the canyons, buttes and piñon-juniper forests.
Don’t Miss: a horseback ride through this rugged, wide-open terrain. Book a two- to four-hour guided Wildhorse Sanctuary Ride with Rimrock Adventures to explore the desert landscape and see herds of wild horses in their natural habitat.
Colorado State Parks
From camping and picnicking to fishing and hiking, Colorado State Parks in the Grand Junction area offer plenty of amenities and activities for everyone. Choose from James M. Robb – Colorado River State Park in Grand Junction, Highline State Park in nearby Loma (35-minute drive) and Vega State Park in Colbran (70-minute drive).
Don’t Miss: exploring the five unique sections of James M. Robb – Colorado River State Park: Island Acres, Corn Lake, Colorado River Wildlife Area, Connected Lakes and the Fruita section.
Once you arrive, there are plenty of in-person options to learn more. Start your trip at the Grand Junction Visitor Center, the Bureau of Land Management field office or the National Park Service visitor center at Colorado National Monument. Or, learn more about national conservation areas from the Colorado Canyons Association.