Its location amid Colorado’s Western Slope makes Grand Junction the perfect destination for outdoor adventures—whether its hiking or biking; whitewater rafting on the Colorado River, or simply soaking up the scenic red-rock formations of the Colorado National Monument, Grand Junction has the great outdoors waiting on its doorstep.
The Colorado Monument: CO Outdoor Recreation At Its Finest
One of the best ways to experience the outdoors when visiting Grand Junction is to venture out to the Colorado National Monument. Known as one of the great landscapes of the American West, this 31-square mile unit of the National Park System is known for its scenic landscapes that include stunning red rock vistas, deep canyons, and sandstone towers—all set amid the gorgeous Colorado Plateau.
Though it’s located less than half an hour away from Grand Junction, The Colorado Monument is easily accessible via the city at the East entrance to Rim Rock Drive. Considered one of the ‘grandest scenic drives in the American West,’ this 23-mile trek has some of the most spectacular views around. Ideal for both motorists and cyclists, the drive provides access to the Saddlehorn Visitor Center and is clearly marked with viewpoints and trails along the way for those who want to step outside and stroll among the rugged atmosphere.
Though biking Rim Rock Drive is challenging, it’s well worth the effort to ascend and descend the scenic route that winds its way along the Colorado River and through some of the area’s most famous canyons. While off-road mountain biking is not allowed in the monument, there are several adjoining areas that are ideal for all skill levels. Mountain bikers will find plenty to explore on two wheels as there is an extensive trail system that is easily accessible—simply visit the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Grand Junction Field Office to learn more about the available trails, including the Tabeguache/Lunch Loops Trail System that includes a bike park in Grand Junction and a number of trails that are ideal for both mountain biking and hiking. Nearby Fruita also offers plenty of mountain biking opportunities, including 18 Road & Kokopelli Loop Trails, considered some of the best mountain bike trails in the entire state. Both have amazing views and showcase the surrounding scenery beautifully—from canyon country to the historic Old Spanish Trail where riders can scope out the area’s many pictographs and petroglyphs.
Hikers will find plenty to explore throughout the Monument, too—with 13 backcountry trails that vary in elevation and skill level, everyone from novice hikers to rugged climbers will find something to enjoy. The Alcove Trail is a half-mile trail accessible from the Saddlehorn Visitor’s Center and is a great introduction to the region—leading to a box canyon and the site of some of the best local plant and animal life, its ideal for families who want a more moderate trail experience. More experienced hikers will enjoy both the Upper No Thoroughfare Canyon and Liberty Cap trails for their more rugged and steep treks. The Liberty Cap Trail is accessible via Grand Junction and offers both difficult and easy portions on its seven-mile journey through the Grand Mesa.
For those who want to simply soak up the spectacular views without hiking and biking, there are plenty of spots for peeping the region’s stellar scenery. Located adjacent to the Visitor’s Center is the Book Cliffs View—where visitors can catch a panoramic view of Grand Junction, Grand Mesa, and the best canyon views including Independence Monument and famous features like the Kissing Couple, Pipe Organ, and Praying Hands. Sightseers can also pick up the short, level Canyon Rim Trail here, too. Another short walk leading into the canyon is Otto’s Trail, a great spot to scope the Independence Monument. Named after John Otto, the first caretaker of the Monument, the 450-foot tall giant fin towers majestically over the surrounding valley. Grand View is another awe-inspiring spot—aptly named for its amazing views, the overlook is a great place to pack a picnic and soak up the canyon scenery. Visit during sunrise or sunset to catch some of the best scenic spots in the entire Colorado National Monument. Opposite the overlook is Grand View Spire—a perfect spot for climbers, so don’t forget to pack your gear when visiting. Devil’s Kitchen is another short hike where visitors can surround themselves with some of the area’s tallest free-standing boulders surrounding a sheltered grotto—less than a mile long, it’s definitely worth a look.
Take A Hike From Grand Junction
There are plenty of ways to experience the scenic splendor of Grand Junction—all without ever leaving the city itself. One of the best ways to explore GJ is to hop on the 22-mile long Riverfront Trail. Winding its way along the Colorado River, this scenic trail includes many different sections for adventurers to explore. Part of an ongoing project in the region to connect the town of Palisade and the town of Fruita, the trail is home to diverse wildlife habitats including wetlands, cottonwood groves, and marshes. Birdwatchers will want to bring their binocs when heading out, as the Audubon section of the trail is known to attract over 200 species.
Just a short four miles from downtown, Orchard Mesa is a historic area where visitors can pick up the Old Spanish Trail on the seven-mile hike to Whitewater. Known for its abundance of wildlife and native desert flora, this relaxing hike is a great way for visitors to get a sense of what life may have been like for Native Americans and local traders in Grand Junction’s past. Open to hikers, bikers, and horseback riders, these trails are the perfect way to explore Grand Junction’s historic backyard. For those who want a longer adventure, the Gunnison River Bluffs Trail is the sister trail of the Old Spanish Trail and offers spectacular views all it’s own.
A Thrill Seeker’s Dream
Want to venture off the beaten track? Then head over to Rimrock Adventures in nearby Fruita. Offering horseback riding excursions; raft trips and whitewater adventures on the Colorado River; raft, canoe, and kayak rentals; and weekly rodeos throughout the summer, Rimrock is your one stop shop for adventure in the Grand Junction area.
Climbers will also find plenty to keep them busy in and around Grand Junction. Not only are there plenty of spots to climb in the Colorado National Monument, but nearby Unaweep Canyon is also known for having some of the best climbing opportunities in the entire Western Slope. Just a 40 minute trip from GJ, Unaweep, or ‘the canyon with two mouths,’ has rivers flowing from both sides—and is known for some of the best climbing outside of Yosemite. With over 2,000 routes to choose from, outdoor adventurers will love to climb and boulder this scenic area that is known for its stellar views, great camping, and close proximity to Grand Junction.
Off-roading in the Western Slope is a great way to explore the surrounding area. Head over to Adrenaline Driven Adventures to learn more about their ATV, UTV, dirt bike, and 4X4 rentals—and the best part is, they’re located just minutes from over 500,000-acres of trails ready for you to explore. New to off-roading? ADA has several tours available, too—providing both guides and equipment for your off-road adventure.
Tee Off In Grand Junction
Grand Junction may be known as an outdoor mecca for hiking, biking, climbing, and water sports—but its location also makes it an ideal spot for some of the most beautiful golf courses in the entire state of Colorado. With four year-round golf courses to choose from, everyone from beginners to seasoned links lovers will find a course that suits their fancy. The best part is, the courses are all incredibly scenic, providing some of the most relaxing spots for soaking up GJ’s best views. For example, the scenery can’t be beat at Tiara Rado Golf Course—with views of Grand Mesa and the Book Cliffs, and bordered by the Colorado National Monument, this public course is a great spot to take in 18-holes while admiring some of the area’s best views. The Golf Club at Redlands Mesa is also known for its stellar scenery—though it’s the newest course in Grand Junction, it has rapidly garnered a reputation for its beauty. And with changes in elevation and challenging layout, it’s also a great spot for golf aficionados who love a challenge.
Grand Junction is the perfect spot to explore the beauty of Colorado’s Western Slope. With access to a plethora of outdoor activities for every type of adventurer, it’s truly one of the most scenic spots in the entire Centennial State. Whether exploring on two wheels or your own two feet, Grand Junction is sure to charm any visitor looking for a taste of the great outdoors.