13 Best Things to Do in Grand Junction, CO

Hiker on a steep trail in Colorado National Monument
marekuliasz / Getty Images

Located on Colorado's Western Slope, the mid-sized town of Grand Junction is an ideal destination for outdoor adventures that range from adrenaline-pumping mountain biking to tranquil fishing. It's also situated right in the heart of the Centennial State’s wine country, so it’s brimming with wineries, fine-dining restaurants, family farms, orchards, and other foodie spots—all set against the backdrop of the region’s sandstone Book Cliffs.

If you’re planning a trip to Western Colorado, here’s how to make the most of your time in Grand Junction.

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Explore Colorado National Monument

View Of Rock Formations Against Sky
Kyle Lee / EyeEm / Getty Images
11 Rimrock Dr, Fruita, CO 81521-9508, USA
Phone +1 970-858-3617

Colorado National Monument is a sprawling 20,000-acre nature preserve with scenic drives, rugged hiking trails, epic rock climbing areas, and serene campsites. The monument, established in 1911, shows off Western Colorado’s impressive terrain: red rock canyons, towering sandstone pillars, and desert plateaus dotted with juniper and pinyon trees.

Stay in your vehicle and make the 23-mile trek over Rim Rock Drive, or hit the more than 40 miles of maintained hiking trails. The monument has one established camping area—Saddlehorn Campground—but it allows for backcountry camping with a permit. There are also regular ranger-led programs and activities for kids. Bring your binoculars and your camera, as this is a great place to go birding or spot wildlife like rainbow-colored collared lizards, deer, and bighorn sheep.

02 of 13

Mountain Bike at Lunch Loops

Monument Rd, Grand Junction, CO 81507, USA
Phone +1 970-244-3044

The Grand Junction area is home to hundreds of miles of mountain bike trails for riders of all ability levels. One of the most popular mountain biking areas among Grand Junction residents and visitors alike is Lunch Loops, an easy-to-access trailhead that’s just a few miles from downtown. (The name comes from the fact that it’s close enough for locals to get in a few laps during their lunch breaks!)

You could spend several days exploring the vast trail system, but it’s also a great place to stretch your legs for a few hours. If this is your first time mountain biking, stick to the beginner-friendly green trails, which can be found closest to the trailhead and parking area. The most difficult trails, marked black, are the farthest out, while intermediate blue trails can be found in between. Even little riders can get in on the action with super beginner-friendly trails like “Hop, Skip and a Jump” and “Kids Meal.”

03 of 13

Zoom Around in an Off-Road Vehicle

Off road vehicles out for a drive in the desert
Ken Redding / Getty Images

The Grand Junction region is home to more than 1.5 million acres of public lands, and much of it is open to off-highway (OHV) and all-terrain (ATV) vehicles, motorcycles, dune buggies, dirt bikes, and other speedy motorized vehicles.

You can rent your own adventure vehicle from outfitters like Adrenaline Driven Adventures and Funshares Buggy Center & Rentals. Or, if you’re not quite game to drive one yourself, Adrenaline Driven Adventures can pair you with an experienced guide, who will drive you safely all over the region’s best off-road terrain, like Bangs Canyon, Rabbit Valley, and Grand Mesa National Forest.

04 of 13

Float Down the Colorado River

A group of people camp after rafting on the Colorado River at sunset.
Whit Richardson / Getty Images

The Colorado River, a major waterway in the southwestern U.S. and northern Mexico, flows right through Grand Junction, providing useful irrigation water for the crops this region is so well-known for: peaches, grapes, cherries, apples, apricots, and other stone fruits.

But the river is also a great source of fun, perfect for paddleboarding, kayaking, tubing, wading, and other summer water activities. Head to Las Colonias Park to launch your own vessel or to rent one from GJ SUP, which also offers standup paddleboard lessons and SUP yoga classes (plus a handy shuttle to pick you up after you paddle downstream). The 130-acre park is home to a beach, wading areas, standing wave features, and three ponds with calm waters that are perfect for beginner paddlers.

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05 of 13

Explore the Grand Mesa

Grand Mesa Sunset
brandonhirtphoto / Getty Images
Cedaredge, CO 81413, USA
Phone +1 970-856-4153

The Grand Mesa, located just east of Grand Junction, is the largest flat-top mountain in the world, spanning more than 500 square miles and standing more than 11,000 feet tall. The mesa is an outdoor adventure lover’s dream, with hundreds of lakes and streams for fishing and miles of trails for hiking and mountain biking. It’s also a great place to go camping, take a scenic drive, roam around in an off-road vehicle, explore on cross-country skis, or zoom around on a snowmobile.

The Grand Mesa Visitor Center and the adjacent Discovery Trail are great places to start. To see some of the mesa’s stunning scenery from the comfort of your vehicle, drive some or all of the 63-mile Grand Mesa Scenic Byway. To explore on foot, consider hiking trails like the Crag Crest Trail or the Lost Lake trail, just to name a few. Check out Powderhorn Mountain Resort for downhill skiing and the Grand Mesa Nordic Council for cross-country skiing and snowshoeing in the winter.

06 of 13

Catch a Show at the Avalon Theatre

645 Main St, Grand Junction, CO 81501, USA
Phone +1 970-263-5757

Originally built in 1932, the Avalon Theatre in downtown Grand Junction is one of the largest performance venues in Western Colorado. Since its founding nearly 90 years ago, the theater has played host to big-name acts traveling between Denver and Salt Lake City, including Pat Benatar, Ethel Barrymore, and Lyle Lovett.

You can catch concerts, film screenings, lectures, dance performances, and many other events at this historic, 1,096-seat theater, which underwent a massive renovation and restoration project in 2014.

07 of 13

Sip Grand Junction Wines

Grand Valley
tvirbickis / Getty Images

Grand Junction is situated within the Grand Valley American Viticultural Area, one of Colorado’s two federally designated wine grape-growing regions. With its fertile soils, mild climate, and ample irrigation water from the Colorado River, this region is perfect for growing grapes—and it shows.

Wineries here are regularly recognized for their award-winning sips, including Two Rivers Winery & Chateau. Owners Bob and Billie Witham built a beautiful, French-inspired tasting room, conference center, and inn right in the heart of town, where visitors can sample wines, tour their wine-making facilities, and spend the night among the vineyards. Palisade, Grand Junction’s neighbor to the east, is also home to dozens of wineries, tasting rooms, and vineyards.

08 of 13

Spot Wild Horses at Little Book Cliffs

Clifton, CO 81520, USA

With enough patience and persistence, you can observe beautiful wild horses roaming the canyons of the Little Book Cliffs Wild Horse Range a few miles northeast of Grand Junction. The 36,113-acre sanctuary, maintained by the Bureau of Land Management, is home to around 100 horses of all ages, colors, patterns, and sizes.

Groups of two and 10 palominos, bays, sorrels, blue roans, red roans, paints, grays, blacks, and appaloosas travel through the area together, often foraging for food high on the sloped canyon walls. The preserve is also home to lots of other wildlife, including snowshoe hares, mule deer, turkey, elk, bighorn sheep, bobcats, and even bears.

This huge swath of public land is accessible to hikers, bikers, and horseback riders. Head out on your own or book a guided horseback tour with operators like Rimrock Adventures.

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09 of 13

Eat and Drink at Top-Notch Restaurants

Bison Ribeye, Fermented Barley, Miso Chimichurri

Bin 707 Foodbar / Facebook

Though Grand Junction is small, home to some 60,000 residents, it boasts a world-class restaurant scene—here, it’s easy to play outdoors all day, then clean up and indulge at night. Chefs come (and stay) because of the region’s thriving wine scene and its many farms and ranches, which make it easy to source local, sustainably grown ingredients.  

The greater Grand Junction region is home to several fine-dining restaurants that are worth planning a trip around in their own right. Be sure to bookmark Bin 707 Foodbar (chef and owner Josh Niernberg was nominated for a James Beard award), 626 on Rood and The Winery Restaurant in downtown Grand Junction, and Pêche in nearby Palisade.

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Stop and Smell the Lavender

Lavender Field
Ken Redding / Getty Images

In addition to growing delicious wine grapes and peaches, the region is brimming with lavender. The Lavender Association of Colorado, headquartered in Palisade, hosts the annual Colorado Lavender Festival each summer, complete with farm tours, seminars, arts and crafts classes, musical performances, and live demonstrations.

Although lavender primarily blooms in the summer, you can tour many of the region’s lavender farms year-round, perusing hand-crafted products including soaps, bath bombs, lotions, and edible products like tea and simple syrup. Lavender farm Belli Fiori, for example, is just a few miles from downtown Grand Junction and shares a site with Highlands Distillery (the two businesses are run by the same family), so you can even enjoy a lavender-infused cocktail on the back patio as you gaze out over the tidy rows of lavender plants.

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Peruse the Produce at Market on Main

101 S 3rd St Suite 100, Grand Junction, CO 81501-2510, USA
Phone +1 970-245-9697

On Thursdays in the summer, downtown Grand Junction transforms into a vibrant farmers market called Market on Main, full of colorful fruits and vegetables, local artisans, food stands, and live entertainment. It’s a true community celebration, with thousands of people strolling up and down the street, grabbing a bite to eat, and shopping in the warm evening weather.

The free market highlights Grand Junction’s deep agricultural roots and offers visitors a chance to mingle with farmers, ranchers, artists, chefs, entrepreneurs, and other people who help create the region’s rich, welcoming sense of community.

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Run, Walk, or Bike Along the Riverfront Trail System

River Front Trail, Grand Junction, CO 81505, USA

Grand Junction’s name stems from the fact that two major rivers intersect here: the Colorado River and the Gunnison River. You can take full advantage of these and other waterways—without even getting wet—while jogging, walking, rollerblading, biking, and birdwatching along the Riverfront Trail System. This paved, county-wide trail system—which connects Fruita, Grand Junction, and Palisade—is a safe, easy way to get around and explore all that this region has to offer. Along the way, you’ll likely encounter blue herons and hawks, fishermen, towering oak trees, people playing frisbee golf, and even a collection of murals painted by local artists.

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Hit the Links at Grand Junction Golf Courses

Teeing off
Ken Redding / Getty Images

Grand Junction’s striking natural scenery doubles as a stunning backdrop for the region’s many golf courses, including Lincoln Park Golf Course, The Golf Club at Redlands Mesa, Chipeta Golf Course, Adobe Creek National Golf Course, and Tiara Rado Golf Course. Plus, since the weather is relatively mild here, you can play at many courses year-round.

Frequently Asked Questions
  • When is the best time to visit Grand Junction?

    The best time to visit Grand Junction largely depends on what types of activities you prefer. If you enjoy hiking and camping, May and September are lovely months to visit, while July is great for swimming and floating. For winter activities like cross-country skiing and snowmobiling, however, plan your trip around February.

  • Where are the best places to stay in Grand Junction?

    There are a number of chain hotels in Grand Junction, including DoubleTree by Hilton, La Quinta Inn & Suites by Wyndham, and SpringHill Suites by Marriott. For a boutique option, consider Hotel Maverick.

  • How do I get to Grand Junction?

    If you're flying, the closest airport is Grant Junction Regional Airport, which is served by Allegiant, American Airlines, Frontier, and United. From there, you can pick up a rental car or use the local Grand Valley Transit bus service.

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13 Best Things to Do in Grand Junction, CO