Colorado is breathtaking. While much of that is due to altitude, it’s also due to everything I love about Colorado. The scenes, the views, the people, the shopping, the community, the outdoor adventures – it’s all breathtaking. (Did I mention just how “breathtaking” the hiking is for those of us not yet acclimated to the altitude?)
I find myself vacationing in Colorado at least three times a year (usually covering X Games or a Broncos game for The Blonde Side, and I have my favorite spots.
But each time I visit, I’m encouraged to check out a new town, and this time it was Grand Junction, and like all things Colorado, it did not disappoint.
For starters, pretty much every direction you turn, you saw the gorgeous views of the red rock landscapes and the amount of outdoor activities available to take in the scenery felt limitless. Grand Junction is the largest city in western Colorado and sits at an altitude of 4,586 – just enough to get the heart pumping! With more than 1.2 million acres of public multi-land use, you cannot run out of things to do in Grand Junction. Keep reading – I’ll prove it.
Before I get into my action-packed itinerary in Grand Junction, let me warn you – I did a lot during my visit, so I broke this article down into activities, wineries, and food, so you can easily navigate which ones are more your traveling style.
Adventure Activities in Grand Junction
Whatever level adventurer you are, I recommend you connect with a man named Rondo who runs Rapid Creek Cycles and Paddle Boards and Palisade River Trips. Whether you want to rent Standup Paddleboards and take lessons with Rondo or take a late afternoon cocktail float trip (hello bachelorette party!) or ride bikes through Colorado’s Wine Country, he can set you up. Pro tip: if you do the winery bike riding tour, be sure to ask for the electric bikes. After a few wineries, your legs, lungs and heart will thank you. And wear a helmet!
While the hiking may not boast all the greenery of Aspen trees you might expect, the landscape of the red rocks is just as beautiful. It’s just a different kind of beautiful. Trust me. Coming from Texas where many parts lack landscapes, the views along every step in Grand Junction were magnificent.
We hiked Colorado National Monument, which is a perfect hike with enough uphill, downhill, and even some shade on the backside and perfect for pretty much every level hiker or mountain biker. The Colorado National Monument is not only a great hiking spot, it also a gorgeous drive if you prefer to stay in the confines of your air-conditioned car. It’s a semi-desert land, which boasts 23,000-acres of towering rock spires and canyons and was touted by Outside Magazine and USA Today as one of the top 10 best places for solitude in the US. One of my favorite things not only about this hike, but Grand Junction in general, was that you felt like you were disconnected and really off the grid, but you’re not. For the most part, cell service is still available, so you can check in with the kids or the office (if you must!).
Another great hike we did is the Palisade Rim Trail, which seems to be a local favorite and is dog friendly. This trail had a pretty steep incline, but once you reached the top, it looped around on flat land and was of course – gorgeous. This was also a very active bike trail, so beware of bikers as it can be dangerous near the edges and cliffs.
Desert Rat Tours was a great outfit to get on mountain bikes, no matter what level. Sarah and David Withers are the owners – they are a cute outdoorsy couple who actually met on the trail and got married on the trail, on their bikes! While they are both biking powerhouses, they realize not everyone (like me) is, and adjust training routines and outings to fit your needs. Sarah also knows all the good spots, like where to find dinosaur bones hidden in the trails!
Another great outdoor activity is horseback riding, where you can tour the Little Book Cliffs Wild Horse Range with RimRock Adventures and take a scenic ride on only one of three ranges in the United States specifically designated to protect and manage wild and free-roaming horses on public lands. There are approximately 80 – 120 wild horses roaming around the 36,000 acres of rugged canyons and plateaus, so keep your eyes peeled and iPhone cameras open. Click here to learn more about the wild-roaming horses. Be sure to wear jeans and closed-toe shoes during your horseback ride.
Grand Junction also offers a ton of rafting, rock climbing, golf and many other outdoor activities.
For all Grand Junction outdoor activities, be sure to wear sunscreen as it gets extremely hot and with the elevation, you are closer to the sun. And always bring a water bottle – that’s a unique thing about Colorado – you’re expected to BYOB everywhere you go and you’ll need it – trust me!
Very Fine Wines Found: Grand Junction Wineries
What’s a girl’s getaway without a few wineries? After one of our hikes, we took a quick drive to Two Rivers Winery and Chateau, which is an amazing bed and breakfast (it’s the perfect place to have a wedding and there are ten rooms so your wedding party can crash with you or perfect for a girl’s trip). Two Rivers is a family operated boutique winery and exudes so many amazing feels without feeling the least bit pretentious. If you’re into rose like I am, be sure to try the Tulip (2013), which is a rose styled offering, with just a subtle sweetness (and a bottle is only $12.75!), perfect for a hot summer day.
The next day, we jumped on our electric bikes from Rapid Creek Cycles that Rondo talked us into (thank you again for that, sir!), strapped on our helmets and hit a number of wineries.
Plum Creek Cellars, the state’s most award-winning winery, was the first. The winery offered the first three tastings complimentary, and each one after that was $1 or you could choose the full menu, ten wines for just $5. Plum Creek has 100% Colorado-grown grapes for over 30 years.
Next was St. Kathryn Cellars, which offered five complimentary tastings and $1 thereafter. This winery offered fruit-based wines like the Apple Blossom, which was made with granny smith apples and not grapes, like most wines. It’s a true fruit wine and goes through the same fermentation process as the grape varietal. The gal giving us samples gave a solid rule for visiting wineries: you won’t hurt my feelings; it’s what your palate likes.
Next door was Talon Winery, which again offered five complimentary tastings, $1 thereafter and even had an amazing fudge shop, which also offered free samples.
We saved my favorite for last – Colterris, which got its name from combining the first three letters of Colorado “Col” with the Latin word “terris” meaning “from the land.” This award-winning winery sits on 4,800 feet in elevation close to the Colorado River in the Grand Valley AVA (which includes Grand Junction and Palisade and straddles the Colorado River just east of the Utah border). The combo of this altitude, bright sunshine and cool river nights produces perfect and distinct bold reds rich in color, flavor, and smooth tannins. Colterris “Coral” has a White Cabernet Sauvignon, which is like a rose, but not as sweet.
Not only was this my favorite wine of the entire trip (can someone ship me some?!), but this was an absolutely gorgeous vineyard, with a gazebo overlooking the Palisades and a small entertaining area under a canopy, perfect for wine tasting and catching up with girlfriends. This is a perfect spot to kick off your girl’s weekend and the staff is incredibly friendly and knowledgeable – it’s pretty much straight out of a movie. Whether you ride your bike to Colterris or not, definitely add this one to your must-visit list.
Local and Delicious: Grand Junction Food Scene
I had no idea Grand Junction had such food swagger. With all the above activities I knocked out (I hiked 56 miles in four days), food and nourishment were a huge part of this trip.
Our first dinner was at iL Bistro Italiano, in downtown Grand Junction, where I devoured a pasta dish (Prosciutto e Avocado). Also note – they serve Colterris “Coral.”
Rockslide Restaurant & Brewery was another great spot, located in the heart of everything downtown. One thing to love about Colorado is their local craft beer scene. Pro tip: you can also take growlers of beer to go, so if you do the river floating trip, have some waiting in an ice chest in your car as a congratulations for a job well done!
My favorite dinner was at Bin 707 Foodbar, which not only had incredible food, but just an overall buzz about it. It seemed like the spot to be, and the food and unique cocktail menu was the icing on the cake. Take a peek at their drink menu and see if that doesn’t make your mouth water.
Café Sol was the best lunch spot, and was bustling with action in the midst of downtown Grand Junction with all the locals playing catch-up while in line ordering food. It seemed like everyone knew everyone and the restaurants focus to not only make you feel full but making sure your meal is nutritious is something hard to find, yet appreciated, these days. Café Sol prepares your food right in front of you, and the staff takes pride in sourcing local ingredients. They also have an extensive smoothie list, and if you’re into beets, you must try the beet hummus.
Another lunch spot was Dream Café, also downtown. The bonus for Dream Café is they serve breakfast all-day everyday, which I’m always a fan of, and locals couldn’t stop raving about their bloody marys and mimosas, so if you’re in Grand Junction for brunch, GO HERE.
Grand Junction is also known for growing some of the juiciest and tastiest peaches in the nation and now is the perfect time as peaches are in harvest from late July – mid-September.
Grand Junction Lodging Perfect For a Fun Girls’ Getaway
As mentioned earlier, Two Rivers would be a fantastic crash pad for a girls’ getaway, but you would need a car and it’s not near downtown where the shopping and farmer’s market is. Other than that, your options are a slew of brand new hotel chain properties right in the heart of downtown. Although I’m not typically a big fan of chain hotels, my stay at the SpringHill Suites Marriott was beyond accommodating and offered free breakfast every morning. It is located on Historic Main Street and right next to a large grocery store, and the room was equipped with a refrigerator (did I mention I bought wine?) and microwave, which is great for extended stays or wanting to eat a little healthier while on the road.
Pro tip: whether you’re staying at SpringHill or just in the area, go check out the LIVE music on the patio Thursday nights from 6-8p at Marlo’s Lounge (the onsite bar/restaurant). I don’t remember the guy’s name, but he was amazing. I can’t remember the last time I just sat back and let LIVE music take over my soul like that. That just may have been the highlight of my entire week.
So now that Grand Junction is rightly on your radar, here’s the city’s event calendar to help you conjure up an excuse or two for a getaway with your girlfriends. You can thank me later.