12 Attractions in Grand Junction, Colorado

Last Updated on February 24, 2024 by Emily Johnson

Grand Junction is located in western Colorado, in a valley surrounded by stunning red rock landscapes and mountain vistas. As the largest city between Denver and Salt Lake City, it serves as a major hub and gateway for exploring western Colorado’s national parks, monuments, scenic byways, wineries, and outdoor adventures.

From dinosaur fossil sites to wildflower-filled canyons, ancient Puebloan cliff dwellings to modern cultural attractions, there is something for everyone to enjoy in Grand Junction and the surrounding area. This article explores 12 of the top attractions that make Grand Junction a dynamic destination for families, couples, outdoor enthusiasts and culture lovers alike.

Colorado National Monument

Spanning over 20,000 acres and containing some of the most unique geological formations in Colorado, a visit to Colorado National Monument should be at the top of any Grand Junction itinerary. Sheer red rock canyons carved over millions of years contain an array of spires, monoliths and cliffs for visitors to discover along the 23-mile scenic Rim Rock Drive.

Notable landmarks include Independence Monument, a 650 foot sandstone tower looming over the landscape, along with the Devil’s Kitchen – a maze of narrow sandstone canyons spilling down off the plateau. Over 150 species of birds flock to the area due to its diversity of habitats, making it a top spot for birdwatching. The Fruita section contains some of the most striking vistas, along with access to hiking trails descending 500 feet into the canyons below.

Dinosaur Journey Museum


Travel back in time over 150 million years at Dinosaur Journey, one of the nation’s top dinosaur museums located in the heart of Grand Junction. Excavated fossils from world-renowned sites at Dinosaur National Monument and elsewhere are brought to life through robotic reconstructions and full skeletal displays.

Walk alongside life-size dinosaur replicas, including a menacing Allosaurus and towering Brachiosaurus, and even watch paleontologists working in the fossil prep lab on actual dinosaur bones pulled from the earth. Interactive exhibits let visitors scan through different geologic time periods to learn how western Colorado’s landscape and inhabitants have changed over the eons. Temporary exhibits on topics like feathered dinosaurs and ancient mammals ensure there is always something new to discover with each visit.

Colorado National Monument Hiking Trails


With over 15 miles of hiking trails winding through the rugged canyons and mesa tops of Colorado National Monument, hikers of any ability can find a route matching their fitness level. For those up for a challenge, the appropriately named Independence Trail switchbacks for over a mile down the side of a canyon to reach the banks of the Colorado River, rewarding the effort with stunning scenery.

The easy Canyon View Trail offers panoramic vistas from the canyon rim, while the moderate Monument Canyon Trail passes by rock formations with unique names like the Kissing Couple, Parade of Elephants and Coke Ovens. For an overnight backpacking adventure, the Liberty Cap Trail descends 1,700 feet into wildflower-filled canyons leading to the immensity of the Great Unconformity before climbing steeply to capitol-shaped Liberty Cap.

Palisade Wine Country


The rich volcanic soil and hot days combined with cool nights courtesy of high-altitude air spilling out from the mountains create ideal grape-growing conditions around Palisade, located just east of Grand Junction. Over 20 wineries craft renowned varietals ranging from Merlot and Cabernet Franc to Riesling and Albariño.

Many wineries offer complimentary tastings along with scenic vineyard views. Stop by Rapid Creek Cyder Farm for tastings poured from wine barrels of their fruit-forward hard ciders. Or sample wine aged in Hungarian oak barrels inside the cozy stone aging cave at Colterris Winery. Late summer ushers in the harvest season, along with many grape stomps and wine festivals. With its small-town charm and abundance of wine tasting rooms, farm-to-table eateries and orchards, Palisade serves as the perfect basecamp for wine lovers.

Powderhorn Ski Resort


Just a 45-minute drive from Grand Junction, Powderhorn Mountain Resort serves up over 1,600 acres of skiable terrain spread across the slopes of the Grand Mesa – the world’s largest flattop mountain. With a peak elevation of 9,954 feet, Powderhorn averages over 150 inches of cold, dry snow annually, resulting in powder stashes that linger late into the spring ski season thanks to their high elevation base.

Over 60 trails accessed by two high-speed quad chairs suit all ability levels, with steep gladed terrain in the Straight Creek area reserved for experts. Families flock to the resort for its Kid’s Adventure Zone featuring gentle terrain perfect for beginners. Snowcat skiing, snowshoeing, and a tubing hill round out winter activities, along with frequent live music and famous Powderhorn Fajita Cook-Offs.

Grand Mesa


Referred to as the “world’s largest flat-top mountain,” the Grand Mesa towers over Grand Junction and the surrounding valley at over 10,000 feet elevation. Fed by heavy winter snowfall courtesy of its elevation, the Grand Mesa contains over 300 sparkling lakes and reservoirs brimming with trophy-sized trout, providing some of Colorado’s best lake fishing.

Crisp mountain air and wildflower-filled meadows make the Grand Mesa a scenic summer destination for hiking, mountain biking, camping, wildlife viewing, boating, and off-road adventures. Over 1,000 miles of trails access endless vistas and secret lakes on the top of the Grand Mesa, along with ancient old-growth forests lush from heavy moisture. The Grand Mesa is one of western Colorado’s natural wonders not to be missed.

Cross Orchards Historic Site


History buffs and fruit lovers alike will enjoy a visit to Cross Orchards Historic Site, a turn-of-the-century farmstead showcasing the region’s orchard roots. A self-guided walking tour passes by artifacts and farming equipment inside the large barn and other original buildings, documenting hardships faced by early farming families.

The site’s cherished heirloom apple trees burst with over 100 varieties of apples during the early fall harvest season, allowing visitors to taste-test unusual apples rarely found in modern stores. interpreters dressed in period clothing guide educational tours and demonstrate apple pressing, blacksmithing, harvesting honey from beehives and other traditional skills. With its glimpse into Grand Junction’s agricultural heritage, Cross Orchards makes for a rewarding cultural attraction.

Mt. Garfield Trail


Providing panoramic vistas of Grand Junction and the Book Cliffs beyond, the hike up Mt. Garfield stands as a classic Grand Valley trek. Located on the Colorado River just east of Palisade, the Mt. Garfield Trail switchbacks 800 feet over the course of 2 miles through pinyon-juniper woodlands abundant with Gambel oak. Nearing the top, the vegetation transitions to sagebrush steppe ecosystems with impressive diversity.

From the summit, the sweeping valley view extends from Grand Mesa lumbering on the horizon to the cliffs surrounding Fruita. The Colorado National Monument’s red rock spires jut skyward to the west, with the snow-dusted La Sal Mountains visible in the distance. Interpretive signs along the trail detail the unique ecology and geology of the region. For an easily accessible hike with a big payoff, Mt. Garfield fits the bill.

Two Rivers Convention Center


As the cultural hub of Grand Junction, the Two Rivers Convention Center hosts a diversity of events ranging from top-name concerts, comedians and Broadway performances to conferences, trade shows and community fundraisers. With flexible meeting and ballroom spaces totaling 100,000 square feet, the convention center provides an adaptable venue suited for events large and small.


State-of-the-art acoustics and A/V capabilities draw renowned performers ranging from Diana Ross to Willie Nelson along with major touring productions of musicals like Les Miserables and Chicago. Event schedules also include the popular Art on the Corner series bringing together dozens of local artists.

Grand Junction Off-Road Trails


Consistently ranked as one of the top mountain bike destinations in the world, Grand Junction contains over 40 miles of fast and flowy singletrack nestled against the colorful cliffs and canyons surrounding the city. The surrounding area adds hundreds more miles of trail accessed from Fruita, Loma and the Kokopelli Trailhead. Ribboning along the porous sandstone landscape, most trails remain rideable even in wet conditions.

The signature Tabeguache and Lunch Loops Trail Systems offer non-stop twists and turns through the desert scenery dotted with Utah juniper and pinyon pines, while dropoffs and slickrock obstacles on trails like Morning Glory keep even advanced riders entertained. Many scenic trails allow hikers, trail runners and equestrians in addition to cyclists. With its endless singletrack and sunny weather allowing for year-round riding, Grand Junction is a top pick for planning a mountain biking-focused vacation.

Museum of Western Colorado Paleontology


Uncover the prehistoric past of western Colorado at the Museum of Western Colorado’s Paleontology exhibits. Located in downtown Grand Junction’s Dinosaur Square, life-size skeleton casts allow visitors to come face-to-face with fearsome Allosaurus and Stegosaurus specimens along with skeletal displays of ancient sharks and sea turtles.

Touchable artifacts include massive femurs from long-necked dinosaurs and fossilized bones from ice age mammals like giant ground sloths and woolly mammoths. Exhibits guide visitors through different eras dating back billions of years chronicling the ever-changing landscape and inhabitants of western Colorado’s prehistoric periods. With new discoveries happening frequently in the fossil-rich region, repeat visits often bring new treasures and insights into past life on display.

James M. Robb Colorado River State Park


Stretching over five sections for 34 miles along the Colorado River near Grand Junction, James M. Robb Colorado River State Park provides countless water-based recreation opportunities courtesy of its extensive river frontage and warm, slow moving currents. Popular activities include calm water floats and standup paddleboarding along the smooth water sections near Island Acres, along with shoreline fishing for hungry trout, small mouth bass and catfish.

Several beach areas allow visitors to cool off with a swim without being swept away by fast currents. Campgrounds placed along the river provide scenic backdrops for spending the night under the stars. The Island Acres section also includes a regulation Disc Golf course winding through the riverside cottonwood forests. With family-friendly access to miles of the iconic Colorado River right outside Grand Junction, James M. Robb Colorado River State Park checks the box for water lovers.

Colorado National Monument Stargazing


Far from city lights with elevations over 6,000 feet, Colorado National Monument offers some of the darkest night skies remaining in western Colorado. This natural darkness combined with frequently clear and dry conditions creates ideal circumstances for stargazing. The cold nighttime air reduces atmospheric distortion, allowing for crisp views of constellations, planets and the central band of the Milky Way galaxy.

During annual Night Sky Events, telescope operators from local astronomy clubs guide visitors in spotting dazzling phenomenon like shooting stars, planets, nebulas and even distant galaxies. For independent after dark adventures, S.O.S Trail and Glade Park Overlook provide stunning vantage points for do-it-yourself astronomy sessions aided by uninterrupted 360° visibility above the canyons.

Conclusion


From outdoor adventures in iconic national parks and trail systems to historical sites illuminating human history in the region spanning back over 10,000 years, Grand Junction provides no shortage of attractions for visitors to the Western Slope region of Colorado.

Combined with the comforts and conveniences of a mid-sized city, Grand Junction serves as the perfect basecamp for taking advantage of western Colorado’s natural wonders. Diverse attractions and landscapes appeal to an array of interests and travel styles, cementing Grand Junction’s reputation as a top year-round destination.

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