Inversion Escape to Grand Junction

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5 Ways to Spend a Winter Weekend in Grand Junction, Colorado

Salt Lake City’s winter inversion got you down? Escape the city for a weekend in Western Colorado’s biggest city, Grand Junction, Colorado. Home to Colorado’s Wine Country, its National Monument, hiking and biking trails galore, and an exploding culinary scene, this booming locale offers plenty for active travelers to enjoy.

Devil's Kitchen Trail in Grand Junction

Devil’s Kitchen Trail in Colorado National Monument, Grand Junction.

The midpoint between Denver and Salt Lake City, Grand Junction is about 4.5 hours from SLC, and their 275 plus annual days of sunshine make it paradise for those looking to escape the cold. But even snow lovers can drive 35 miles to Powderhorn Resort for family-friendly skiing and snowboarding on the Grand Mesa.

If you’ve only got a weekend to get away, don’t miss these five Grand Junction highlights:

Independence Monument Grand Junction

Independence Monument in Grand Junction

1. Hike or Bike in the Colorado National Monument

Simply driving past the Colorado National Monument’s towering red rock formations and dazzling vistas along historic 23-mile Rim Rock Drive is worth the trip to Grand Junction in and of itself.

But there’s much more to explore beyond the road and its many scenic pullouts. Get up close to Independence Monument—the striking 400-foot tower so many climb—by hiking the six-mile Monument Canyon Trail through the area’s longest canyon.

Looking for a briefer jaunt or hiking with kids? Venture toward the east entrance to Devil’s Kitchen Trail. This .75-mile path leads to huge stacked boulders surrounding a rocky grotto. Climb up to openings in the rock for stellar views of the Monument and surrounding landscape.

Road cyclists looking for a challenge can climb the 2,300 feet up Rim Rock Drive. There are plenty of pullouts for taking breaks but expect a difficult 3-hour ride.

Powderhorn Mountain Resort ski lift and mountain

Powderhorn Resort, near Grand Junction.

2. Ski/Snowboard at Powderhorn Mountain Resort

Utahn’s are lucky to have the Greatest Snow on Earth in our backyard, but it’s still fun to experience new resorts when traveling. Powderhorn Mountain Resort is just 35-miles from downtown Grand Junction and offers 1,600 acres and 1,650 vertical feet of terrain. 70% of it caters to beginners and intermediates, making Powderhorn the perfect destination for families and those learning. Guests can do lap after lap thanks to a new quad lift, Flat Top Flyer, which can reach the top in six minutes.

4 bottles of Red Fox Cellars wine

Red wines at Red Fox Cellars

3. Explore Colorado’s Wine Country

The Grand Junction region boasts more than 20 year-round wine tasting rooms and vineyards producing diverse varietals from Cabernets to Rieslings. Bike from one to the next on the Fruit & Wine Byway, where three routes take you past lavender gardens, farmer fruit stands, and the Colorado River with the world’s largest flat-topped mountain—the Grand Mesa—as your backdrop.

One producer you must visit is Red Fox Cellars, creators of a Bourbon Barrel Merlot, they have a beautiful tasting room where you can sample cider and fruit wines on tap along with their inventive red wines. French winery, Maison La Belle Vie, specializes in reds and dessert wines served in a scenic setting.

Not a wino? Try the cocktails at Peach Street Distillers, the oldest locally owned distillery in Colorado. They specialize in craft spirits made from locally harvested fruit like Peach and Pear Brandies as well as whiskey, vodka, and gin.

Jenny Willden on Grand Junction River Trail

Biking the Riverfront Trail in Grand Junction

4. Bike Along the Riverfront Trail

Can’t wait for spring to bike on snow-free streets again? Luckily in Grand Junction, you can road bike year-round on the Colorado Riverfront Trail. This system preserves wetlands, cottonwood trees, and other native wildlife and is a habitat for 200 species of birds and endangered fish.

Hop on the trail in Grand Junction and ride along the Colorado River, past orchards, vineyards, the Grand Mesa, and the famous Bookcliffs to Palisade. The paved trail stretches for miles in either direction so you can enjoy a ride as long or as short as you like. Don’t miss the 1.5-mile Audubon Section, a flat, beautiful ride where you’re most likely to see birds and small mammals. Perfect for families looking to ride together.

Pancakes on a plate

5. Indulge in the Vibrant Food Scene

From the gourmet pancakes at Dream Café to the made-from-scratch healthy specialties at Café Sol, Grand Junction’s Main Street dining scene has reinvented itself in all the best ways.

For the best access to great eats, stay on Main Street and walk past Grand Junction’s famous public art to Dream Café, an all-day breakfast spot that’s always hopping. Breakfast Tacos and homemade cinnamon rolls are menu highlights, but take our word for it and get an order of the Pineapple Upside Down Pancakes for the table. Perhaps too sweet to eat on your own, these caramelized pineapples and cinnamon butter topped cakes are great for sharing.

For lunch, visit Café Sol just down the road for creative soups, salads, and sandwiches prepared with local ingredients, on-site in their open kitchen. Special diets are accommodated easily, and yes, it’s organic. Try the Café Sol Salad with banana bread croutons or their daily soup specials.

Bin 707 Foodbar is not on Main Street, but is nearby, and this local favorite is credited with bringing the farm-to-table cuisine scene to Grand Junction. Their primarily locally and regionally sourced menu focuses on seasonal American cuisine like Colorado Lamb or Elk and their famous Bin Burger.

Whether you visit Grand Junction to dine and drink or hike and bike, this Western Colorado city is worth a weekend trip.

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About Author

Jenny Willden is the Managing Editor of Outdoor Sports Guide and a self-proclaimed gear and grammar nut. She loves adventure and is happiest when riding horses or snowboarding in Utah’s mountains. Llama racing and deal finding are her secret superpowers. Follow Jenny’s exploits on Twitter @jennywillden or on Google+.

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