Since 1985, July has been recognized as National Parks and Recreation Month to celebrate, and recognize the importance of, national parks and recreation opportunities, and how they are utilized in establishing and maintaining the quality of life for, and contributing to the physical, economic, and environmental well-being of, our communities. During the month of July, we implore you to get outside with friends and family. Go visit a National Park or a National Monument! Have a picnic in your local neighborhood park, or take the kayaks and canoes out on a lake or river!
Luckily, within a quick trip of Grand Junction proper, there are many different places open to exploration and enjoyment! In this article we will take a look at some of these outdoor recreation opportunities, what activities you can expect to find catered to you and your family, and cost of entrance. Looking forward to seeing everybody out and about, enjoying this beautiful month in some equally beautiful natural landscapes.
Colorado National Monument
Of course, we might as well start with the iconic and picturesque monument that we as locals all know and love. Whether you decide to just head out for a mellow cruise and sight-seeing tour along Rimrock Drive, or perhaps an exhilarating bike ride along this same route, or if you are looking for a scenic hike out into some of the most rural, and yet majestic, high desert landscapes on earth, Colorado National Monument has it all!
Nestled along the Colorado River directly west of Grand Junction, Colorado, expect to pay $25 per car, or $15 per cyclist. Once inside the monument, you are in for a treat, with a luxurious 23-mile drive along the walls of red rock and sandstone canyons. For our more adventurous readers, excursions into the Colorado backcountry can be found scattered throughout the monument. Most trails to be found within the confines of the monument are short and ever so sweet, with photography opportunities abound! If you take Rimrock Drive up into the monument from the West Entrance, outside of Fruita, you can hit a few hikes during your journey. Three of our favorites are Rimrock Trail (roughly one mile out and back) departs from the Saddlehorn Visitors Center, offering truly spectacular canyon views. You can access Window Rock Trail from Rimrock and make your hike just a tad longer.
Not far from the Visitors Center as you continue along Rimrock Drive, you will find Coke Ovens Trail. Another short hike (roughly one mile) will land you in the presence of giants, as you gaze upon the unique sandstone vistas of what have become known as the Coke Ovens. Continue along Rimrock Drive to the far Eastern exit of the park and you will find Devils Kitchen Trail. This unique Trail (roughly two miles out and back) will bring you to the base of some interesting and unique sandstone formations that will truly give you a grasp as to the magnitude of these formations.
Temperatures tend to rise quickly during the day, so be sure to get out early and bring lots of water!
Canyon View Park
Located just off of 24 1/2 Road on the Western side of Grand Junction, Canyon View Park is a wonderful place to go enjoy some time with family and friends, specifically young families and sports enthusiasts. Canyon View has a little bit of everything, offering sprawling, inviting, and manicured fields, enticing us all to enjoy a pick-up soccer or football game! You will also find a basketball court, roller hockey rink, and a baseball complex featuring multiple fields. The sporting options are truly endless at Canyon View! But wait, there’s more! Two large playgrounds, centrally located between the open fields and baseball diamonds, offer young families and children tons of opportunities for fun and play!
Feeling a little worn out and ready for a picnic? The small creek running through the center of the park offers many prime picnic spots as well as shade from nearby trees for relaxation! Don’t forget the furry members of your family, as there is also an amazing dog park located at Canyon View, featuring a small pond for the pups to cool off after a long day of fetch!
Entrance into Canyon View is free, and the park is open from 5:00 AM to 11:00 PM!
Whether you live in the Grand Valley, or are merely visiting, a trip up onto the Grand Mesa will always, and continue to be, a must-do trip! Featuring plentiful activities for the day tripper, or if you are looking for a multi-day journey, there is plenty to do atop the Grand Mesa, the largest flat topped mountain in the world! Boasting hundreds of stream-fed alpine lakes, some of which rest over 11,000 ft. above sea level, along with plenty of wildlife to keep the angler, photographer and adventurer in the family content and happy for days, Grand Mesa is an extremely popular destination among the Grand Valley locals, and for good reason.
When planning to visit, be sure to start off by swinging by the Grand Mesa Visitors Center. Here, you can learn more about the Grand Mesa National Forest, pick up maps of the area, and speak with USFS Rangers who can point you in the right direction for whatever activity you are looking to partake in. The visitors center is open from 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM daily from Memorial Day through the last Sunday of September.
The scenic and lovely 63-mile Mesa Scenic Byway climbs steadily from I-70 and meanders along the 11,000-foot plateau to Cedaredge, Colorado. Along the way, you will find many overlooks with dramatic views of the forested plateau and down into the Grand Valley, one of our favorites being the Land’s End Observatory found at the end of Land’s End Road. From the Land’s End Observatory, continue along the trail to the aptly named Land’s End Overlook, which sits right on the Mesa’s rim and offers phenomenal views of the local landscape. Keep your eyes open for porcupine, red fox, coyotes and maybe even a moose!
For the more adventurous, be sure to check out Crag Crest Trail. This 11 mile loop, designated as a National Recreation Trail, follows the Mesa’s spine through fields of wild flowers and within sight of towering vistas singularly unique to this landscape! The Grand Mesa, although accessible year-round and featuring Powderhorn Ski Resort, offers the most recreational opportunity during the summer months!
No matter where you choose to adventure during National Parks and Recreation Month 2022, be sure to disturb the landscape as little as possible and keep it pure for future visitors. Although this month is meant to get us all outside to enjoy our beautiful parks, we should also be aware of the issue of conservancy this July 2022. Hope to see you out there!