CO Places To Visit
Updated: May 23rd, 2010 - 21:01:09
| Fun, Free, Family Activities in Grand Junction
By The Grand Junction Visitor & Convention Bureau
Mar 15, 2009, 23:11 PST
Discover what Grand Junction residents have known for years – the best things in life really are free. Here are a few of their secrets:
- Art on the Corner – Stroll along Main Street and view the many sculptures by American artists. This unique outdoor sculpture exhibit hosts a variety of works, introducing viewers to many streams of artistic approaches from bronze castings to junk-yard miracles.
Wine Tasting – Seventeen winery tasting rooms with award winning wines are open for free tastings year round. Pick up a map at the Grand Junction Visitor Center, located at 740 Horizon Drive, and experience the excitement of discovering Colorado’s Wine Country. While the kids may not taste, they can experience an unusual type of farming and enjoy the grassy expanses and gardens of most winery tasting rooms.
Concerts – The Colorado Riverfront Foundation and the Grand Valley Music Festival each year schedule free concerts. Concerts generally start at 7:30 p.m. For more information call 970-683-4333. (Several of the wineries and the Botanical Gardens also have schedules of wonderful concerts for a reasonable ticket price.)
Riverfront Trails – Whether you enjoy walking, rollerblading or biking, our local trail system along the Colorado River is easily accessible. Several miles of paved trails are available along the river and have various access points. The river trails pass through cottonwood groves, wetlands, cattail marshes, around ponds and lakes and across islands. There are over 200 different species of birds, three endangered species of fish and an abundance of small animals.
Skate Parks – Approximately 18,000 square feet of concrete is available for use by rollerbladers, BMX bicycles and skateboards at two different facilities.
- The Westlake Skatepark facility at Orchard Ave and 1st Street provides challenging obstacles and equipment, such as rails, walls, ramps, bowls and boxes.
- Eagle Rim Park, located in an Orchard Mesa city park, provides rails, ramps and steps to appeal to a broad range of skaters and bike riders on skateboards, in-line skates, and BMX bikes.
View Wild Horses – Use the Bureau of Land Management’s map for a self-guided tour of the Little Bookcliffs Wild Horse Range. You will discover some of the best opportunities for catching a glimpse of the wild horses in the Indian Park entrance to the horse range and in the North Soda area. During the winter, Coal Canyon and Main Canyon are excellent viewing areas. For more information contact the BLM at (970) 244-3000, or www.co.blm.gov:80/gjra/lbc.htm.
First Sundays Free at the Botanical Gardens and Butterfly House – A local favorite is the 15-acres for nature lovers, gardeners, and butterfly enthusiasts. The site, previously a salvage yard, now includes a children’s secret garden with the discovery greenhouse castle, picnic areas, amphitheater, and rose garden. A Japanese Garden is currently under construction.
Three Scenic Byways in the Grand Junction area. No matter what time of year you decide to enjoy the view along the byways, you are sure to see nature at its finest.
View Dinosaur Bones – Riggs Hill Trail, Dinosaur Hill or “Trail Through Time," each provide self-guided opportunities to see actual dinosaur bone fossils in their natural state.
- Grand Mesa Scenic and Historic Byway (Highway 65) is a 63-mile route that takes you over the Grand Mesa, the world’s largest flat-topped mountain, a place the Ute Indians call “Thunder Mountain." This hidden oasis of meadows and forests and over 200 lakes is a contrast to the desert and farmlands below. Marvel at spectacular vistas of the majestic San Juan Mountains, barren Mancos Shale formations, the Uncompahgre Plateau, five wilderness areas, rich agricultural valleys and abundant wildlife. 150 miles round trip.
- Unaweep/Tabeguache Scenic and Historic Byway - Follow Colorado State Highways 141 and 145 just south of Grand Junction for a 133 mile tour through the last remote vestiges of our Western Heritage. Once the home of the Ute Indians, this area includes 1,200 foot granite walls rising from lush green fields, slickrock canyons and high desert landscape. In 2005, Gateway Canyons Resort opened at the northern end of the Byway and provides a great place to break you journey. Their auto museum opened in 2007 - fee required.
- Dinosaur Diamond Scenic and Historic Byway in Western Colorado and Eastern Utah is an area of significant paleontological resources. Explore numerous fossil sites, trails and museums along this 486-mile route. The byway traverses high mountains and barren plateaus, with stops at two national parks, two national monuments and two great rivers of the West (the Colorado and the Green). Entrance fees are charged for National Parks and Monuments.
Four Wheel Driving / Off Road Motorcycling – Grand Junction has over 480,000 acres of public lands that are open to off-highway vehicle (OHV) travel. Bangs Canyon and Rabbit Valley Recreation Area are two examples of designated OHV areas in the Grand Junction area. For more information contact the BLM at (970) 244-3000, or www.co.blm.gov.
Gold Panning – Gold panning is unregulated and allowed anywhere on BLM managed lands within the Grand Junction Field Office management area. For more information contact the BLM at (970) 244-3000, or log onto http://www.co.blm.gov.
Rock Hounding – Rock hounding is allowed on public lands within the Grand Junction Field Office (GJFO) management area with the exception of developed recreation sites and special management areas. Rocks, mineral specimens and semi-precious gemstones, petrified wood, common invertebrate and plant fossils may be collected on public lands without charge or permit in reasonable amounts as long as the specimens are for personal use and are not collected for sale or barter to commercial dealers. For more information contact the BLM at (970) 244-3000, or log onto http://www.co.blm.gov.
Hunting on Public Lands - The Grand Junction Field Office (GJFO) has approximately 1.2 million acres of public lands open to hunting for those with licenses and tags. For more information contact the BLM at (970) 244-3000.
View Desert Bighorn Sheep – A herd of desert bighorn sheep can be found in the Black Ridge Wilderness Study Area. Another population is along Dominguez Canyon where it joins the Gunnison River. River floaters often see the animals on the cliff ledges and steep hillsides. A hike along the north rim of Dominguez Canyon is a good prospect. For more information contact the BLM at (970) 244-3000, or log onto http://www.co.blm.gov.
Float Trip - Enjoy the beauty of the canyons from the bottom up on your own private raft or canoe. No permit is required to float the section of the Colorado River from Grand Junction, CO west of Westwater, UT. For more information contact the BLM at (970) 244-3000, or log onto http://www.co.blm.gov.
Bird Watching – Over 200 species of birds can be viewed in the Grand Junction Resource Area located on BLM land. The Grand Junction Visitor’s Center has a free guide available for noting bird sightings.
Fishing – Thanks to the Colorado Lottery, the first full weekend in June anyone can fish for free in Colorado without a license. All other fishing regulations remain in effect on these dates. For more information contact the Colorado Division of Wildlife at (303) 297-1192 or log onto www.dnr.state.co.us/wildlife. The majority of lakes on the Grand Mesa do not charge a fee for using the lakes and reservoirs, other than a current fishing license. For more information on fishing licenses contact the Division of Wildlife at (303) 297-1192 or check out www.dnr.state.co.us/wildlife.
Camping – The following campgrounds are free in the Grand Junction area; however they do operate on a first come first serve basis. For more information contact the BLM at (970) 244-3000, or log onto http://www.co.blm.gov.
- Big Dominguez - Located on the edge of the Dominguez Wilderness study area, family and group sites available. RV and tent campers not recommended.
- Miracle Rock - Small campground with family sites only. Tent camper okay, RV’s not recommended.
- Rabbit Valley Recreation Area - Twenty-four square mile recreation area. Three designated campgrounds. RVs and tent campers not recommended in Castle Rock and Knowles Overlook campsites.
The U.S. Forest Service on the Grand Mesa allows free camping outside of designated campgrounds. For more information call the Grand Mesa Visitor Center at (970) 856-4153.
Mountain Biking – Fruita is listed as one of the top ten mountain biking towns in the United States. Trails include the Kokopelli, which is a network of single track and jeep roads that run for 142 miles, beginning near Fruita and ending in Moab, Utah. Between Loma and Rabbit Valley Drive, there are several trails and loops for the beginner or experienced biker. The adobe ridges of the Bookcliffs have been featured many times in mountain biking publications and videos and offer challenging singletrack trails in a desert environment. Another 142-mile trail, the Tabagauche Trail, begins to the south of town and continues south to the town of Montrose.
View Petroglyths/Pictographs - Several areas provide Fremont, Anasazi and Ute Indian rock art viewing in the Grand Junction area. The McDonald Creek, Canyon Pintado and Douglas Pass areas are the most popular.
Free Festival Events – Throughout the year you can enjoy free festival events in the Grand Junction area. Some examples include: Southwest Festival, Oktoberfest, Winterfest and Parade of Lights, Cinco de Mayo, Art & Jazz Festival, and the Fruita Fall Festival. Thursday evenings during the summer and early fall, the local farmers, food vendors and artisans gather on Grand Junction’s Historic Main Street for the Farmer’s Markets. Not to be outdone, First Fridays Art Hop has musicians and working artists displaying their talents among the galleries and unique shops on Main Street. For an uptodate list of festivals, check our online Calendar of Events.
View Antiques and Collectibles – Take a stroll down memory lane. With over 30 antique shops, treasures abound for reminiscent window-shopping. Brochures are available at the Grand Junction Visitor Center.
Hiking – Grand Junction offers hiking trails for everyone from paved Riverfront sidewalk trails to rugged backcountry treks through the Bookcliffs or Grand Mesa.
Cross-Country Skiing and Snow-Shoeing – The Grand Mesa, which sits at 10,000 feet in elevation and covers 351,705 acres of terrain, provides several opportunities for cross-country skiing or snow-shoeing.
Tennis – City-managed tennis courts are free and available in Grand Junction on a first-come, first-serve basis, unless an individual or group has paid to reserve the courts for a tournament, business use, etc. The City of Grand Junction owns/operates 10 courts: 2 in the Ridges and 8 in Lincoln Park. Lincoln Park courts are lit, providing for night play. Other public courts include approximately 12 at Mesa State College and the middle/high schools have courts as well. For more information contact the City of Grand Junction Parks Department at (970) 244-FUNN.
At an altitude of 4,597 feet, Grand Junction is warm in the summer and moderate in spring, fall and winter with more than 275 days of sunshine each year. For more information, call the Grand Junction Visitor & Convention Bureau at (800) 962-2547 or log on to www.visitgrandjunction.com.
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