(Get the 48 Hour guide below)
If you're looking for a staycation that's far enough from Denver, but close enough to drive then Grand Junction is your destination. Neil and I spent a full 48 hours there and would've stayed longer if we hadn't planned a road trip to multiple places in the Western Slope.
We maximized the full 24 hours by arriving late the night before our adventure. We stayed at the newly open Hotel Maverick that is on campus. We woke up early and took a walk around Colorado Mesa University campus with Tillie (did I mention that Hotel Maverick is dog friendly!!!). Inside the hotel the coffee shop (Betty's Gourmet Coffee) offers complimentary drip coffee for hotel guests, but can get busy with all the students getting their caffeine IV during the school year. We grabbed a coffee and breakfast burrito to start our day.
If there's one thing Grand Junction is known for it's their cycling community. There are tons of bike lanes on several streets, trails for road/mountain/gravel bikers, and bike parks for enthusiasts that are looking to tackle jumps and tricks. Of course Neil's first activity was to ride through Colorado National Monument. We were visiting during the Grand Gulch fire that made the whole town smokey depending on the direction of the wind. I did my morning routine of getting ready and exploring the town. I had to run to the store to get Tillie some dog food because Grand Junction was the only place on our road trip with a Petco. Once Neil was back we grabbed lunch in the hotel at Devil's Kitchen.
From here we could see 180 degree views from the rooftop deck. We ordered the Palisade Plunge: woody creek whiskey, fever tree ginger beer, fresh palisade peaches, brown sugar, mint sprig; since it was the start of peach season and a beer. What a way to relax after a hike. The grilled artichoke with the lemon garlic aioli was my favorite. I have always tried to make artichoke at home but it's never as good. Neil and I split the Elk Burger: ground western slope elk, gruyere cheese, grilled onion, lemon garlic aioli; and the Best Slope salad: mixed greens, blueberry, strawberry, orange, avocado, toasted almonds, cotija cheese, balsamic vinaigrette.
Our next stop was a trip to the National Monument [by car]. The Colorado National Monument is a National Park so it requires a parks pass or entrance fee. The drive in is beautiful and you quickly ascend high to the top. We got out at the visitors center and the Park Ranger highly recommend hiking around and take in the views. My goodness it was beautiful!
After hiking, we washed up at Hotel Maverick and got ready for our dinner at Bin 707 Foodbar. Chef Josh Niernberg asked me to come early for our reservation so he could give me a tour of his three restaurants. We walked from Bin 707 towards Main Street to TacoParty and bin burger. Chef showed us around the kitchens and front of house. The smells were incredible and I couldn't wait for our dinner at Bin.
Chef Josh blew me away at dinner. He sent out a chef tasting menu paired with local wines. If there is one thing I learned about Josh, it's his love for the community and supporting other local purveyors by including them in his restaurant. We spent 3 hours at dinner and didn't even notice until the restaurant started to empty out. The wine, the food, and great conversation made this a memorable night.
It was a smokey morning and we woke up feeling like we smoked a pack of cigarettes before bed. We put Tillie in dog day camp because we had an adventurous day ahead of us. Around 8:45 we dropped Tills off at Dog Dynasty. While researching I found two highly rated doggy day cares in Grand Junction. I called both and submitted her vaccination records. We ended up at Dog Dynasty because it felt smaller and more local. Plus they had later hours for picking her up.
Around 9am we sat down for breakfast at Cafe Sol. It's located on Main Street and has the cutest outdoor patio. They have a great selection of breakfast items like the quiche du jor, breakfast burrito, huevos rancheros, and pancakes. I ordered the American Breakfast: two eggs, toast, breakfast potatoes, and avocado (substituted for the meat). Neil had the breakfast burrito and we both ordered cold brew. We were excited for the day ahead because we were going to meet Elizabeth of Grand Junction Stand Up Paddleboard.
We drove over to Las Colonias Park to get a quick safety chat and understand the route we were going on. Then we loaded up into the van and got dropped off at Corn Lake. Elizabeth was such a fun guide. This was my first time SUP down a river. It was fun when the rapids would pick up and then we would take a nice break to chat while floating through the slow moving water. We boarded for about 1.5 hours but with the whole experience and staying after to hangout we were there about 3 hours. The cool thing about Las Colonias Park when you finish is that it's a small beach area. The locals are hanging out and swimming in the river.
After all that paddling and core work, I was ready for lunch! We grabbed a bite to eat on our way out to the Palisades. It was a great 24 hours in Grand Junction and I can't wait to visit again soon.
Check out my upcoming 24 Hours in Palisades guide coming soon.
48 Hours in Grand Junction:
Download a PDF of this guide.
Bike riding: the trails are amazing and there are plenty of places to rent bikes if you didn't bring your own.
Road Bike Trails: Colorado National Monument Loop, Grand Mesa Hill Climb, Fruita Farms Alphabet Ride.
Mountain Bike Trails: Lunch Loop, Butterknife Trail, Old Spanish Trail
Bike Parks: Dos Rios, Colorado Mesa University, Lunch Loop Bike Park.
Stand Up Paddle Boarding: down the river, not in a lake!
GJ SUP: Offers rentals, lessons, tours, fitness, and more. Depending on your experience they will recommend your launching point.
Rattlesnake Arches Loop: Moderate to Difficult hike in the National Monument.
Dinosaur Hiking Trail: Wheelchair friendly and an easy trek.
Old Spanish Trail: A moderate hike that follows the river. You may cross paths with wildlife, horses, or bikers.
Food and Beverage: My favorite thing to talk about.
Bin 707 - this is the MUST stop place I will recommend.
Devil's Kitchen - One of the most beautiful 180 views of Grand Junction! Try the artichoke and elk burger. They have a great selection of cocktails and alcohol-free mocktails.
Cafe Sol - great for a quick sit down breakfast
TacoParty - great for take out or a quick bite. Don't skip the guacamole.
bin burger - They have a house made veggie burger that is finger-licking good. I recommend everything on the menu, including the dill fries.
La Rouge - a cute French-American martini bar.
The Colorado National Monument: a visit to GJ isn't complete without a visit here. There's also plenty of hiking trails but trust me when I say, it is hot.
Main Street Grand Junction: Also known as downtown GJ, this is home to over 100 art sculptures and adorable shops. Main Street extends between 1st and 7th.
Wine Tasting: There are 3 vineyards/wineries in GJ and several tasting rooms. I'm sharing the vineyards.
Two Rivers Winery: A chateau that focuses on Chardonnay, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Riesling, Syrah and Port
Ptarmigan Vineyards by Stoney Mesa: One of the highest vineyards in the world producing red, white and rose varietals.
Whitewater Hill Vineyard: Come to the farm and taste a variety of the award-winning wines: Chardonnay, Viognier, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Shiraz, Merlot, Rosé, Gewürztraminer, Riesling, Sweetheart Red, Moscato, Zero Below, Riesling Icewine, and Ruby Classico
Doggy Day Care: Tillie needed to have some fun while we were out doing non-dog friendly activities. Always carry proof of Boardatella Vaccine and Rabies when going out of town.
Dog Dynasty: We loved the people at Dog Dynasty and they had a 5 out of 5 star reviews. The price for a half day (4 hours, drop in at anytime) was $10! Tillie always came home tired.
Wag Resort: Tillie did not go here but I did a ton of research and even chatted with the staff. I would've sent her here as another option.
This trip was sponsored by Visit Colorado but the views,
recommendations, and opinions are my own.