When I first moved to Colorado, I learned of the term ‘mud season’, and I quickly learned that this was not the time to visit the mountains. So where is a Colorado visitor to go in April and May if they want to play outdoors? Point your car west and drive right through the mountains to the ‘other side of the state’ that seems to be gaining a lot of attention lately – Grand Junction.

This was my first visit to ‘the other side of Colorado’ beyond just driving through. I had always been awed by the beautiful Western Slope landscape while driving on I70, but this time I stopped to experience a variety of outdoor things to do in Grand Junction CO.

Western Colorado has mountains, rivers, canyons, lakes, and high desert – and the best part – few visitors.

Why Go to Grand Junction in the Spring

grand junction spring

You might know Grand Junction as the gateway to Colorado’s farming and wine culture – but it’s so much more than that! On my first trip to Grand Junction, I was introduced to what an incredible outdoor recreation area it is. While the mountains are experiencing mud season and the front range is still getting freak temperature swings and snow storms, Grand Junction is experiencing a perfectly beautiful spring.

In fact, the first thing I noticed in Grand Junction were the lilac bushes blooming. The beautiful spring scent filled the air everywhere I went. Since lilacs are my favorite flower, I take special notice of them wherever I am. I’m on ‘lilac watch’ starting every April and I knew that Denver was at least 3 to 4 weeks away from seeing any lilacs. In fact, it seemed that Grand Junction was about 4 weeks ahead of the eastern part of the state when it came to spring in general!

lilacs grand junction spring

In May, the average high-temperature rises, from a mild 58.6°F in April, to a pleasant 69.1°F. The average low-temperature, in Grand Junction, is 45°F.

Denver to Grand Junction

It’s only a 4 hour drive from Denver to Grand Junction on 1-70; however, if you don’t want to drive, you can easily fly there too! Starting in June 2021, Frontier airlines added non-stop flights from Denver to Grand Junction for rates as low as $50. Frontier is just one of many carriers that have flights to Grand Junction; also check out Delta Connection, United Express, Allegiant Air, American Eagle, and Denver Air Connection. Or maybe you want to sit back and enjoy the scenic ride along 1-70 on Bustang!

3 Days of Outdoor Things to Do in Grand Junction CO

I spent 3 days enjoying the mild spring weather and things to do in Grand Junction, and I barely scratched the surface of what the area had to offer.

Day 1: Hike, Drive, and Photograph the Colorado Monument

Locals simply refer to it as ‘the Monument’, this part of the national park system in Colorado is a relatively unknown to most visitors. Prior to my trip, if you had shown me a picture of the Colorado National Monument, I would’ve guessed that it was somewhere in Utah. However, while people flock to Utah for a desert landscape and arches, you can escape the crowds and get that experience at the Colorado National Monument in Grand Junction.

colorado national monument

Rim Rock Drive & the Colorado Monument at Sunrise

I started out by waking up with the sun for my first look at the Colorado National Monument in Grand Junction. This is one of Western Colorado’s best-kept secrets of the National Park Service. I spent the entire day driving the 23-mile Rim Rock Drive. It hugs the canyon rim and cliffs of the Monument providing a unique perspective of the Grand Valley below

The road was started in 1931 through the Civilian Conservation Corp, but wasn’t finished until 1950 (with a delay due to the war). The goal was to design a scenic drive to showcase the features of the park. It has 3 tunnels blasted through solid rock, and lots of stomach-churning hair pin turns. Luckily the creators had the forethought to include plenty of pull-outs along the drive to safely enjoy the jaw-dropping views.

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