Grand Junction Colorado Travel Guide

When most people think of Colorado they think of Denver and the Rocky Mountains. Skiers and snowboarders might think of Vail or Breckenridge. But I recently discovered a whole other side to Colorado…the western side!! A three day stay in Grand Junction Colorado is the perfect opportunity for hiking, wine tasting and dinosaur exploration. And who doesn’t love a little dinosaur exploration?!?

As with most of my posts, some links may be affiliates. At no extra cost to you, I may make a small commission on your purchase.

Colorado National Monument 

Your first stop should be the Colorado National Monument. There are hiking and camping options within the boundaries and a 23-mile drive on Rim Rock Drive. Depending on your available time you can adjust your itinerary. If you only have a couple hours you can do the 23-mile drive and stop a couple times to see Independence Monument and the sweeping views of the Grand Junction area. If you have several hours you can do the drive but make more stops along the way. You can do a couple of short hikes from the visitor center, explore the plants native to the region and see more of the rock formations.

If you have a whole day to dedicate there are a number of Colorado National Monument hikes and climbing options for you to choose. From climbing 450-foot Independence Monument, to an easy hike through Devil’s Kitchen (the hike is easier than the name implies!), or a number of more moderate and difficult hikes, there are a lot of options for everyone.

Travel Tip: If you’re not a fan of steep drop-offs, I recommend entering from the west entrance at Fruita. This direction allows you to drive Rim Rock Drive on the inside so you’re not quite so close to the edge! 

Dinosaur Journey Museum (Fruita)

If you’re visiting Grand Junction Colorado with kids the Dinosaur Journey Museum is a must-visit. Although full disclaimer, I also enjoyed it as an adult! Walk through the history of the dinosaurs, experience an earthquake and see a lab in action through the viewing window.

Travel Tip: This is a perfect indoor activity for a hot summer afternoon!

Fruit + Wine Byway (Palisade)

Plan to spend a half day driving the Palisade Fruit & Wine Byway. Depending on the season when you go you’ll have more or less stops based on what is currently being harvested. The great thing about the Byway is it can really be tailored to the age and interests of your family. If everybody is over 21, there are some great local wineries where you can stop for tasing. If you have younger family members you might want to stop at an alpaca farm and take an alpaca out for a walk through the peach orchards. The peach and lavender are an excellent choice for all ages. If you have extra time plan a stop at the Tilman Bishop State Wildlife Area for wildlife viewing.

Travel Tip: Peach season begins in August so if you’re able to make a trip then you’ll be treated to lots of yummy peach goodness! If you’re interested in visiting the alpaca farm through a literary travel lens, you can see how to travel through the pages of a book here.

Grand Mesa National Forest

Plan to spend a day exploring the world’s largest flat-top mountain, Grand Mesa. If you’re short on time I’d recommend planning a drive on the Grand Mesa Scenic Byway with a few stops along the way. If you have a full day you can explore the Byway and add in a hike or two, and even some fishing! In the winter you can add skiing to your itinerary at Powderhorn Ski Area. A couple stops I recommend not skipping are the Land’s End Observatory and the Land -O-Lakes Overlook. The Observatory is a ranger observatory on the rim of Grand Mesa in Colorado. From the top there are absolutely gorgeous panoramic views of the greater Grand Junction area. Take note that about half the drive to the Observatory is on a dirt road. The Overlook gives you just a small glimpse at the more than 300 lakes.

Travel Tip: It is really hot in the Grand Junction area during the summer. The temperature will drop 20 degrees when you head up to Grand Mesa so save this adventure for your hottest day. From Grand Junction, take I-70 east to exit 49, CO Highway 330. Turn right and drive for several miles until you get to Mesa. This map will also help.

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Literary Travel: Colorado Alpaca Farm

I’m excited to take another look through my literary travel lens. What books can I read before I visit a place to learn before I go? What books can I read that will transport me through the pages when I can’t actually visit a place? Today’s literary travel adventure is a visit to a Colorado Alpaca Farm.

As with most of my posts, some links may be affiliates. At no extra cost to you, I may make a small commission on your purchase.

Colorado Alpaca Farm: Background Info

No visit to Western Colorado would be complete without a drive through the Fruit & Wine Byway of Palisade, CO. This agritourism route has stops at various peach and lavender farms…and even an alpaca farm! A stop at the Suncrest Orchard Alpacas is an opportunity to take an alpaca out for an afternoon stroll through the peach orchards. But the visit doesn’t end there! You can also tour the mill and see the process from alpaca to hats and sweaters. And then you can buy your very own alpaca souvenir!

Often confused with their camelid relative, the llama, alpacas are distinguishable as they are considerably smaller than llamas. Descended from vicuñas, alpacas are not bred to be work animals but instead are bred for their soft wool. While alpacas are native to Peru, there are about 50,000 alpacas in the United States. Alpacas primarily communicate through body language, most commonly using spitting to show dominance or when they are fearful.

Bonus Fun Fact: Some alpacas can be house trained!

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Read Before You Go

Whether you are planning a trip to visit a Colorado alpaca farm and want to read before you go or you’re hoping to meet the alpacas through the pages of the book, these books will transport you to the farm.

Although this book isn’t specifically set on a Colorado farm, Jonathan Stutzman’s Llama Unleashes the Alpacalypse is all about alpacas. (Grab your copy from Amazon or Bookshop) An entertaining story that is sure to get the youngest members of your family excited about meeting alpacas.

The whole family can explore the topography of Colorado with Louise Doak Whitney’s C Is for Centennial: A Colorado Alphabet (grab your copy from Amazon or Bookshop). Walk through the alphabet with gorgeous illustrations of the Rockies, Blue Spruces and the varied landscape of Colorado.

Take a step back in time and explore Colorado in the 1920’s with Avi’s The Secret School (grab your copy from Amazon or Bookshop). Ida secretly takes over as the teacher when the one-room schoolhouse in her remote Colorado area closes unexpectedly. Anyone who had childhood dreams of being in charge will enjoy this trip back in time to schools nearly 100 years ago.

Denver Foodie

It’s time for another Travel Thursday post!  A couple of weeks ago I took you on a virtual tour of my Utah and Colorado road trip and today I’m back with food from my trip…particularly in Denver, CO.  It should probably be noted that if I were ever to move away from the beach or own a second home…it’d mostly like be to the Denver area…I’m absolutely obsessed! So let’s get started with our food tour…

Take a Denver food tour with Girl on the Move

Voodoo Doughnut (top left)…I’m pretty sure the picture says it all…there are crushed Oreos on top of the donut.  This also might be one of the reasons I had ZERO sweets/desserts in August!

Crave (top right)…oh the desserts!  We had the Fluffy Fat Elvis…candied bacon, vanilla bean marshmallow fluff, toasted marshmallow ice cream, banana cake with peanut butter filling…okay maybe this was the reason I had ZERO sweets/desserts in August!

Park & Co (middle right)…the sweet potato fries y’all were just so delicious!  Our whole meal was yummy, but oh those sweet potato fries!

One Fold (bottom right)…it can’t be said enough, Denver does breakfast right.  I have yet to meet an exception to this rule!  My breakfast burrito…simply divine!

Ace Eat & Serve (bottom middle)…you can play ping pong here.  Do you even need more of a reason to stop in?

Olive & Finch (bottom left)…because once you’re indulging on vacation, why stop?!?  So of course I had the S’mores Panini with marshmallow, milk chocolate, cinnamon spiced butter panini…this also may have contributed to the decision to have ZERO sweets/desserts in August!

Tweet: Join @jmdenouden on a food tour of Denver for donuts, dinner, decadent desserts, and more! http://bit.ly/1UcuY19 #denver

If you’re still looking for more Denver food suggestions…

*A few options for breakfast in Denver

*Tornadoughs, farmers markets, ice cream and other yummy treats while you’re out and about in Denver

*My love affair of breakfast in Denver began at Snooze

*And you can’t visit a city without getting some cupcakes!  Check out Church of Cupcakes, Tipsy Cupcakes, and Mulberries Cake Shop

As you can see from this list, I’ve clearly spent a fair amount of time eating my way through the culinary treasures of Denver…and I have more on my list of places to visit so I’ll definitely be heading back!

Where would you need to travel to get your favorite food?  What’s the best food experience you’ve had while traveling?

Utah and Colorado Road Trip

I absolutely love taking road trips!  If the 15,000+ miles in road trips I’ve completed in the past year weren’t already enough evidence, I would point to the sheer number of road trips I’ve taken in my life (I would dare say it’s close to the triple digits!)  There is just something so beautiful about seeing nature from the road instead of from an airplane.  Having the ability to pull over to the side of the road when you want to see more and stick to your own schedule are just some of the reasons I love road trips.  I’m also pretty sure my love of road trips comes straight from my parents!  My dad has a collection of more than 30 Rand McNally road atlases including a vintage 1947 atlas and my mom is an expert on road trips with kids!

Road Trip through Utah and Colorado

This summer I took a road trip through Utah and Colorado and I’ll get into more details in some upcoming posts (like the food and hiking I did!) I wanted to just take you on a visual tour through these two absolutely beautiful states.  And if you have the opportunity I would highly recommend a trip through Utah and Colorado!

Tweet: Take a virtual road trip through Utah and Colorado with @jmdenouden http://bit.ly/1EDOmwJ #travel #utah #colorado

Utah Road Trip

Road trip through Utah and Colorado with Girl on the Move

Utah Road Trip 3

Road trip through Utah and Colorado with Girl on the Move

Road trip through Utah and Colorado with Girl on the Move

What are your thoughts on road trips?  Do you have any great road trip memories?  What is your dream road trip?

Cupcake Adventures – Mountain Cupcakes

Before I get to the wonderfulness that is the cupcakes of Mountain Cupcakes I just want to say that I have officially added something new to my bucket list…vacation in a Colorado mountain town like Vail…how have I never spent any time here before?!?  Vail Village was absolutely adorable and while I was wondering through the town I had visions of gently falling snow, twinkling lights, and a cup of hot chocolate…clearly we know where I want to go this winter! Mountain Cupcakes | Girl on the Move Blog

But anyways, on to Mountain Cupcakes!  Not only did I get a couple of delicious cupcakes but Lauren, the owner, graciously agreed to sit down and chat cupcakes with me and if you are ever in the Vail area, you need to grab one of these cupcakes and tell Lauren hi!  In no particular order, here are five things I loved about them…

1. Their cupcakes are made fresh daily.  As in every morning before they open for business Lauren is at the shop baking cupcakes…doesn’t get much fresher than that!

2. One thing I quickly learned during my time in Colorado is that the air is dry…my skin felt lizard-like while I was there and I used a lot of moisturizer!  What I didn’t think about was how that affects the moistness of cupcakes (and y’all know how I feel about moist cupcakes!)…basically making a “regular” cupcake isn’t going to cut it up in Vail because it would be too dry. So Lauren really worked with her recipes to make sure they’re moist…I love that commitment to getting the cupcakes perfect!

3. There is cream cheese frosting.  Which is pretty much one of my weaknesses.  So I got a moist cupcake with just the right amount of not-too-sweet frosting…cupcake trifecta!

4. The caramel and chocolate sauces used on the cupcakes is homemade.  And I think you can tell the difference…and it’s totally worth it!

5. They also serve breakfast…so now I know where to go when I’m in Vail for a yummy breakfast!

Even though it’s still summer, going to Vail has me excited for winter!  What is your favorite winter time activity?