The Grand Valley: Colorado’s Hidden Gem for Families
Mild winters, excellent outdoor activities, and a robust culture of arts and fine dining, it’s no wonder that Colorado has become a calling for visitors from around the country. While the state continues to push records for population growth (number seven in the nation for 2016), the Grand Valley offers a hidden gem in the mountains for families wishing to enjoy Colorado’s allure year round.
Just a few hours outside Denver, the town of Grand Junction is a hub of activities, perfect for packing up the crew and escaping away for an adventure filled getaway. Off the beaten trail, the Grand Valley is ideal for planning a family vacation that will leave a lasting memory and have the whole gang begging to head back to Colorado for your next trip.
Summer and Fall Activities in Grand Valley
Nestled along the Colorado River and in the shadow of the Colorado National Monument to the west and the Book Cliff Mountain Range to the north, outdoor enthusiasts will enjoy accessibility to hiking trails, mountain biking, ATV excursions, fishing, and white water rapids.
Hike Colorado National Monument
With over 40 miles of trails spanning 18 routes in 11 canyons, you could spend days exploring the morrison rock formations that make up the Colorado National Monument, providing ample ground to be covered by hikers of all ages. Canyon Rim Trail is ideal for children, providing that you maintain a close watch when nearing the edge of the trail. The path follows the cliff edge of Wedding Canyon, named for the view it would have provided to the 1911 wedding of the park’s first ranger John Otto at the base of the 400 foot tall Independence Monument.
If you are quiet, you might have the opportunity to see deer, peregrine falcons, or the yellow collar lizard resting among the piñon pine, juniper, and yucca growing along the trail.
Those not up for a hike can enjoy views of the monument by car along the Historic Rim Rock Drive, spending two hours or more exploring the 24 miles of canyon road built by hand in the 1930’s by the Civilian Conservations Corps.
Join a Dinosaur Dig
Located in Fruita, Colorado, the Dinosaur Journey Museum is a hands on museum where aspiring paleontologists can learn about dinosaurs that were native to the region or discover real fossils in their indoor dig site.
For a more hands on experience, the summer months offer the opportunity to head out to the Mygatt-Moore quarry for a full day of working side by side with researchers trained in the art of uncovering fossils in the field. Dig days are offered three times per week and can include children as young as five years old.
Visit an Alpaca
Known for their hypoallergenic fleece, Alpacas are docile and social, making them the ideal animal for an introduction to livestock management. A working fiber processing center, Sun Crest Orchard Alpacas is home to over 50 animals.
Visitors to the farm will learn the process of turning raw fiber into yarn, and can even join the alpacas on a trek through the surrounding peach orchard.
Bike Wine Country
There’s no reason for the kids to have all the fun when you are on vacation. Home to 24 vineyards and wineries, the unique climate of the Grand Valley provides the perfect environment for growing grapes and peaches. Hot days and cool evenings help bring out the natural sweetness of the fruit, providing a fresh crisp flavor profile that is hard to find in other regions of the world.
Wine lovers can traverse the town of Palisade by bicycle, enjoying complimentary tastings throughout the journey. Colorado Mountain Winefest takes place annually in September, providing four whole days of tastings, food and wine pairings, and educational seminars to help fine tune your palette.
Cool off at the Splash Park
Born of a necessity to find an appropriate birthday party activity for a three year old, Banana’s Fun Park has grown into an activity center featuring arcade games, bumper boats, mini golf, and the area’s largest water attraction, Coconut Cove.
Ideal for cooling off from the afternoon heat, the 6,000 square foot water attraction will delight even the youngest group of adventurers. With no standing water and clear sight lines for parents, families can enjoy an afternoon outdoors before heading inside for a meal at Congo Cafe.
Winter and Spring Activities in Grand Valley
Outdoor activities change with the season, but with moderate temperatures make the town of Grand Junction a year round destination.
Ski with the Ski Patrol
A winter trip to Colorado wouldn’t be complete without a day or two on the slopes. Powderhorn Mountain Resort is located approximately 45 minutes outside Grand Junction and features over 1,600 acres of mountain terrain. While the goal is typically to avoid an encounter with ski patrol, at Powderhorn you can go on a day long adventure alongside the mountain’s team of Patrollers and learn mountain safety, first aid procedures, and even ride down in a toboggan without a broken arm.
For young skiers just starting out on the snow, the Children’s Learning Center features full or half day lessons that will have your little bunny out on the slopes in no time.
Refuel with Chocolate
Who can resist warming up after a day of skiing in a chocolate factory. Enstrom’s Toffee makes its home in Grand Junction and provides a full coffee bar menu alongside their world famous confectionaries. Enjoy a cup of cocoa and watch as the staff hand-decorates chocolates before they are shipped off to their stores nationwide.
Burn off Energy on a Trampoline
Kids of all ages (and even adults who are kids at heart) can enjoy the 7,000 square feet of obstacles, foam pits, and trampolines at Get Air at the Silo. Family owned, the converted feed mill offers hours of activities that will ensure your crew sleeps well at night.
For the brave, the park’s newest feature has converted the 100 year old silos into a heart stopping jump from over 95 feet. This one of a kind attraction is completely safe, but not recommended for those with a fear of heights.
Looking for other family trip ideas? Read our article on traveling with children to Portland.
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