When you think of Grand Junction, mountain biking probably comes to mind. That’s because it’s an ideal location to push yourself to the limit on two wheels. For various reasons, I stay on my feet, and while it’s a top mountain biking destination, Grand Junction is an ideal spot to hike.
We browsed several online maps of Grand Junction and were shocked to see how many trails are in the area. It’s a literal barrage of a well thought-out connected trail system. Trails have names like Devil’s Kitchen and Kid’s Meal. The last one isn’t a cake walk as it’s rated as moderate, however, it is only a 1.5 mile loop.
The thing about Grand Junction, located in Mesa County, is that there really is a trail for every level of hiker. Want to go birding in Grand Junction? Take the paved Blue Heron Audubon Loop. We were on part of the trail during our visit earlier this month. Trees were barely budding and the grass was still brown, but the birds were wide awake and their chirps were in surround sound.
We knew that our trip to Grand Junction was going to include a dog-friendly hike. After perusing maps and chatting with a server and a local at a dog-park, we discovered Clunker. Part of the Lunch Loops trail system, Clunker is short but it hooks up to a bunch of other trails.
They’re called the Lunch Loops because you can do them during a lunch hour. The trailhead is just 8 minutes from Downtown Grand Junction up Monument Road. Now that’s easy hiking access!
After a full-English breakfast, complete with sausage and beans, we headed out. We had discovered, the evening before, while enjoying a Bass beer at The Goat & Clover Tavern, that their brunch menu offered a full English breakfast, something we hadn’t seen anywhere since our trip to England in 2003. It had to be part of our Grand Junction experience and it was delicious.
Our food barely had time to digest before we were at the Lunch Loops Trailhead. Loaded up with water, sunscreen and dog treats, we set out. The Clunker trail goes down, down, down and before long we found ourselves at the bottom of something like a large bowl rimmed with trails. As we passed an old rusted car, I realized where Clunker got its name.
Dogs can be off-leash as this is public land. In fact, 76 percent of Mesa County land is public, making it a paradise for everything from OHVs to hikers (not to mention dogs). Mountain bikers take advantage of the Lunch Loops so make sure your dog is under control.
Being a responsible dog owner means bringing water for the dog (and you). There are no trees so shade can be hard to find on the Lunch Loops. Thankfully, we were visiting in spring and had perfect weather for any outdoor activity.
One of the best aspects of hiking the Lunch Loops is the view of Grand Junction. Sometimes the city comes into focus as you round a corner, other times it’s laid out before you like a postcard. Best of all, you can do a trail loop here and avoid that steep descent Clunker takes from the trailhead. I think about these things because I hate hiking uphill.
As the sun rose higher in the sky, bikes began to appear. Some were on our trail, some were on ridge trails above us. It is a popular area for recreation, but being that this is a big, open space, people were spread out, and for the most part, we had the trail to ourselves.
As anyone with a dog could probably guess, Fritzi had the time of her life. She hiked twice as far as we did, running up the trail and then back to us in a back and forth pattern. We kindly removed ourselves and Fritzi from the trail when a bike and rider appeared. Everyone was so nice, and I do mean everyone.
We spent a couple hours on the trail before finding ourselves back at the start, feeling accomplished. Not only had we tired out Fritzi, still under two-years-old, we’d done the Grand Junction Lunch Loops. On the way back to Hotel Maverick, we rewarded ourselves with frozen yogurt at Sugar & Ice.
For 12 Incredible Hikes in Grand Junction go here.
Travel in collaboration with Visit Grand Junction.