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Running through western Colorado’s scenic Grand Valley, the Colorado Riverfront Trail provides an unparalleled biking and walking experience in Mesa County. The paved trail follows the Colorado River through Fruita, Grand Junction, and, Palisade, connecting several parks, lakes, and recreational amenities. The trail has been made with the long-term vision and hard work of the Colorado Riverfront Commission, established in 1987.
The trail opens with a bang with the stunning Monument View Section on its western end. The view in question is that of the rugged canyons of the Colorado National Monument. This 8-mile section also provides access to the Walter Walker State Wildlife Area, itself a beauty with its grassy, tree-lined river corridor.
At the end of the Monument View Section, the trail forks; the northern branch of the fork is named the Blue Heron Section for the Blue Heron Lake, which is its main attraction. The trail begins at the Junior Service League Park and ends at Riverside Park, a distance of 5.6 miles. Along the way, you’ll find a mixture of woodlands and marshy areas; keep your eyes peeled for bald eagles in the treetops.
The southern branch is the Audubon Section, which extends less than two miles, beginning in the Connected Lakes State Park and ending at the Redlands Marketplace. The secluded, wooded surroundings here offer ample opportunities to see many types of birds, including blue heron, osprey, owls, and hawks. The two sections of the trail meet up at the pedestrian/bike path over the Colorado River along State Highway 340 (Broadway).
From State Highway 340, the re-merged trail is known as the Riverside Section. It winds along the north bank of the river for 1.4 miles, through a beautiful natural area where the Colorado and Gunnison rivers meet and ends at the Western Colorado Botanical Gardens and Butterfly House.
From the Botanical Gardens, you can seamlessly pick up the Las Colonias Section, named after a park of the same name, which it traverses. The first phase of the 101-acre park opened in 2015 and includes parking, a restroom, a bike repair station, and a water fountain; future plans call for the addition of an amphitheater.
The Parks and Wildlife Section offers access to portions of the James M. Robb Colorado River State Park, where recreational opportunities abound, including picnicking, fishing, boating, and swimming. Note that if you wish to park in this section the purchase of a park pass is required; the best access point is Corn Lake.
Farther west, the Clifton Section is named for its centerpiece, Clifton Nature Park. Here, the trail is rural and tranquil. You might see horses grazing near the river and birds wading in its calm waters.
The eastern end of the trail ends in the town of Palisade. The big draw for this section is passage through Riverbend Park, where you can access the river at Harky’s Launch. The park is a haven for wildlife; you might spot deer or even a coyote. Rest and enjoy the views at the many benches overlooking the river.
Parking is available at several locations along the Colorado Riverfront Trail, including:
Looking forward to the new rest area, peach groves, shaded benches, not to mention a great view. Located near the new RV campgrounds. A nice ride or hike from Junction to Palisade.
We started the ride at Los Colonias Park next to the botanical gardens. There is parking, water, restroom, and a shaded gazebo with picnic tables here. We headed towards Fruita cycling the recently-completed Monument View Trail to the Blue Heron trail to the Colorado Visitor Center in Fruita.
The condition of this trail varied depending on the section. The trail starts out nice and smooth at about 12 feet wide from Los Colonias Park. It then narrows to about 8 feet with lots of roots and cracks in the pavement until you reach the new section called Monument View near the Blue Heron Boat Launch. Then, it is smooth and wide to the Fruita visitor center.
At some points, the path is curvy and runs along the river. At other points, it is flat and runs parallel to the road. The description in this website doesn’t always match the reality of the path. Yes, at some points you do have nice views of the surrounding mesa and the river. However, the description fails to mention that if you start your ride at Los Colonias park near downtown Grand Junction, you will be cycling through industrials areas. Some of your view will be that of junk yards, gravel pits, storage yards, trucking company parking lots and other industrial-type businesses. So, unless you are wearing blinders, it isn’t as pretty as described. If you want pretty all the way, park at the Blue Heron Boat Launch and head out from there.
There are benches along the path but most of them are not strategically placed. Most are in full sun and many are placed at weird places like across from an industrial site or, if along the river, right in front of a tree which blocks the view of the river.
However, overall, we enjoyed the ride and would recommend it. Water was available only at the beginning at Los Colonias Park and at the end of our ride at the visitor center. Our roundtrip mileage was about 28 miles with a couple of detours.
This review is for an out-and-back ride. We cycled from downtown Grand Junction down 7th Street for one mile to the start of the trail at Los Colonias Park which is next to the botanical gardens. Parking, water, restroom, and a shaded gazebo with picnic tables are available here. We headed in the direction of Palisade. Heading in this direction, there is a gap in the trail after about 2.4 miles. You will cycle on C ½ Road for about 0.9 miles before turning right at the end onto 29 Road for a half mile to connect back up to the trail. C ½ Road is lightly traveled; 29 Road is a bit busier but there is a bike lane and a wide sidewalk.
Throughout the ride, the bike path was in excellent condition and very wide. However, additional signage is needed especially at the Corn Lake section of the Colorado State Park. Since we are not from the area, if we hadn’t read about the bike path continuing at an underpass under the highway, we would have simply not continued on. For the most part, the bike path is away from streets and traffic and feels remote (when really it isn’t). The ride had a country-like feel to it. The bike path ended abruptly at a county rode. A passing cyclist told us that we would need to cycle the road to get to the town of Palisade. We turned around at this point.
We highly recommend this section. Our round-trip mileage was about 20 miles. There are no services and no water available along this route. There are some benches along the path but most are not shaded. Get a big-picture map from a local bike store. Individual section maps are available for download at one of these sites:
Excellent trail over 15 miles. You can ride all the way to Fruita. You can catch the trail at the botanical gardens and several other places with no parking fees. The starting place on the map charges for parking.
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