Each spring, when there’s still snow in the mountains but firm, dry trails in the desert, riders flock to Fruita and Grand Junction. The Hot Tomato becomes almost standing room only, and so does the entrance to Horsethief Bench. But you don’t have to succumb to that! Instead, you can wait and visit Fruita in August. That’s right, August.
I sound crazy, I know, telling you to come bike in the desert in August, but just hear me out. The hottest part of the year here is in July, so by August it’s beginning to cool off again (slightly). In August the average high in Grand Junction is 90 and the average low is 60. That’s pretty sweet weather if you ask me. But if you need more convincing, here are 10 reasons why you should visit Fruita/Grand Junction in August.
1. The trails are empty.
Really. Imagine what Horsethief or Mary’s looked like the last time you rode here in the spring, and then look at this:
I took this picture from halfway up the Horsethief entrance/exit. There’s no one there. It’s so nice to ride this trail and not feel like twenty people are bearing down on you, ready to take you out if you don’t make the next drop fast enough. You can take whatever line you want, be leisurely climbing hills, and ride the most popular trails in the area without crowds.
2. Free/cheap concerts.
Summer in Grand Junction is concert time. There are Riverfront concerts, concerts in town in Fruita, and even outdoor concerts at the Botanical Gardens. We’ve seen groups like Los Lonely Boys, Robert Earl Keen, and Poco all for free in the summer here. Trust me, concerts under the stars at the James M. Robb state park in Fruita, with the Colorado National Monument and river as backdrops, are awesome. There’s wine, beer, great food, and a whole community surrounding you.
3. Yummy food with no lines.
Bike early and then go into Fruita for breakfast or an early lunch. Camilla’s Kaffe serves breakfast on Sunday until about 12:30, and it’s awesome. Rellenos and eggs are my favorite, with their biker breakfast burrito a close second. You can also cross the interstate and find Pablo’s Pizza in a little shopping center on the left. They have great pizza and beer! Of course, if it’s a Tues-Sat you can actually have your choice of tables at the Hot Tomato, because the crowds have died down (they aren’t gone though, by any means!)
4. Cool ways to spend the heat of the day.
After your early bike ride and brunch, enjoy some of the cooler activities that Grand Junction and Fruita have to offer. You can go tubing, paddleboarding, or kayaking on the river. You can take a paddleboard or kayak up to the Grand Mesa and paddle around a reservoir or lake. Take a brewery tour of Edgewater Brewery, and then have lunch on their shaded patio before playing a game of corn hole on their lawn. Head out to Highline Lake and go swimming, or go wine tasting in Palisade. There’s plenty to do in the heat of the day.
Just look at that beautiful river calling out to you!
5. Pizzas with limited-time-only farm-fresh local ingredients.
Summer is the season of “The Peach” at the Hot Tomato, featuring local Palisade peaches. Yes, a pizza with peaches, Canadian bacon, and more. Each week in the summer, Pablo’s Pizza uses CSA ingredients like kale, swiss chard, fresh cherry tomatoes, and arugula. Gelato Junction, a great little gelato and ice cream shop in downtown Grand Junction, makes peach gelato and Olathe Sweet Corn gelato, which is reason enough to come visit!
“The Peach” seasonal pizza at The Hot Tomato
6. Farmer’s Markets.
Want to get those local ingredients for yourself? No matter when you’re here, there’s a Farmer’s Market happening somewhere in Mesa County. On Sundays there’s the Palisade Farmer’s Market with lots of fresh produce and crafts. On Wednesdays and Saturdays there’s a great produce and baked goods market out on the east end of North Avenue in the Teller Arms Shopping Center from 7am to noon. On Thursdays there’s the downtown Farmer’s Market in Grand Junction with everything from produce to crepes, pizza, and roasted green chile goodies. Plus, you don’t want to miss the drum circle! The downtown market starts at 5 and goes until around 8. Finally, there’s a Saturday market in Fruita. So no matter when you’re here, you can find great peaches, tomatoes, leafy greens, and more.
This awesome variety of tomatoes was just part of my haul from a recent trip to the Farmer’s Market.
7. Full Moon Riding!
The nights are long, the moon is high and bright, and summer time here is the right time for full moon rides! Get out there on Prime Cut or Rustler’s and find out what it’s like to bike at night. Take a headlamp just in case!
8. The Grand Mesa.
Rising above Grand Junction at an elevation of 10,000ft, the Grand Mesa is a great place to cool off in August. The mosquitoes are mostly gone, and the lakes are calling. There are long bike trails like Flowing Park and Mesa Top, hiking trails like Crag’s Crest and, my favorite, the West Bench Trail that runs behind Powderhorn Mountain Resort. I find the novelty of eating lunch on an old, lonely ski lift chair quite fun.
Don’t be fooled though, you might encounter some bogs and downed trees on West Bench!
Peaches, wineries, breweries, and distilleries, all in one tiny town. Palisade in the summer is filled with great food and places to visit. Sit on the patio outside the Palisade Brewery and enjoy the cool mist from their overhead misters while you sip a Dirty Hippie, eat free popcorn, and wait for your smoked brisket sandwich to arrive. Taste samples of fudge and wine together at Talon Winery, and don’t forget to try a Bloody Mary from Peach Street Distillery while you’re there. Ask anyone here, and they’ll tell you it’s the best out there. Plus, there are peaches, and a peach festival! Peach pie, peach cobbler, peach salsa, peach jam… it’s peach heaven.
10. You might decide to stay!
You might get here, see a beautiful afternoon thunderstorm over the Monument, and decide you’ve got to pack up your belongings in Georgia, Nebraska, etc. and move out to Western Colorado. Your family will think you’ve gone crazy and your dog might even shake his head in disbelief, but you’ll know the reasons why. You’ll know the allure of riding the trails the day after a storm has packed down the dirt. You’ll know the thrill of whooping down Kessel Run or Joe’s Ridge without encountering another soul, and you’ll know the relaxing happiness that comes from enjoying a cold local beer and a concert on the banks of the Colorado River. You’ll know what we know: there truly is no reason you shouldn’t visit Grand Junction in August.