Colorado : Safety by City
- Cañon City
- Colorado Springs
- Fort Collins
- Grand Junction
Grand Junction, Colorado is the transition zone of Colorado where the Rocky Mountains give way to the desert landscape with natural beauty all its own.
It’s not a desert town.
It’s not a mountain town.
It’s a little of both with an arid climate and plenty of indoor and outdoor activities.
This is also where the Colorado River and Gunnison River meet, providing a wide variety of river activities.
No need for Napa crowds when you’ve got Colorado’s wine country here.
The east side of town is lined with several wineries taking advantage of the 300 days of sunshine and cool nights to make the perfect grapes to turn into wine.
Grand Junction is a casual town without any arrogance, despite all the reasons to brag about its natural amenities.
You can even dig for dinosaur fossils here, as the creatures once roamed this part of Colorado many millennia ago.
Dining here beats some big-city restaurants thanks to easy access to farm-to-table food and the climate that helps fruits and veggies thrive before being served.
The meals are delicious but also affordable because, again, this isn’t a fancy town.
Five public golf courses are scattered throughout the city and open almost year-round.
You can also go mountain biking or whitewater rafting or just hike into the middle of nowhere (my particular favorite).
I spent a few days in Grand Junction a few years back, and what stood out to me was the incredible blue skies and the air that was so clean you just wanted to bottle it up.
There were also so many free or low-cost things to do.
This is a place where people will hold the door open for you, say hello every time you pass by, and engage in conversations.
It’s also a very conservative town and people love their guns here.
You don’t have to agree with them, but don’t openly disagree either.
Warnings & Dangers in Grand Junction
OVERALL RISK : LOW
There's a low overall risk, despite some high crime rates. We'll talk through those. Most of the activities to do here aren't involved in the events that lead to certain crimes, and some high crime rates you can help control. That said, don't let your guard down here. 131 of the 348 violent crimes that happened here in 2020 were crimes against strangers.
TRANSPORT & TAXIS RISK : LOW
Grand Valley Transit is the public bus system. Taxis and rideshares are available, but might not be as fast as some bigger cities. You really are going to want a car here if you can swing it. There's a low risk in the public transportation options, but not a lot of stops in the cool spots.
PICKPOCKETS RISK : LOW
There were four pickpockets reported in 2020, so there's a low risk. The theft rates are incredibly higher than the state and local averages. 30% of that is driven by shoplifting. Another 30% is driven by car break-ins. I will say that's one thing I was concerned about on my trip there. I went to the mall (shopaholic here) and there were just so many people randomly loitering, I was worried about a car break-in since I was loaded up for a road trip. I didn't have a place to store my stuff so I rolled the dice. Luckily, no break-in happened, but in 2020, 668 did happen.
NATURAL DISASTERS RISK : MEDIUM
The biggest risk here is wildfires. Flash flooding and rock/mudslides can be a concern as well. There's a medium risk because the wildfires in Colorado over the past decade have been devastating. Some people don't realize how fast they move and how much they are at the mercy of the winds, which can change quickly.
MUGGING RISK : LOW
There's a low risk here as eight of the 40 robberies that happened were in public places. Remember there were 131 violent crimes against strangers, so if someone was the victim of an attempted robbery and fought back, the crime could have elevated to aggravated assault. The numbers as they are presented to the FBI just don't make that clear.
TERRORISM RISK : LOW
There's a low risk here. It's a smaller town in the middle of wide-open spaces. There were times on my trip I wondered if I had enough gas to get to the next stop. It's really a lot of open, empty land for hundreds of miles west, south, and north.
SCAMS RISK : LOW
Several phone scams are happening here, but those are focused on locals. There's a low risk it's going to happen to a tourist.
WOMEN TRAVELERS RISK : LOW
The sexual assault rate here is 40% higher than the national average. It's also a "good old boy" town, so there might be more leering and catcalling than in other cities. I'm very much a girly girl and I sort of stood out in this rugged, laid-back town. There's a low risk, but just keep your wits about you and it's very easy to get lost on the roads on the outskirts of town. Stay on a plotted path and don't venture off as I did.
TAP WATER RISK : LOW
The 2020 Annual Water Quality Report shows no violations in the drinking water and all testing met the required levels of the city, state, and EPA. There's a low risk.
Safest Places to Visit in Grand Junction
Start in downtown Grand Junction for a wide variety of dining options.
There are breakfast cafes, bakeries, wine bars, and restaurants of a variety of ethnic backgrounds.
There are shops along the way and some spa services as well.
This is also where festivals are held throughout the year.
One of the big draws in this part of Colorado is the National Monument.
It’s an outdoor space with seemingly endless views of monoliths, flat-topped mesas, and canyons.
Eagles soar and bighorn sheep stroll through this outdoor natural amusement park.
Rim Rock is one of the popular scenic spots to take in the vastness of the park, where the red and orange smooth rocks blend together in waves through miles of canyonland.
The winery row is just about 20 minutes east of Grand Junction in Palisade.
You have dozens of wineries to choose from, with vast vineyards and exquisite tasting rooms.
The best part?
No long lines or wait times like in Sonoma.
Western Colorado Botanical Gardens is another great way to enjoy the city and the beautiful things that grow here.
There are several gardens to choose from when visiting here; Rose Garden, Cactus Garden, Children’s Secret Garden, and a Japanese Garden, just to name a few.
It’s just $5 per adult and $3 per child.
The Museums of Western Colorado has three museums in different locations.
There’s the Museum of the West in Grand Junction, the Dinosaur Journey museum 20 minutes west, and Cross Orchards focused on the history of agriculture in Grand Junction.
Skiers don’t have to miss out either.
Powderhorn is less than an hour away.
Lift tickets are $100 cheaper than you’ll find in Aspen and $50 cheaper than in Vail.
You also won’t have as many lines as those more popular resorts.
Places to Avoid in Grand Junction
As with most cities, the crime trends follow right along the major highway in town.
I-70 runs north of Grand Junction and there’s a gathering of hotels there in a relatively safe area.
The crime trends follow the I-70 byway through the center of town.
The west side has higher crime rates than the east side.
The people here are very conservative, so avoid any political arguments if you lean left.
Don’t make wisecracks about guns or try to sway someone to your opinion.
Have a map route planned ahead of time, as there are some spots where GPS and mobile phone services go out.
I was visiting family deep in the hills of this area, and my map system kept freezing up, leaving me lost and driving around randomly.
I pulled over to the side of the road at one point and a farmer came to my car and asked why I was on his property.
I apologized and moved on.
(I was a woman traveling alone with two dogs.
I didn’t feel safe getting out and asking him for directions.)
Safety Tips for Traveling to Grand Junction
- If you are heading into the backcountry for adventures, be prepared. Study up on what you need to survive in this area. You’ll need good hiking boots that aren’t brand new. Break them in before you arrive. Bring at least a gallon of water with you for each person and granola or energy bars are great for meals on the go. Pack as if you are going to get stranded for a day.
- Every 1000 feet in elevation you climb, the temperature goes down four degrees and the air becomes thinner. Grand Junction is at 4500 feet, but the National Monument can go up to 7000 feet. You might have some shortness of breath, and that’s normal. Take your time.
- When driving Rim Rock Drive, especially in the winter, be careful of road hazards like black ice, animals, or rocks. Some portions of this road have steep drops. Keep your eyes on the road and take your time. If you are going slow and someone is tailgating, use the next pull-off to let them pass.
- If you are going to the winery area, take a rideshare or taxi so you don’t risk drinking and driving. There is so much to explore and you won’t have to worry about a limit or having a sober driver if you plan ahead for a ride.
- When driving on curvy roads, never try to pass another vehicle, even if it is a bicyclist. Cyclists in Colorado are treated as vehicles, so they have the same rights on the road as a car. Passing on a curve is very dangerous since a lot of these areas have steep drop-offs.
- Sign up for emergency alerts through the Mesa County Sheriff’s Office. This will keep you informed of winter weather, wildfires, and any other dangers.
- The city and police department have a collaborative interactive map where you can see everything from recent crimes to parking areas to city parks. Bookmark that so you can review it before and during your trip.
- The largest wildfire in Colorado history burned in 2020 just north of Grand Junction. The land there is scarred and will be for some time. I’d avoid that area and enjoy the non-impacted areas. This area will be prone to landslides if there’s heavy rainfall.
- On that note, when you’re visiting any high-risk wildfire area, be prepared to evacuate at any time. You can unpack your stuff, but if a wildfire starts you might have to evacuate in a hurry.
- There are homeless people in Grand Junction and they tend to hang out in a park across the street from the police station. You might be approached for money, but there’s not a lot of aggressiveness in the homeless population. The city is taking incredible strides to help people by opening a shelter for the homeless and their pets, and a separate shelter for women, as they see the population of women over 65 needing shelter.
So... How Safe Is Grand Junction Really?
It’s not the safest city in Colorado.
Violent crimes and property crimes are above the state and national average.
There were 348 violent crimes and 131 of them were crimes against strangers, but that doesn’t mean tourists.
The theft rates are double the national average, but there’s also a lot of shoplifting here.
27% of the thefts were shoplifting.
When you take that out of the mix, there’s still a one in 39 chance of being a victim.
Keep in mind, too, that theft could be reported if a lawnmower was stolen from a front yard.
Robbery is below the national average with a one in 1524 chance of being a victim.
There were three homicides in 2020 and that’s about average over the past 10 years.
While there might be higher crime than would be ideal for a trip, it’s not crime happening in the places a tourist is going to explore.
There aren’t shootings at the Colorado National Monument and there’s also a drug problem in Grand Junction, as with many other cities.
Drug use leads to more crime.
You shouldn’t be worried about being a victim of a crime here, but you also should respect that this city is still a little bit of the wild west.
There are a lot of people exercising their second amendment right to bear arms.
Stay in your lane and you shouldn’t have any issues.
How Does Grand Junction Compare?
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- Visas - The Visa check only happens when you enter the United States. Once you're through customs, you can travel freely without additional processing.
- Currency - You'll use the U.S. Dollar here. Due to the high theft numbers, it's a good idea to keep your wallet in your front pocket and wear a purse that crosses over your body. You really don't need valuables here, so leave them at home.
- Weather - Pack a lot of layers for winter. It can get below freezing or below zero at times here. Snow boots are going to be helpful in the winter. Summers can get into the triple digits, so pack lots of tank tops and shorts with firm footwear for hiking. You'll need sunscreen too.
- Airports - Grand Junction has its airport. It's not a big airport and does leave much to be desired, but it's your only option.
- Travel Insurance - Travel insurance is a great idea for a trip to Grand Junction. Wildfires can lead to canceled flights or town evacuations. There are some risks in the wilderness here, and having insurance will help easy your worries when enjoying all this area has to offer.
Grand Junction Weather Averages (Temperatures)
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