Outdoor Adventure Picks From Local Teens

 Teens skateboard, jump scooters, and ride bikes after school at Westlake Park Skatepark in Grand Junction. / Photo by Cat Mayer

Teens skateboard, jump scooters, and ride bikes after school at Westlake Park Skatepark in Grand Junction. / Photo by Cat Mayer

Hiking. Skateboarding. Camping. Skiing. Kayaking. Biking. Running. Paddling. We asked teenagers what they enjoy doing outdoors in Mesa County, and these are just some of the answers we received. Here’s what else we learned...

Four Seasons of Fun

When you live in an area coming to be known as “Colorado’s Outdoor Capitol,” it can be hard to pick just one outdoor activity.

“Choosing is so hard, because I spend most of my time outside,” explains Maizie Zachary, a student at Fruita Monument High School. She ultimately settles on camping and hiking with her family as favorites, followed closely by mountain biking with family and friends.

Jack Respet, of Palisade High School, divides his outdoor passions by the season. “In the winter, I enjoy skiing at Powderhorn. During the spring and fall I’m into mountain biking, but during the summer it’s too hot,” he notes, adding that he’d wisely spent the afternoon swimming.

Given the recent blistering summer, it isn’t surprising that many teens are enthusiastic about swimming, floating, and paddling on the Colorado River and local lakes — all classic summertime pursuits.

But for some teens, the season isn’t as important as personal passion. Landon McGrady attends Central High School. He says that skateboarding clears his mind and is “limitless,” allowing him ample room for self-expression. Skateboarding is his year-round focus.

Likewise, Julianna Campos plays tennis for Grand Junction High School. While Campos also enjoys hiking and paddling SUPs, tennis is her 12-month favorite because she gets to play and train with friends and “it’s a really fun sport.”

Campos is one of many teens who mentioned hiking, which — thanks to Mesa County’s diverse terrain — can be enjoyed year-round. When it’s too hot in the valley, the hiking is great on the Grand Mesa. When it’s too cold on the Mesa, the weather is perfect in the valley.

Family and Friends

According to these teenagers, sharing an experience with family and friends is key to having fun. Many of the students mentioned that they began a sport or activity because of their parents or siblings. And while family can play a huge role in introducing kids to outdoor adventure, spending time with friends is what keeps them coming back to the trail, the river, and the ski run.

Mia Brygger, who is on the Grand Junction High School mountain biking team, is an example. Brygger started biking with her “outdoorsy” parents at age 4 and was riding the trails at 18 Road when she was 7. She still bikes with her family, but her circle of mountain biking friends has grown as she’s progressed, especially now that she trains with Grand Valley Youth Cycling.

Similarly, Mandy Moran is all about distance running, especially with her high school cross-country teammates. “When we run as a team we enjoy it together, rather than just focusing on the activity at hand,” she explains.

Motivating Factors

While having fun is a worthy goal in and of itself, other motivations include personal challenge and building new skills.

“I like mountain biking because it’s very dynamic,” explains GJHS student Kyle Mimmack. “Whenever I’m on a trail that I know well, I think of new lines to take and to experiment with just to challenge myself.”

Skateboarder McGrady reflects on progression this way: “You’re gonna fall. You’ll hurt yourself. But stick with it. You’ll feel great when you finally accomplish your goal and land the trick you wanted.”

And then there is the pull of nature. “We live in such a beautiful place,” says Charlotte Allen, who attends Holy Family Catholic School. “It is so nice to be outdoors.”

Rec Recommendations

HIKING • Favorite hiking trails have great views both along the route and at the top. These include Palisade Rim, Crag Crest, Mt. Garfield, Liberty Cap, Devil’s Kitchen, and Independence Monument.

Ella Haupt, who hikes with her friends from Fruita Monument High School, recommends hiking boots or trail shoes and bringing water in a hydration pack. MacGregor Paxson, a junior at Caprock Academy, concurs on the water. He adds snacks to the list of trail essentials and suggests building up to the valley’s most difficult treks. “Do some smaller hikes first to make sure you’re ready,” he advises.

CAMPING • Combine camping with hiking to create a “two-for-one” adventure, suggests GJHS student Makayla Moran, adding that she enjoys camping because it allows her to spend “an extended time” in nature. Beckett Paxson, of Caprock Academy, enjoys camping with his Boy Scout troop, shouting out Glade Park as a good location.

For those new to camping, Zachary recommends

going with a group of people who know what they’re doing and can teach you the essentials. “You might not think of little things that matter, like putting food up or in a car,” she explains.

SKATEBOARDING • The Grand Valley has five skate parks — three in Grand Junction and one each in Fruita and Palisade. McGrady recommends choosing the most convenient.

BIKING • Middle school students Charlotte Allen and Beckett Paxson find biking around their homes and neighborhoods both convenient and fun. When it comes to longer rides, Allen likes the Riverfront Trail from Las Colonias Park to Fruita, while Mandy Moran recommends organized events like the annual Rose Hill Rally.

MOUNTAIN BIKING • No surprises here. Local teens enjoy all of the valley’s trail systems, from Lunch Loops to 18 Road, Kokopelli Loops, and the Palisade Rim. Their best advice? Recognize that mountain biking is distinct from road biking, requiring different skills and technique. “Mountain biking is a whole different thing,” shares Respet. “But if you work hard, you’ll pick it up pretty quickly.”

Kristen LummisFamily