Top Ten Mountain Bike Meccas (Beyond Moab)
Adapted from the Fruita Fat Tire Guide by Troy A. Rarick
Welcome to western Colorado and the "Grand Valley." The Colorado River, once called the Grand, is the source of the name and also is responsible for carving most of the local geography. The confluence with the Gunnison River gave the name to "Grand Junction" and water from the river gave the valley its rich fruit-growing heritage, thus "Fruita." To the east of the valley rises the Grand Mesa. At an elevation of over 10,000 feet, "the mesa" is our summer escape. To the west is the uplift that holds the Colorado National Monument and the Black Ridge Wilderness Study Area. This block of spectacular sandstone has largely been set aside for those who have enough time for foot travel. There are two opportunities to view these wondersâ€”from a car or bike via Black Ridge Road or Rimrock Drive over the monument. Neither area allows off-road travel, so please stay on designated routes.
The high plateau to the southwest is Uncompahgre Plateau. Rising to over 9,000 feet, this is another summer favorite. The north edge of the valley is bordered entierely by the "Bookcliffs." This almost continuous band of cliffs and ridges runs west into Utah. The stark clay ridges have been featured many times in mountain bike publications and videos. If you like deserts and/or challenging singletrack then you'll love this area.
The following are some of our favorite trails in an area rich with opportunities for mountain bikers.
Fruita Westâ€”Kokopelli's Trail Area
This classic trail was built by the Colorado Plateau Mountain Bike Trail Association, COPMOBA, and the BLM. This network of singletrack and jeep roads runs 145 miles from near Fruita to Moab, Utah. It is our good fortune that the singletrack all lies on the Colorado end. There are 10 or more loops between Loma and Rabbit Valley and each of them is well worth riding.
Location: Just west of I-70 exit 15, "Loma." Park on gravel frontage road just behind the truck stop at a parking area.
Description: Jeep road and singletrack on rolling terrain. Outstanding river canyon views. Very entertaining singletrack with just a touch of technical riding. The area's most common "first ride." Commonly combined with Lions Loop.
Trail: 9.8 miles as a loop with less than 400 feet of climbing. Allow one to two hours. Novice to advanced.
Route: Route is well marked with brown posts and stickers reading "Mary's Loop." Climb west over the ridge on gravel road. Descend to a right on a jeep road in less than one mile. Climb on jeep road to a level cruise on the canyon rim. Pass "Horsethief Bench" on your left near mile 2. Continue along canyon rim, road turns to singletrack at 3.5 miles. This section can be and has been very dangerous; use good judgment and walk anything you're uncertain of. Singletrack becomes road at mile 5.5 as you leave the river and intersect Lions Loop at approximately 6.5 miles. From here Mary's Loop continues on the jeep road to the main road at mile 7. A right on the main road leads back to the start.
Location: Start from Mary's Loop two miles from start by truck stop. Go left at the sign marked "Horsethief Bench."
Description: The perfect novice/intermediate ride as well as our favorite night ride. No real climbing, only moderately technical.
Trail: Five-mile loop or eight miles from Mary's Loop trailhead.
Route: The Bench Trail leaves Mary's Loop where a large flat bench hides the river from view; this is Horsethief Bench. The trail drops immediately down a sandy stock driveway to the bench. From the bottom of this hill the loop goes in either direction. I suggest going left. Packed sand and slickrock are the surface of this rolling loop. It's just technical enough to be fun with only one portage. There are no junctions so I haven't included directions here. Once back at the base of the stock driveway, return to start or check out Mary's.
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication