Get outta town and onto the trail in the friendliest mountain-bike hamlet west of the Divide.
SPRING HERE FINDS IT SPITTING SNOW one day, sun shining the next, and a serious case of bike jones starting to brew. The problem? Mud, unpredictable trails. The cure? Fruita. Ten miles past Grand Junction off I-70 West, the high-desert town of just under 13,000 is a hotbed of world-class mountain bike terrain, suitable for the mellowest cruisers and the most high-throttle dirt-chasers alike. We got the scoop from a few locals on making the most of your visit.
RIDES TO TRY
Classics: Hit Joe’s Ridge at 18 Road by the Book Cliffs for curvy, swoopy singletrack with plenty of ridgeline and swells. It’s highly trafficked—18 Road is full of iconic Fruita trails—but worth it: “It’s as close to riding a rollercoaster as you can get on a bike,” says George Gatseos, general manager of longtime Fruita bike shop Over The Edge Sports. Or, try Horsethief Bench (accessed from Mary’s Loop) in the Kokopelli Loop for quick-flow intermediate-to-difficult singletrack with killer views overlooking the Colorado River. Beware the sneaky hike-a-bike sections (read: not for novices).
White-knucklers: At Kokopelli, warm up on Lion’s Loop—be prepared for steep ascents and an uber-technical pass that’ll test your fitness—and split off onto the experts-only Mack Ridge Trail, which is peppered with rocky passes, switchbacks, grueling climbs and technical descents. Mack Ridge ends at the western access point for Moore Fun, a rush of hairy double-black challenges (seriously: experts) that’ll send the fittest of riders to the brink. If you’ve exhausted the Kokopelli trails, scoot down the road to the Lunch Loop trails (aka Tabeguache Trail Network) near Grand Junction for plenty of advanced to difficult terrain for the technical junkies out there.
Overnights: You love bikes. You love hut trips. Colorado Backcountry Biker combines your true loves: “[They] run these incredible hut-to-hut trips for mountain bikers in the high country,” says Fruita city manager Mike Bennett, “where you ride all day and end up at a sweet hut in the middle of the wilderness stalked with your gear, food, and drinks—and do it all over the next day.”
Bring the kids: “Kessel Run is smooth and flowy and there aren’t any big hills,” Gatseos says, “but even people who’ve ridden for 20 years have fun on that route.” Take Prime Cut up or go with the shuttle option. Nearby Lunch Loop outside of Grand Junction has a little-kids loop and killer pump track good for an hour or two of fun.
Quick tip: Both the 18 Road and Kokopelli trail systems are well mapped and marked. You’d be hard pressed to find any secret stashes in these parts. Even so, “the riding here is generally more difficult, even our easiest trails,” Gatseos says, “so you can easily get in over your head.” Make sure you get the full 411 before you go; most locals are happy to dish on their fave rides.
WHERE TO STAY
Tent it: Sleep where you ride in a BLM-designated North Fruita Desert Campsite at 18 Road. The $10 sites are first-come, first-served and fill quickly. If you don’t need vault toilets and picnic tables, look for dispersed camping just outside the trail area.
Need a roof? Book the historic four-bedroom farmhouse-turned-vacation rental at Moon Farm (moonfarm.net) to stay on a working farm five minutes from downtown Fruita, near all the biking action of 18 Road.
Quick tip: When in-town accommodations and 18 Road campsites book up, try the Saddlehorn Campground—the only one within the Colorado National Monument, and a definite gem for its cliff-top views. For $20 (plus the Monument entrance fee), A-Loop is first-come, first-served; B-Loop is reservable at recreation.gov.
WHERE TO EAT
Kickstart: Bestslope Coffee Co. (owned by the same couple behind The Hot Tomato; see below) will get you going for the day with a cuppa or something fancier for the true coffee geek.
Happy hour: Craft beer and mountain biking go together like. . .well, you know. All the best things ever. Drag your trail-weary bones into the taproom at Copper Club Brewing Company for a pint of F-Town Amber Ale, the 2017 Great American Beer Festival gold medal winner.
Chow down: Grab a steaming hot pizza pie (East Coast–style) from The Hot Tomato. Knock back a brew or two—they only serve New Belgium—while you wait in line and rehash the day’s adventures over the cranked music. Craving something meatier? Munchies Pizza & Deli has a throwback soda-fountain vibe and about three dozen burger and sandwich choices.
Need to Cool Off?
Hey, desert riding gets hot. Coming this spring: Imondi Wake Zone is opening on a 30-acre lake near Fruita’s industrial park; it will be Fruita’s first wakeboard cable park—watersports galore, sans boat (hence, cable)—where visitors can rent all the gear they need to go wakeboarding, kneeboarding, and standup paddleboarding.