The 19th Annual Fruita Fat Tire Festival is happening April 24-27th (register here). Although not overly-crowded, expect hundreds to gather and partake in the bike demos from top manufacturers, libations, live music, and vendors. For my top 10 tips for the unseasoned festival traveler, check out this article.
Fruita and Grand Junction are known for hundreds of miles of their world-class singletrack, and if you are not familiar with the area, it is easy to get lost in the sea of trails. There are no “wrong trails” in this area, and some are/will be more popular than others, but here is a quick list of the “best” trails that the surrounding area has to offer for the festival.
In general, it is best to hit trails as early as possible, before it gets hot and the parking lot is crowded. You can can often ride for 2-3 hours, go have lunch, and ride another trail system. It is not uncommon for patrons to ride 2-3x a day during the festival, demo’ing bikes and hitting the highlights. There are several distinct trails systems, such as “Bookcliffs” or “Kokopelli”, but listed below are individual trails, segments, or linked segments to maximize your experience.
1. Zippity Do Dah:
Arguably the signature ride at the 18 Roads (also known as Bookcliffs) trail system, there are several ways to access this trail in part or whole. There are lots of trails out here that form interconnecting loops, that require you climb before you descent. You could simply ride up 18 Road itself (easiest), but I recommend ascending the more scenic Prime Cut, then go west on Frontside to access the start of Zippity Do Dah. Frontside is a short 1.0 mile trail with some pumpers and rollers, but Zippity is a full-on roller coaster with long, steep sweeping drops and turns, followed by short but stalwart climbs. Good luck not getting the Disney song stuck in your head as you ride it. This entire loop is about 6 miles, depending on what other trails you take.
Rating: difficult intermediate.
Similar to Zippity, but with a different character, these two trails run parallel to Zippity and are accessed the same way. Joe’s Ridge also has some steep, but milder, long rollers, whereas MoJoe was designed with several jumps, berms, and pump sections–all with sections to roll around. This loop is closer to 5 miles, depending on whether you take Prime Cut or 18 Road. Pro tip: add PBR if you still have the legs for it–it’s short and sweet!
Although not technically a loop, beginner-friendly Mary’s connects a variety of trails in the Kokopelli Trail system, including the ever-popular Horsethief Bench Loop. The actual “Bench” is an exposed series of rock drops/ledges that only a handful of technical riders can do, but is portaged by thousands annually to access the rest of the trail. The Bench Loop itself still has several difficult technical sections, all of which can be walked by less experienced riders, but is otherwise scenic and tame, hence its popularity. Though I’d strongly recommend riding every trail out here if you are able, this is the loop to tackle if you’re pressed for time. This is 5.2 miles if you just use Mary’s to access the Bench Loop.
Rating: beginner to advanced.
4. Moore Fun:
This little gem is 4.5 miles of “very difficult” singletrack that can be accessed by either Mary’s Loop or Hawkeye Road. I’d recommend accessing it via Mary’s first, then riding it NW to SE back to your vehicle, making an 11 mile mini-epic ride. Climbing to the pinnacle of Moore Fun is brutal, requiring anaerobic pushes, some choice words, and probably some walking. Once you reach the top, there’s a fantastic view of the Western Slope before your rocky, precarious, poop-eating-grin descent. The last section requires a lot of body english and short sprints.
Rating: mildly insane.
5. Holy Cross:
More like Holy Crap, this advanced trail in the Tabaguache system in Grand Junction is intense and deeply rewarding. Also known as the “Lunch Loops”, so named because you can squeeze in a quickie if you work nearby, it is impregnated with loops of all skill levels. There are several trailheads here, but starting from Monument Road you can ride of the fairly vanilla Tabaguache trail, or take the more difficult Pet-Y-Kes trail to Prenup. Holy Cross is about 1/4 mile on the east side of Prenup. Holy Cross is a 2.3-mile descent with very technical rock drops and rollers requiring guts and skill. You can return to the parking area via Ali Alley and Kurt’s Lane, about 5-6 miles as a loop, but you’d be crazy not to explore more singletrack here if you have the time (if you really crave technical, try Free Lunch and Pucker Up).
Honorable Mention: Palisade Rim Trail:
Often overlooked by tourists, poor old Palisade Rim trail is actually one of the best trails in the area. It is an 8-mile lollipop that requires a very steep, technical climb up to the top of the rim, which is far more fun once your point the rubber downhill and assume the attack position. Take the Palisade Exit off I-70 and park in the riverside parking area on the west side of G Road, then go south on the road for about 300 yards to access the trailhead.
The thing is, it is difficult to choose just 5, or even 10, trails that capture the essence of Western Slope mountain biking. There are easier, beginner-friendly signature rides like Rustler’s Loop or Kessel Run, that everyone should ride if they have the time and energy… but chances are if you’re demo’ing bikes at the Festival, these aren’t the trails you’ll want to test bikes on.
Moreover, in addition to the three trail systems I mentioned, there are ubiquitous miles of singletrack at other nearby singletrack meccas: Rabbit Valley, Turkey Flats, and the Kokopelli Trail. However, some of these trails are farther away from the festival, and you may find it difficult to get there, enjoy a ride, and have time to get back to Fruita and return your demo bike… then pick up another one.
If you’re going to the festival, please have fun, be safe, and be courteous to other riders. And please stop by COPMOBA and donate a few bucks to keep the local trails in good shape.
Your turn: Have you been to the Fruita Fat Tire Festival? What trails would you recommend riding?