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For most mountain bikers, the town in Western Colorado known for its high desert singletrack is Fruita. Not so in the Central Rockies where Eagle, Colorado has been quietly earning a spot on the same map similar to its neighbor a couple of hours drive down I-70. The residents of Eagle have decided to put mountain biking at the top of the list of the town’s priorities, and it’s not hard to tell if you visit the town of about 6,500.

Eagle features a variety of mostly buff trail options, and has begun to experiment with innovative trail projects such as “singletrack sidewalks,” a plan to build singletrack along a traditional paved bike path that is a popular route for local kids riding to school. The town also has several new-school-style trails, carefully designed for optimum shred factor, including the Haymaker Trail, which is the home of Colorado’s high school mountain bike racing state championships.

With the growing spotlight on the mountain biking scene in Eagle, everyone knew it was just a matter of time before the comparisons would begin with Colorado’s other arid mountain biking town. Many greedy locals roll their eyes when the Fruita comparisons start up around beers at the Bonfire Brewery. What makes the mountain biking scene most appealing in Eagle is that it has a local, grassroots, low-key vibe that you don’t get at the more popular destinations. It also doesn’t hurt that the riding is world-class. The trail networks and town planning are geared as much for the lycra-clad residents as they are for out-of-town visitors. Rather than ignore the chatter and innuendo, the time has come for the Fruita and Eagle comparison to come out of the darkness.

The author feeling the flow on the Haymaker Trail in Eagle, CO

The author feeling the flow on the Haymaker Trail in Eagle, CO

The Riding

Fruita has several trail networks within a short drive of town, the most popular being the 18 Road and Loma areas.  Most of the trails in Eagle are more the buff dirt variety similar to what you would find at 18 Road, and are accessed in roughly 4 areas: The Boneyard, Pool & Ice Rink Area, Eagle Ranch, and the vast expanse of backcountry trails in Western Eagle. The best part of the Eagle trail network is that most of the trailheads are located in town, with no driving required.  It isn’t unheard of to go on an hour-long ride without seeing another cyclist on any of the local trails.

If you are looking for Loma’s technical Kokopelli rocky rides, then you might want to keep driving west; Eagle is mostly smooth and fast, with a few features mixed in here and there.  That said, beware of loose moon dust conditions that begin to creep up if it hasn’t rained in a long time.

The top of the Boneyard area, Eagle, CO

The top of the Boneyard area, Eagle, CO

Like this in Fruita? …try this in Eagle
Kessel, Prime Cut Riddle, Meyer Gulch, Bailey’s
PBR, Mo Joe’s Haymaker, Pool & Ice Rink, Redneck Ridge
Joe’s Ridge, Zippity Do Da Abram’s Ridge, World’s Greatest Downhill, Star Wars
Horsethief Bench, Mary’s Loop Drive to Loma…
Cool temps and empty trails abound at night.

Cool temps and empty trails abound at night.

The Town

The riding season in Eagle is generally from about March through November, with some trails closing early and late for wildlife protection. The Eagle Ranch Golf Course has recently embraced fat biking on groomed XC ski trails in the winter time, and two of three loops on the Haymaker Trail remain open in winter. Eagle is about 2000 feet higher than Fruita, and some of the longer rides can get into subalpine elevations. This means that riding is still an option during the middle of the day, and some rides have a little more shade than the Fruita moonscape.

Haymaker and Eagle Ranch are also great night riding areas. I’ve never run into another trail user on a night ride, and I’m surprised that night riding isn’t more popular in the area.

Trail networks are connected to town by a series of paved bike paths and connector trails. Easy bike access means most group rides include a stop at one of two local brewpubs, the Duty Boot’s phenomenal outdoor seating area, or Yeti’s Grind, a coffee shop owned by the frame sculptors of Lov Bikes.

Lodging mostly consists of the usual selection of run-of-the-mill interstate chain hotels. The town does not allow camping except during special events, but there are options in nearby Gypsum and at Sylvan Lake State Park.

The Turniphead trailhead in Eagle, CO

The Turniphead trailhead in Eagle, CO

Like this in Fruita? …try this in Eagle
Fruita Fat Tire Festival Eagle Outside Festival, free Thursday night concerts at Town Park
Aspen St. Coffee Co. Yeti’s Grind
The Hot Tomato You’re out of luck, there’s no competing with The Hot Tomato!
Suds Bros. 7 Hermits, Bonfire Brewing
Kamilla’s Kafe The Grand Avenue Grill
Over the Edge Sports Mountain Pedaler
Super 8 AmericInn
Beginner friendly single and double track and wide open spaces in Eagle Ranch.

Beginner friendly single and double track and wide open spaces in Eagle Ranch.

Is Eagle, Colorado really the next Fruita?  Maybe not, but mountain biking fever has become an all-out epidemic in Eagle, and it is quietly being recognized as a serious mountain biking destination by Colorado cyclists.  Many savvy Denver-area riders have learned that I-70 Exit 147 is no longer just a stop for gas on the way to Fruita.  In fact, I’ve talked to several serious mountain bikers who say it’s been a while since they’ve made it west of Eagle since discovering the goods.

Bring:

  • Singletracks’ smartphone app (it’s hard to find some of the trailheads) or Mountain Bike Eagle’s amazing guidebook and map.
  • Your favorite trail bike, fat bike, XC bike, or all-mountain setup.  You’ll see all of these on Eagle’s trails, and more Ibis Mojos than you’ve ever seen before thanks to The Mountain Pedaler.
  • Lots of water: It can be hot and dry, and it’s easy to put together a 4-hour backcountry loop.
  • Golf clubs:  If you play, check out the Arnold Palmer designed course at Eagle Ranch.

Also check out:

  • Big mountain terrain at Vail, about 30 minutes away.
  • The hot springs in Glenwood Springs, also about 30 minutes away.
  • Lee’s Way Down, a phenomenal new downhill trail 20 minutes away in Avon.

More information:

image006About the Author

Dave Dempsey is a professional crime fighter by night, clydesdale mountain biker by day.  When he’s not stopped panting on the side of the trail, you can find him sweating profusely atop his clyde-optimized custom Pivot Mach 6 on singletrack across Western Colorado and beyond.  Dave lives within shouting distance of the dusty singletrack of Eagle, Colorado.

Instagram:  @VailSnowRider

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# Comments

  • Jeff Barber

    Great article! Looking at our recent MTB tourism survey, it appears a big reason Fruita is popular because it’s close to Moab. 🙂 Eagle isn’t very close to Moab but at least it’s on the way from the front range which is where a lot Moab riders come from.

    I’ve ridden a bit in both places and would say the trails feel similar, though clearly Fruita has a head start on mileage. The Eagle trails aren’t nearly as remote either which could be a good thing or bad thing depending on what you’re looking for. Sometimes I like to be able to ride my bike to the bar after finishing a ride. 🙂

  • GimmeAraise

    I have heard a lot about Eagle Mountain Biking in the past two years. Although I have never been on their dirt, it seems like their TA is pouring a lot of $$$ into it, good on them. However, one issue I am having is this comparison. Please let help me out here, can you ride Eagle trails right now? The reason I go to Fruita is for early season cycling, and I know a lot of other people are in the same boat, at least where I’m from. And When I think of Fruita, I do not just think of Koko Trails and 18 road, I also consider Lunch Loops and Rabbit Valley. I look forward to heading to Eagle and Glenwood this summer, as they have been on the list for a while.

    • John Fisch

      ” . . . can you ride Eagle trails right now?”

      Probably not. Eagle is higher and cooler than Fruita, so the season starts later. Eagle is perfect for the shoulder seasons–after the desert heats up but before the high country melts out. The same goes for the fall.

    • laurat

      Can’t ride in Eagle quite yet – muddy right now (3/11). It varies from year to year of course….Winter Wildlife closures that effect many of our trails end 4/15 – we will definitely be dry by then, and if before we’ll try to get access a little early. No wildlife closures for Boneyard or the 1st sections of Haymaker – trail conditions are posted on https://www.facebook.com/pages/Mountain-Bike-Eagle/143659682353203 and https://www.facebook.com/pages/Hardscrabble-Trails-Coalition/116805805073575?ref=hl

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