Recently my riding partners and I have been branching out from our favorite rides in order to check out some new or lesser-used trails in the Grand Junction/Fruita area. While we love the ones we ride most often (why else would we ride them?) sometimes we just want a change of pace. Here’s what we’ve uncovered:
Did you know there are other trails besides Prime Cut and Kessel out there? I’m sure you know about Joe’s Ridge, Zippity Do Dah, and maybe even Chutes and Ladders. Still, we found even more trails out there this summer that we’d never ridden before, and I’m not talking about the brand new but difficult to get to Sarlac trail, either!
Our idea for exploring at 18 Road sprang from the fact that it seems every single person there climbs up Prime Cut. Tired of all the traffic, we decided to branch out.
Vegetarian: This is arguably the easiest trail at 18 Road. The hardest part of the entire thing is riding down the hill from the main parking lot (the same hill you ride down to start Prime Cut, just across the gravel road from the parking area.)
Instead of bombing down the hill and turning left, ride straight up the edge of the dam around the dry cattle pond. On the far side you’ll see a few sign posts, and one will point you down Vegetarian. If you’re just learning to bike, or are taking the kids out for a short ride, this is a good trail for learning to bike on singletrack. I think cruising down it could be a lot of fun, but biking up it is just a tame way to reach a few other lesser-known trails: the Edge cut-off and Down Uppity.
After reaching the fork with Down Uppity, for our first lap we continued straight, towards the Edge Loop. The trail became more fun, picking up speed, with a rock here and there. We turned right onto the Edge Loop and continued a mostly-rolling ride into unknown territory.
Unknown territory included this steeper than steep whoop de do with a giant rut in it! Still, it was virgin and empty terrain for us, so we were up for anything! After another mile or so we reached a doubletrack. Across the way the Edge Loop continues, but we turned right, to continue on the “cut off.” After a short climb on doubletrack, we were once again cruising at high speeds, this time on a dirt road. After a mile or so we turned right again, heading back towards singletrack.
Once we reached the fence line we turned left. This put us on Chutes and Ladders, towards the end of the trail. From here we roared down the Chutes singletrack, huffed it up one last steep hill, and cruised back to our starting point. This ride is absolutely suitable for early intermediate riders. The few hard spots can be walked, and the rest will just be a blast!
To make an even longer ride, we headed back up Vegetarian and this time turned right onto Down Uppity. Down Uppity and Vegetarian can both be ridden in either direction, so you can take your pick. As a mostly flat to rolling trail, Down Uppity wouldn’t be a bad climb, and Vegetarian would be a fun but tame downhill ride.
This trail cruises along the edge of a small mesa and sometimes is almost too close to the edge for comfort. Since it isn’t a technical ride, though, the exposure isn’t as bad as it could be, and probably won’t bother most people at all. It’s a pretty straight-forward trail that intersects with Chutes and Ladders at the very end of that trail.
Our total ride mileage for the day was around 10 miles. Most of this terrain is great for intermediate riders and is a nice change of pace when you’re tired of biking with what seems like a hundred other people on Prime Cut and Kessel. Though these weren’t nearly as much fun as Kessel, we still managed to enjoy ourselves!
Later in the season, again eager for something “different,” we decided to check out Zion Curtain. Located out in Rabbit Valley, Zion Curtain is the lesser-known and lesser-ridden cousin of Western Rim. It is technical, not well maintained, and difficult to get to–but if you’re looking for something different, this is it!
We turned right off of the exit ramp towards the “Trail through Time” area of Rabbit Valley, and followed the dirt road up past a primitive campground. There are occasionally signs to convince you that you aren’t driving into the middle of nowhere (even though you clearly are), and the road can get quite rough. You definitely need at least an SUV with decent clearance (our CRV made it just fine, but our old Subaru would not have). Park at the first cattle gate that you come to. You might be able to drive farther, but at some point the going will get too rough. This is a good place to stop with a decent parking spot.
From here you’ll bike down the road for a few more miles and then bike under an I-70 bridge. It can get quite sandy here, so you might have to walk. You’ll see this in the distance:
From here you’ll turn right to continue to the singletrack. Zion can be ridden several ways. We rode it as an out-and-back. You can ride it as a loop (see the directions on the trail page here) or you can even make an epic 30-something mile ride by combining Western Rim and Zion Curtain.
The singletrack sign is pretty obvious, and will be on your left after a bit of dirt road riding. The day we headed out here, everything around us was in bad shape. All of our trails were rutted from recent monsoonal rains, and Zion was no different. It’s also a dirt bike trail, so there were ruts and lots of rubble. There was a lot of walking involved, and none of us were very happy about this trail experience.
The further we went, though, the better the trail got. It has lots of fun, rocky, technical climbing and lots of pedally sections over rock, too. The views are spectacular! We really enjoyed looking down from Zion and seeing the start of the Western Rim trail:
We cruised on for about 6 miles, with most of the rutted stuff back behind us at miles 1 and 2. When we reached a steep uphill and realized we were running short on time, we decided to turn around. The good news for us was that almost all of the return trip would be downhill!
Suddenly, we were enjoying this trail way more! There were great little dirt bike whoops to hit, fun technical rock riding to head down, and a good bit of high speed flowing trail. Adelle even managed to make it through this rubble-filled steep downhill section:
In the end, we all agreed we’d be up for trying this trail again and maybe even doing the full loop. If you’ve been out here lots of times and really are looking to explore more, give Zion a shot! But be sure you’ve got good directions–it’s tricky out there! Also note that drive time from Grand Junction to where we parked was about an hour. It’s definitely an all-day experience.
Your turn: What new trails in your own backyard have you explored lately?