Four years ago I rode the Flowing Park trail on the Grand Mesa. I swore I’d never ride it again. It was 14 miles long, took us four hours to complete, and involved lava rock and rain.
This was me, 4 years ago, before I knew what I was getting into on this trail…
In any case, it took a day of working in gorgeous flower-strewn meadows last Saturday to convince me to give the trail another chance. I didn’t try it again because I thought the trail itself would really be that much better, but because I knew the views and the wildflowers might, just might, be worth it.
After an hour and 15 minutes of driving, the BF and I arrived at the Flowing Park trailhead. We made sure to take rain coats (we were biking at 10,000ft in July, after all) and plenty of snacks. The ride is long, and doesn’t allow for much coasting: riders are pedaling almost all of the trail’s 14 miles. Still, the views…
…and the wildflowers…
In places the singletrack is hard to follow. Some spurs have been blocked off with bits of log, and trail markers can often be seen in the distance. I always remember to aim towards the edges of the Mesa for the first half of the ride. Unfortunately, Flowing Park gets very little love, so the meadows are beginning to reclaim the trail a bit. There’s a good reason, though.
The first 4-5 miles of Flowing Park are great fun. It rolls through meadows and through a few rocky sections and has those great views I’ve mentioned many times already. The next portion though, roughly miles 6-10, is filled with lava rocks. There are areas where it’s easy to see why the trail goes where it does: there are few other options! Still, it makes for very difficult pedaling, and the fear that you’re going to shred your leg or a tire on sharp lava rock is pretty stressful.
This view of the area below us explains why its difficult to build the trail around the lava rock: It’s everywhere!
Ancient lava flow and sharp rocks fill sides of the Grand Mesa.
Between tough pedaling over lava rock and the fact that this section is completely flat (no coasting here!), fatigue starts to set in around mile 10. Fortunately, this is about the time that you reach the spur trail to Indian Point. It’s worth veering off track (you want to turn right to head back to your car) and heading straight/left for a break.
Watching a storm brew from Indian Point
Once you leave Indian Point (from this direction you’ll turn left to continue the ride, heading back across the meadow), it’s about 4.5-5 miles to the car. This portion of the trail becomes much less rocky and provides for a bit of coasting and trips into dark pine forests before it leads you back out across a meadow (turn right at the fence) and to your original junction with Flowing Park. Retrace your steps back to the parking area.
By the time we got to the junction, that storm was right on top of us. With hail falling around us, we kicked it into high gear and made haste to get back to shelter and our car as soon as possible. With rain coats on and only 2 miles to go, we felt continuing the ride was a better alternative than trying to wait out the storm.
In the end, I have to say that Flowing Park’s meadows might make me ride at least parts of it again; I think an out-and-back to Indian Point could be very nice, or an out-and-back to the first big overlook area on Flowing Park. I’m not sure I’ll ride the whole lariat again until we get a workday or two in to fix those areas. Still… when the heat gets to be too much down in Grand Junction, the flowers and cool temperatures start calling.