Each spring, when there’s still snow in the mountains but firm, dry trails in the desert, riders flock to Fruita and Grand Junction. The Hot Tomato becomes almost standing room only, and so does the entrance to Horsethief Bench. But you don’t have to succumb to that! Instead, you can wait and visit Fruita in August. That’s right, August.
I sound crazy, I know, telling you to come bike in the desert in August, but just hear me out. The hottest part of the year here is in July, so by August it’s beginning to cool off again (slightly). In August the average high in Grand Junction is 90 and the average low is 60. That’s pretty sweet weather if you ask me. But if you need more convincing, here are 10 reasons why you should visit Fruita/Grand Junction in August.
1. The trails are empty.
Really. Imagine what Horsethief or Mary’s looked like the last time you rode here in the spring, and then look at this:
I took this picture from halfway up the Horsethief entrance/exit. There’s no one there. It’s so nice to ride this trail and not feel like twenty people are bearing down on you, ready to take you out if you don’t make the next drop fast enough. You can take whatever line you want, be leisurely climbing hills, and ride the most popular trails in the area without crowds.
2. Free/cheap concerts.
Summer in Grand Junction is concert time. There are Riverfront concerts, concerts in town in Fruita, and even outdoor concerts at the Botanical Gardens. We’ve seen groups like Los Lonely Boys, Robert Earl Keen, and Poco all for free in the summer here. Trust me, concerts under the stars at the James M. Robb state park in Fruita, with the Colorado National Monument and river as backdrops, are awesome. There’s wine, beer, great food, and a whole community surrounding you.
3. Yummy food with no lines.
Bike early and then go into Fruita for breakfast or an early lunch. Camilla’s Kaffe serves breakfast on Sunday until about 12:30, and it’s awesome. Rellenos and eggs are my favorite, with their biker breakfast burrito a close second. You can also cross the interstate and find Pablo’s Pizza in a little shopping center on the left. They have great pizza and beer! Of course, if it’s a Tues-Sat you can actually have your choice of tables at the Hot Tomato, because the crowds have died down (they aren’t gone though, by any means!)
4. Cool ways to spend the heat of the day.
After your early bike ride and brunch, enjoy some of the cooler activities that Grand Junction and Fruita have to offer. You can go tubing, paddleboarding, or kayaking on the river. You can take a paddleboard or kayak up to the Grand Mesa and paddle around a reservoir or lake. Take a brewery tour of Edgewater Brewery, and then have lunch on their shaded patio before playing a game of corn hole on their lawn. Head out to Highline Lake and go swimming, or go wine tasting in Palisade. There’s plenty to do in the heat of the day.
Just look at that beautiful river calling out to you!
5. Pizzas with limited-time-only farm-fresh local ingredients.
Summer is the season of “The Peach” at the Hot Tomato, featuring local Palisade peaches. Yes, a pizza with peaches, Canadian bacon, and more. Each week in the summer, Pablo’s Pizza uses CSA ingredients like kale, swiss chard, fresh cherry tomatoes, and arugula. Gelato Junction, a great little gelato and ice cream shop in downtown Grand Junction, makes peach gelato and Olathe Sweet Corn gelato, which is reason enough to come visit!
“The Peach” seasonal pizza at The Hot Tomato
6. Farmer’s Markets.
Want to get those local ingredients for yourself? No matter when you’re here, there’s a Farmer’s Market happening somewhere in Mesa County. On Sundays there’s the Palisade Farmer’s Market with lots of fresh produce and crafts. On Wednesdays and Saturdays there’s a great produce and baked goods market out on the east end of North Avenue in the Teller Arms Shopping Center from 7am to noon. On Thursdays there’s the downtown Farmer’s Market in Grand Junction with everything from produce to crepes, pizza, and roasted green chile goodies. Plus, you don’t want to miss the drum circle! The downtown market starts at 5 and goes until around 8. Finally, there’s a Saturday market in Fruita. So no matter when you’re here, you can find great peaches, tomatoes, leafy greens, and more.
This awesome variety of tomatoes was just part of my haul from a recent trip to the Farmer’s Market.
7. Full Moon Riding!
The nights are long, the moon is high and bright, and summer time here is the right time for full moon rides! Get out there on Prime Cut or Rustler’s and find out what it’s like to bike at night. Take a headlamp just in case!
8. The Grand Mesa.
Rising above Grand Junction at an elevation of 10,000ft, the Grand Mesa is a great place to cool off in August. The mosquitoes are mostly gone, and the lakes are calling. There are long bike trails like Flowing Park and Mesa Top, hiking trails like Crag’s Crest and, my favorite, the West Bench Trail that runs behind Powderhorn Mountain Resort. I find the novelty of eating lunch on an old, lonely ski lift chair quite fun.
Don’t be fooled though, you might encounter some bogs and downed trees on West Bench!
Peaches, wineries, breweries, and distilleries, all in one tiny town. Palisade in the summer is filled with great food and places to visit. Sit on the patio outside the Palisade Brewery and enjoy the cool mist from their overhead misters while you sip a Dirty Hippie, eat free popcorn, and wait for your smoked brisket sandwich to arrive. Taste samples of fudge and wine together at Talon Winery, and don’t forget to try a Bloody Mary from Peach Street Distillery while you’re there. Ask anyone here, and they’ll tell you it’s the best out there. Plus, there are peaches, and a peach festival! Peach pie, peach cobbler, peach salsa, peach jam… it’s peach heaven.
10. You might decide to stay!
You might get here, see a beautiful afternoon thunderstorm over the Monument, and decide you’ve got to pack up your belongings in Georgia, Nebraska, etc. and move out to Western Colorado. Your family will think you’ve gone crazy and your dog might even shake his head in disbelief, but you’ll know the reasons why. You’ll know the allure of riding the trails the day after a storm has packed down the dirt. You’ll know the thrill of whooping down Kessel Run or Joe’s Ridge without encountering another soul, and you’ll know the relaxing happiness that comes from enjoying a cold local beer and a concert on the banks of the Colorado River. You’ll know what we know: there truly is no reason you shouldn’t visit Grand Junction in August.
Great article, thanks for sharing!
While all of your reasons started making me think this was a good idea, I just rode in Fruita in mid-September, which I imagine is cooler than August, and it was still WAY too hot for my blood. Sure, I imagine if you get out on the trail by 7am you’d be good, but anytime the thermometer breaks 80 it is WAY too hot, in my opinion. Also, while it’s a “dry” heat, there’s no respite from the sun. I think I’d almost rather ride in humid 90 degree weather on shady trails in deep forests than 90 degree weather in the unrelenting desert sun.
Just my personal preference 🙂 I’m sure you get used to it when you live there!
Also, the Grand Mesa sounds like a grand time!
We definitely have friends who think 80 is way too hot…on the other hand, I know plenty of east coast folks who can’t believe what a difference a lack of humidity makes. There is respite from the sun, even on Horsethief Greg! You just have to sit under a shade tree for a bit…they’re there 😉 I’m sure Fruita in August isn’t for everyone, but I”ll take heat over crowds any day.
I totally agree. I’ve even gone in the heat of the day and it really wasn’t that bad. The empty trails were worth it. In fact, it is great to ride in the winter when the Rockies are buried deep in pow. Plus, when it is hot, and you tend to ride really early or really late…or both…you tend to ride longer, and sometimes 2-3x in a day. The sunrise and sunset is unbeatable for those ‘epic’ shots, and the crazy winds are usually less. Great article! I miss it, and cannot wait to go back!!!!
Exactly! Awesome sunsets…and a great point about the wind!
I’m probably the most heat-averse person on this site if not this planet. I once did Fruita first week in June and that was tough enough for me. Was on the trails by 7 (kinda sucked because I’m really not a morning person either!) and off by 10, 11 at the latest, then would get in a sunset quickie as well.
In spite of all that, you’ve got me thinking about next August. There’s NOTHING on this earth so magnificent as a perfectly ripened, fresh Palisade Peach (Sorry, Jeff, GA comes in a distant second on this one). As a kid, my mom and I would drive the 4 hrs to Palisade and fill a full size van with peaches. When we got home, we made peach cobbler, peach pie, peach syrup, and peach fruit roll ups–with whatever peaches I didn’t eat on the way home.
I LOVE Pablos, but having never gone there during peach season, I had no idea about that kind of peach pie–looks fantastic! I must have one! So, I will go, just for that wonderful looking slice, and if I can suffer through some riding in the process, well . . . bonus!
@skibum – if you come in August and hate it, I’ll personally pay for your pizza at The Hot Tomato or Pablo’s 😉
That sounds like a deal I can’t refuse! Be forewarned, I eat a lot!!
May have to next year anyway since my son’s racing season runs through prime Fruita time (sep/oct).
The other thing is, I LOVE high alpine riding. Get me above treeline in the high rockies… man, I love it! And the season is so short above 11,000 feet… and August is one of the, like, 3 months that the riding is good up there. Seems like it would be a travesty to spend time in the desert when the high trails are in peak condition.
However, I’m digging skibum’s idea: mid-winter Fruita trip. Singletracks meet-up? 🙂
A TRAVESTY to spend time in the desert???? Blasphemy Greg. NO FRUITA FOR YOU! Alright, I’m kidding. I get you! Totally. We always go to Crested Butte in the summer for high alpine riding. It’s awesome! No doubt. Come on down if we have a dry January…although, shouldn’t you be skiing then?
See, I’m getting somewhat excited for ski season… but I’m just not used to the idea of NOT biking over the winter anymore.
Currently, I’m planning on biking during the week and skiing on the weekends over the winter. But if we hit a dry spell with no pow, I’m definitely entertaining the idea of some mid-winter MTB weekend trips!
but I’m just not used to the idea of NOT biking over the winter anymore.
Don’t worry Gregg I’ll ride plenty for the both of us this winter while you are just hanging out killing beers, watching the snow fall putting on the pounds! I won’t let you down! I am staying at Mulberry Gap Fri and Sat can’t wait! Enjoy the cold!
Haha Matt, if the snow is falling, I’ll be skiing it!
Enjoy Mulberry Gap!
Cold? Greg lives in the banana belt of Colorado. Nice warm temps during the day — plenty warm enough to bike — and very little precip. The continental divide to the west of Salida sucks all the moisture out of the clouds and deposits it under the ski lifts, leaving the valley dry. I think Greg has it all worked out. 🙂
@bonkedagain, let’s just say I’ve been planning this move for about 5 years…. 😉
Gonna make it out soon–Usually go in late sep/early oct, but with my son racing this year, our sep/oct weekends are spoken for . . . almost. Last race is this weekend–Fruita the next!
Still haven’t hit the Palisade Rim, so I think that will be Sat and, although Lunch Loops is our fave, we’ll probably do a few laps at 18 road on Sunday, especially since we have yet to hit MoJos (and loved PBR last trip).
Palisade Rim will probably be busy – just FYI. The Petroglyphs are all on the lower loop after the big drop (You’ll know it when you get to it). I’ll be interested to hear what you think! Stop at the brewery afterwards…free popcorn, awesome beer and GREAT sandwiches!