Mountain Biking Fruita/Grand Junction

It’s hard to even know where to begin when writing about the Fruita-Grand Junction mountain biking scene.  Many readers have biked here before, while others may have only heard about us and thought, I should go there!  Either way, hopefully this guide will provide you with some help information for planning your trip.

When people speak of “Fruita,” to me they’re talking about a larger area that actually encompasses 5 distinct bike areas and three towns with great apres-bike food and brews.  What follows is an outline of each of those areas’ bike trails plus dining and lodging information.

Fruita – 18 Road Trails

The 18 Road trails are great for beginners with a few rides under their belts.  They are less rocky and less technical than trails at other areas in the valley but can be narrow and some are rather exposed.

The 18 Road trails are in the desert at the foot of the Bookcliffs.  The main trailhead features a gravel parking lot with bathrooms and a pavilion on the left.  There is also a campground a little further up the road.

These trails are great for families–I’ve seen just-barely-big-enough-to-ride kids on a few of the trails at 18 Road. The trails are also great for more advanced riders looking to bomb down dusty trails with expertly-constructed berms, rollers, and whoop-de-dos.

The most well-known trails in the system include Prime Cut (most often used to go “up”), Joe’s Ridge, and Kessel.  Newer trails that should definitely be checked out include PBR (off Prime Cut) and Trail B (off the bottom of Joe’s Ridge).  For something different and a longer ride, try Chutes and Ladders.  If none of those are extreme enough, make sure to ride Zippity-Do-Dah, located off Frontside near Joe’s Ridge.

The BLM campground here used to be free but will start charging a small fee this year of $10/night.  It is open March – November and has firepits, picnic tables, and pit toilets but no water.  The sites are fairly large and seem to have at least a little privacy for tents. There is room for 2-4 cars to park at each site.

In Fruita the one place every biker heads to for dinner is The Hot Tomato.  They have New Belgium beers on tap and they do, honestly, have amazingly good pizza.  However, they’re closed on Sundays and Mondays so plan ahead!

Back on the other side of the roundabout is Munchies (319 W Aspen Ave, look for the giant dinosaur out front).  Munchies serves fabulous burgers, gigantic reuben sandwiches, and homemade milkshakes.  This place is also closed on Sundays, so where the HECK do you eat in Fruita on a Sunday? Read on.

Camilla’s Kafe features an eclectic menu with some Mexican items, great breakfast, and sandwiches (watch out, this place fills up fast). Or, hit El Tapatio on the other side of the interstate across from the Dinosaur Museum (which is a great place to visit on a rainy day if you have kids.)  Pablo’s Pizza of Fruita is a little gem located in a shopping center on the same side of the street as El Tapatio, but behind it.  You can’t see the restaurant from the street but you can reach it by either turning near the Taco Bell and winding your way back to the shopping center, or from the frontage road (turn by the bank).  Like Hot Tomato, Pablo’s serves huge tasty pizzas and great beer.

Kokopellli / Loma

The Kokopelli / Loma trails are some of the most scenic in the valley.  Almost every trail overlooks the Colorado River at some point and the variety of trails–from beginner to expert–will provide something for everyone.  If you’ve never biked in the Fruita area before, these are the trails you’ll want to check out.

The trails here are classic and include some of the oldest official bike trails in the area, making this area hugely popular.  If you’re here in April/May or September/October just know that you will encounter many, many mountain bikers on the trails.

Some of the most popular and well-known rides here include Mary’s Loop / Horsethief Bench, Steve’s, and Rustler’s.  Rustler’s is a great warm-up ride or a great beginner ride.  Honestly it’s just one of my favorite short rides period.  If you’ve biked here several times, however, you might want to head out to some of the trails at the western end of the area.

While there are technical sections on Mary’s, they are walkable and so even early intermediate riders can enjoy most of this trail.  Riding out on Mary’s and back on Wrangler’s (take the 2nd entrance after the Horsethief turn off) can also provide a bit of a different route.  Take note though, even though Wrangler’s is described as “beginner” the downhill on the backside can be quite tricky for some.

There are no food options or lodging options out here (camping is not allowed) but Fruita is only 4 miles east on I-70.  Along with the 18 Road campground, there is also a campground at the Fruita section of James Robb State Park and there are also a few hotels here too: La Quinta, Super 8, and Comfort Inn.

Rabbit Valley

The Western Rim trail in Rabbit Valley is a great alternative for those who’ve ridden at Loma and 18 Road many times and are looking for a similar-type ride. 

I’ve written about this trail before but wanted to briefly mention it.  Rabbit Valley is further west on I-70, past Loma and Mack.  There are no food options out here, but there are several camping areas out this way.

Grand Junction / Lunch Loop Area

The Lunch Loop/Tabeguache Trails are technical.  While there is a bike park and one “beginner” trail here, this is not where I would take beginning bikers.  However, if you’re looking to escape the crowds in Fruita or just want something different, head here.

The Lunch Loop trailhead features a nice parking area and bathrooms. The trails here are far more technical (in my opinion) than those at Loma, Rabbit Valley, or 18 Road.  They are almost all narrow singletrack, often exposed on one side, and are very rocky.  These trails are also a lot of fun!  It’s important to have a map, though, so stop in town at a bike shop for a map or print one from Singletracks! You can always glance at the large map at the trailhead or take your chances that printed maps will be in the map box, but there’s no guarantee.

Any number of loops and out-and-back rides exist out here.  The doubletrack trail is just as technical (in parts) as Pet-Y-Kes or any of the other “up” options like Curt’s Lane.  Think of this as a chance to explore a new area.  I’d recommend riding up Pet-Y-Kes (it gets easier after the first half-mile) and then maybe heading down High Noon and over to the Miramonte Rim area.

There are plenty of restaurant options in this area.  Chain restaurants abound out near the mall, but there are great local options too.  By following Grand Avenue back to 12th and turning left you can head just past the college to Kannah Creek Brewery (on your right just past 12th and Orchard).  Kannah has great microbrewed beer on tap, excellent baskets of fries, and good individual pizzas.  Further up 12th is the Ale House (frequented by college students).  They too have great beer on tap and a surprisingly good pizza.  Also, their nachos are excellent.

Down on Main Street (take Grand and turn right onto 1st then left onto Main) is the original Pablo’s Pizza location, a good Nepalese restaurant, a decent sushi place, Suehiro’s, and a few good bars: the Rockslide is at 4th and Main and Blue Moon is at 7th and Main.  Blue Moon has “Greek” day every Thursday with homemade pastitsio. Look for the statue of the girl with her hands against the wall.  Really.  Main Street is a neat place to visit to see the art on the corner, including a dinosaur riding a bike!

If you plan to stay in Grand Junction, hotels are either found on Main Street (Spring Hill Suites, Hampton Inn) or out on Horizon Drive where there is just about one of everything. Spring Hill is our newest and most modern hotel and it is located right on Main Street.

Palisade / Grand Mesa

COPMOBA and several other groups have done a great job rerouting and updating the Palisade Rim trail.  These trails are as technical as the Lunch Loop trails with a few exposed portions, but there are also petroglyphs and awesome views here.  If some in your group feel like a hike (literally, if you need a break from riding), this is an excellent choice.

The Palisade Rim trail is an 8 mile advanced trail. And if you want to check out a great higher-altitude trail, try the West Bench trail on the Grand Mesa.  The other big trail up here is the Flowing Park loop, but if you’re in Junction to ride there are better trails.

One great perk of riding in Palisade is getting to go to the Palisade Brewery afterward. Of course this is just past the DeBeque Winery and the Palisade Distillery which are also worth checking out.  The brewery though?  The brewery has brisket–sandwiches and even Philly Cheesesteaks.  Oh, and free popcorn too.

There is only one hotel out here and that’s the Wine Country Inn.  It’s probably not the best choice for bikers, but if you really like wine, hang out in Palisade for a bit and check out some of the wineries.  How often can you say you’ve been to a winery in the desert?

The riding options in the Fruita / Grand Junction area are sometimes overwhelming, even for locals!  I usually pick an area and then narrow it down from there.  Each of these areas has great riding, it just depends on what you’re in the mood for.