Believe it or not, there are still trails in the Grand Valley that I haven’t ridden. Zip-off and Zippity Do Dah were two of them. While I’ve ridden Western Zippity and Frontside, and seen the turn off to Zippity Do Dah, I’ve never had the nerve to head across that very exposed, empty ridge. It could have something to do with the sign there that has a skull and crossbones and warns of “EXPERT ONLY” terrain. It’s good that the sign is there: sometimes intimidation is a good thing.
Anyway, the other day Adelle and I set out from the 18 Road parking lot and turned down the trail that leads to the bottom of Kessel Run and Mojoe. This, of course, meant waiting for quite a few people climbing up the hill to go by. I’m sure they were all wondering where in the heck we were going. However, if you go down the hill and stay straight past the ends of Kessel and Mojoe, you’ll find yourself on a rarely used piece of singletrack. After crossing a cattleguard and making your way up two short but very steep hills, you’ll find yourself here:
Welcome to Zip-Off! Years ago, if you wanted to access Western Zippity or Frontside from this side, you had to turn left here and then ride down a dirt road for a few miles to reach the Western Zippity turn off. Now you can meander down about 3 miles of narrow, flowing singletrack!
Honestly, Zip-Off as an out and back (to the Western Zippity intersection and back) would be a good ride for beginners… perhaps not first timers, but after a few rides this would be a good one. After the short, steep hills in the beginning there are no obstacles. The trail is narrow, but there is limited exposure, and almost no rocky sections. There are a few whoop-de-dos and berms to practice on too.
From here, we rode about another mile, picked up Western Zippity, and continued toward the ominous Frontside switchbacks. Western Zippity is a beautiful little trail. It climbs more than you think, but is never steep. You’ll cross a dirt road, and then at the next intersection, turn right.
If you’re seeking thrills, Zip-Off and Western Zippity honestly aren’t for you. They’ll bore you. But if you want a great cross country ride with very few encounters with other people, you should check them out.
The real “fun” comes after you’ve hiked up the Frontside switchbacks and started down Zippity-Do-Dah. Known for it’s extremely steep hills, Zippity is considered an expert trail. If you need proof, check out this pic from the media library here on Singletracks:
This photo doesn’t even do it justice. That hill looked WAY steeper when I was standing at the top of it than it seems in this photo!
I’ll say this much: if the steep hills on Joe’s Ridge are intimidating to you, do not attempt Zippity. Even after riding Joe’s many many times, the two steepest hills on this ride still got the best of me. They were just… so steep!
The good news is that the views along this trail are spectacular, and not all the hills are as steep as that.
If I’m being honest, what didn’t impress me about Zippity was that after ever steep downhill we encountered a steep uphill, some of which were so steep they were unrideable. I just felt like I was having to get off my bike an awful lot.
At any rate, we had a great time exploring. Zip-off is good to know about for riding with beginners, and the whole route is a good one for avoiding crowds. If you ride out the first ridge and decide that Zippity isn’t for you (and you’ll know at the first exposed corner), you can turn around and ride down Frontside to Joe’s Ridge, or even down to the campground road where you can pick up Kessel Run via a marked spur trail.
I’m sure lots of folks are headed out to 18 Road soon. Have fun and please remember to stay on the trail!