Fruita Mountain Bike Trip

Ever since our Canyonlands National Park White Rim Trail bikepacking adventure in 2019, we’ve longed for another bike trip to the desert. We finally returned in April 2022—this time to western Colorado. This trip was different. We didn’t sleep under the stars, carry all our water, or push fully-loaded bikes up steep hills. Instead, we treated ourselves to a comfortable Airbnb. We lingered over breakfast (and Wordle) each morning, spent the afternoon hours traversing miles of flowy singletrack, and returned to real food, showers, and clean beds in the evening. As much as I love a good sufferfest, I admit this wasn’t a terrible way to spend a bike vacation.

Day 1: Book Cliffs (18 Road) Trails. After picking up our full suspension Rocky Mountain bikes and laminated trail maps, we drove to the outskirts of Fruita, Colorado, where the Book Cliffs rise abruptly up from flatland.

view from the lower parking lot at Book Cliffs

Prime Cut trail is the easiest way to access the upper trailheads. (Well, the easiest way is to drive to the upper parking lot, but seriously, what’s the fun in that? The downhills are immeasurably more fun when they’re earned.) At the top of Prime Cut, we turned right and took PBR down. This loop was recommended to us as a good introduction to Book Cliffs, and it was – a nice gentle climb and a fast, smooth, flowy descent with lots of banked turns.

With big grins, we started up Prime Cut again. At the top, we turned left towards Joe’s Ridge. This was one of the trails that drew us to the area. It follows an exposed, narrow ridgeline with steep drops and sweeping turns. My son went first, then my husband, and after getting a few photos I reluctantly hopped on my bike and started down.

It was scary. I used the brakes quite a bit. But, it was beautiful and crazy fun. We finished the day with a couple more climbs up Prime Cut, taking PRB and Kessel Run down.

Day 2: Kokopelli Trails. Bikepackers can follow the Kokopelli trail from Grand Junction to Moab; that trip is on my list. But there are also a series of incredible loop trails weaving through plateaus along and above the Colorado River that can keep adventurous riders busy for days. On our first day at this trail system, we took Mary’s Loop to Steve’s Loop and rode counterclockwise to Steve’s Cut-off, returning on Mary’s Loop back to the car. We spent much of the day tracing the river.

Day 3: Back to Kokopelli. This time we started with Rustler’s Loop – a great warm-up – and then hopped on Mary’s for the climb up to Horsethief Bench trail. We carried our bikes down the steep rock staircase – if I didn’t know better I’d say it’s completely unridable, but….it’s been done. Once we navigated that inital descent, Benchthief was 100% ridable, beautiful, and fun.

After climbing out of Horsethief carrying our bikes on our backs (no easy task!), we turned left on Mary’s and took it to Wrangler’s. Once again we had to work for our rewards on this one, but it paid off. Wrangler’s ended up being one of my unexpected favorites.

Day 4: Back to Book Cliffs. We had watched videos of the Zippity Do Da trail and it looked terrifying. Like Joe’s Ridge, it follows a ridgeline – a longer, steeper, ridgeline. After warming up on Prime Cut/PBR, we took Zip-off to Western Zippity, winding our way towards the west side of the cliffs. Once the trail reaches the cliffs, it takes a direct route up. I paused at the top after a short hike-a-bike, mustered as much courage as I could find, and took off after my son.

It was terrifying. Fortuantely we had this trail all to ourselves, so I was able to pause now and then and collect my thoughts – and take a few photos.

After Zippity, we finished the day with a relaxing climb up Vegetarian and a super fun and flowy Down Uppity back to the parking lot. It was time to return the bikes. There are an infinite number of ways to spend four days mountain biking around Fruita, but we were happy with all our trail choices.

We finished our vacation with a drive through the Colorado National Mounument. On our next trip to the area, I’d like to bike through the monument, and follow the Kokopelli from Grand Junction to Moab…next time.

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