I started this while Andrea & I were still in Colorado. I’m finishing it sitting at home a week later now that I have Internet & time not driving 🙂
After leaving Gunnison Andrea & I headed to Fruita with the intention of staying camped out in the 18 Road desert, riding the MTB trails there as well as some of the ones closer to the Utah border known as the Kokopelli loops. We had four days of riding ahead and were happy to stay put for the first two nights and then do some exploring of trails we hadn’t seen. Mission accomplished!
The drive to Fruita was about five hours, included crossing over Monarch pass and shopping as well so no riding on the Monday. And it ended with a motel room for the night, the first for us on this trip. The shower was a welcome treat.
We did get to ride three separate sections of trails in the Fruita area so let me tell you a little about those very different days of riding starting with 18 Road.
18 Road North
There are more than 20 trails with a little over 80 km to cover on the 18 Road trails (here’s a link to the MTBProject map). They’re a mixed bag ranging from long climbs to pump track fun. Throw in some ridges to ride down and dry riverbeds and you’re pretty much got the picture of this area. Desert that will leave a dusty coating on everything and trails to put a smile on your face. You can get trail maps at the bikes shops and even the coffee shops so be sure to get one there. The trail heads may or may not have any so don’t assume.
The campground at the end of the dirt road was mostly empty when we arrived on Tuesday morning and totally full when we left Saturday. With ample options to pick from we took a site on a lower loop that was a little sheltered, off the “main” road and only had one other campsite so we wouldn’t have a big group camping with us. Turned out to be a good choice.
Day one was an easy ride down a couple of the trails and then back up. With the exception of Edge Loop the trails run down from the Book Cliffs and then there are a couple of climbs back up to repeat. I’ve never been tempted to ride the Edge Loop though… the other trails are so much fun I couldn’t see the point in the limited time we’ve had there. Our route was across Frontside to Western Zippity, both trails that can be ridden in either direction. Prime Cut is the main route back up if you don’t want to ride the road. And then for fun we took Kessel Run back down with another ride back up to our campsite.
Day two was a little longer with the full Chutes & Ladders trail, Vegetarian back up to Down Uppity and then another ride up Prime Cut. To finish the day we went down Joe’s Ridge where I opted to head back up the campground loop while Andrea kept going down MoJoe and then took Western Zippity back up. About the only trail we didn’t ride was Zippity Do Da and this was because it’s one of those trails that pushes all the wrong buttons. Joe’s Ridge has a few sections when the terrain falls away on both sides and ZDD is even more dramatic. We just didn’t feel like walking it.
This group of trails is also called Mary’s Loop in honour of Mary Nelson and you’ll find a marble plaque on the trail named after her if you know to look. (MTBProject link)
The trailhead is a few miles west of Fruita so we packed up Babe and headed out after two days of no driving. These trails run along the north/west side of the Colorado River as it makes it’s way to Utah. And it feels more like Utah riding than the 18 Road trails. Dramatic scenery and some trails that come too close to the edge for my liking! We started with the easy Rustler’s Loop which is perfect to stretch your legs while taking in the scenery. From there we headed to the start of Mary’s Loop and took the first branch off onto Wrangler’s Loop. This included the toughest climb of the day, most of the trails are rolling with some technical sections. Then back to the main section of Mary’s Loop before trying Steve’s Loop. The most challenging attribute is how close to the edge the trail goes at times. Close enough that we walked a lot. And paused to take a few photos and regain our nerves.
For this last reason, I think this was our least favourite day of riding. And it was almost enough to have us skip the Rabbit Valley trails the next day. I’m glad we didn’t though, they were a lot more fun. First though, here are some photos from the Loops.
When the sun sets in the desert it gets dark and cold very quickly. This Friday night was the coldest night of the trip even though the daytime temperatures were still up in the mid-twenties.
As I mentioned the walking because of trails so close to the cliff edge was a turnoff for us. We had heard that the Western Rim trail was nice but we were a little hesitant. So we started out on the double track Kokopelli trail Don’t let double track fool you though, this is still a technical and challenging trail. One that you can take all the way to Moab in Utah if you like. And you’ll pass a marker to let you know you’ve crossed the state line. And then you’ll get to the Western Rim. You’ll know you’re there when you take a steep drop-off down the rocks and start winding your way along some fun single track. Here’s a link to the route. This turned out to be a longer ride that we expected (so pay attention to the scale of maps as they change!) and while we had intended to ride Rabbit Valley 2 back we ended up getting back on Kokopelli. I think this was the first day we drank almost all of the water we’d brought along. And getting back to Babe was a delight.
So there you have it! This was the end of our riding time. We had one more night of desert camping and then we were headed to Denver via Boulder. Stay tuned for the rest of the story.
If you’re wondering about the second Westy that showed up, Mike drove from California to do some riding around Fruita and Moab. He spotted Babe and spent a few days camped next to us.