Top Three Rides: Fruita and Grand Junction
Only 90 minutes from Moab- and over the border into Colorado- sits Fruita and Grand Junction, often seen as the former’s “little brother”. But make no mistake about it, the riding in Fruita and GJ can be every bit as exciting and technical. Additionally, the area offers a great variety of riding- from the smooth, flowy trails of 18 Road to the ultra-technical Free Lunch trail in Lunch Loops. We have our favorites in Fruita, and because of that you’re likely to see some of these trails on a Fruita trip if you rally the crew and join us for four days.
Lunch Loops Area- Gunny Loop
OK, I’ll be honest- I rode in Fruita at least half a dozen times (maybe more!) before I made the 15 minute drive to Grand Junction and hit up the Lunch Loops. The area is often overlooked by visitors to the area, but it’s well-known by locals as having some of the best riding in the Grand Valley. Because of this, you’ll never encounter crowded trails or parking lots over here.
The Gunny Loop trail is at the “top” of the Lunch Loops trail system, and is a 6.5 mile point-to-point trail that connects various other trails. The first time I rode it a couple of years ago, I thought to myself: “this is one of the best designed and built trails in Colorado”. It has it all: flow, gentle climbs, scenery, techy sections, and some punchy, technical climbing.
To get to the Gunny Loop trail, you have to climb Tabeguache for about 30-40 minutes- it’s not a tough climb overall, but it can get steep at times. Don’t worry though, it’s worth it. Once you cross over the road and connect to the Gunny Loop, you’re rewarded with an hour of pure awesome. A gentle 15 minute climb has glimpses of what’s ahead… and once you reach the top, fasten your seatbelt. From super fast singletrack through open meadows, to well-built rock stair-steps, to some tight twisty turns- the Gunny Loop is freakin’ awesome. All told with the connectors, you can easily put together a 12-15 mile (2-3 hour) ride that will have you wishing for more.
18 Road- Zippity Do Dah
If you’ve been to Fruita before, then you’ve probably ridden Zippity- it’s a must-ride classic. Part of the 18 Road trail system just north of town, Zippity is one of the many “fingers” that descends… and what a descent it is. Although you do get a few super-steep, short climbs mixed in, Zippity is essentially a three-mile roller coaster on a mountain bike.
Most folks will pedal up either Prime Cut or the main dirt road to the top 18 Road trailhead, where you’ll take a left and ride past Joe’s Ridge on the Frontside trail. Frontside gives you a little taste of what’s to come, with a few steep drops and rollers, all with amazing views of the valley. But trust us, it’s merely an appetizer for what’s ahead on Zippity.
Zippity Do Dah is a trail that will push you mentally the first time you ride it- the drops are so steep you’ll wonder if you can ride your bike on it, and the ridge is so exposed you’ll hope it’s not windy that day. But don’t worry, because once you ride it the first time, you’ll keep coming back for more. And trust us, it’s all rideable, and it’s glorious.
Loma Loops- Horsethief Bench
Last but certainly not least is the Horsethief Bench Trail in Loma, only 5 minutes west of the town of Fruita. Horsethief is most popular for its ridiculously steep and technical drop-in (look up the videos on Youtube!), but don’t let that fool you- the rest of the trail is super fun with only a few short technical sections that will likely have you pushing your bike.
To access Horsethief, most people park at the main Loma trailhead and pedal up Mary’s, which is also known as the beginning of the Kokopelli Trail. This gives you a good 20-25 minute warm-up climb that will get you ready for the main event. Horsethief Bench itself is a ~4 mile loop that has everything- smooth, fast singletrack with technical sections, rock rollers, and views over the Colorado River that will leave you in awe.
After the drop-in (which 99.9% of riders walk, so wear comfortable shoes- no carbon soles!), take a left at the junction and ride the loop clockwise. You’ll immediately get a fun rollover on a short section of slickrock, followed by some banked turns and views out over the rim. From there, Horsethief is an up-and-down adventure that never has too much climbing, and just the right amount of pedaling. On our trips, we typically combine it with Mary’s, Wrangler, and Steve’s Loop to make for a solid 20+ mile ride.