Fruita and Grand Junction are the proverbial home of The Pro’s Closet. It was there that our founder, Nick Martin, spent his early days living out of his VW bus, eating oatmeal for each meal, and selling bike parts on eBay to keep the dream of riding every day alive. So, of course, it’s essential for every starry-eyed TPC mountain biker to someday make their pilgrimage west, and receive the blessings of the desert.
This year the TPC team decided to make the 5-hour trek to Fruita in early May to attend the 23rd annual Fruita Fat Tire Festival, Colorado’s premier mountain bike festival. As one of the top cycling expos in the state, it is the perfect place to meet vendors, industry insiders, other passionate cyclists, and maybe partake in a few bike demos.
Fruita and Grand Junction are world-class cycling destinations, only an hour from Moab, and worth visiting for any mountain biker looking for adventure. With spring snow and rain turning our home trails into a muddy, unrideable mess, we were all itching to escape into the desert heat and ride. The following are some of our favorite trails to hit, and must-dos for any Fruita or Grand Junction newbie:
PBR and Zippity Do Da - 18 Road, Fruita
18 Road is the best trail system to hit after a long day of driving, most everything is smooth and there aren’t any extreme or technical features, so it’s usually the first place we go once we pull into town. This is flow central, with every trail perfectly carved into the landscape to create swooping dirt roller coasters. Trails cater to every skill level, so it’s the perfect place to take a beginner still waiting to fall in love with mountain biking.
The two must rides are PBR and Zippity Do Da. PBR is short for Pumps, Bumps, and Rollers, which this trail has plenty of. It’s good for beginners but gets shreddy when ridden at top speed, allowing more skilled riders to smash berms and gap doubles. Zippity Do Da traverses the top of a line of ridges extending from the mesa, providing great views and classic riding. Be prepared for plenty of sphincter clenching exposure and a couple of intensely steep (but short) sections.
Every trail at 18 Road is directional, so no matter the volume of trail users it never seems to feel too crowded. The popular trails are all fairly short which means you can ride lap after lap, as many as your legs can take. There is also camping right in the middle of the trail system. This is a great place to stay for a weekend as you easily bust out a few laps before breakfast, before bed, or whenever you’re back at camp between trips out to other trails.
Here's our TPC campsite with Seth carbo-loading before hitting The Ribbon Trail.
Steve’s Loop & Horsethief Bench - Kokopelli Trails, Fruita
These trails encompass some of the most beautiful riding you’ll find in Fruita, maybe even the world. Pressed up against one of the most beautiful landscapes of the American West is the Kokopelli Trails, just a few miles west of Fruita. Here you’ll find breathtaking canyon views, and trails that can make even the most jaded riders wax poetic.
Steve’s Loop is the easier option, often taken by riders looking for the most epic scenery Fruita has to offer. The trail takes you right up to the edge of the canyon, providing some flowy riding and exciting exposure. Take your time, because this is the place to go if you really want to revel in nature’s unbridled beauty. The TPC team couldn’t resist and stopped often to simply admire the view and take plenty of amazing photos.
Horsethief Bench packs a little different flavor. The entrance, known as the Horsethief Bench drop in, is legendary for its difficulty. It takes a path straight down the side of the canyon with large drops and holes that must be precisely navigated. Most walk, and only a select few successfully ride down. Once at the bottom you’ll be treated to a mountain biking masterpiece, a short loop featuring high-speed flow, drops, and plenty of technical chunk. A must ride for any aspiring shredder.
The TPC gang watches Bruce Lin barely survive the Horsethief Bench Drop-In.
The Ribbon & Lunch Loops, Grand Junction
The Ribbon is the bucket list trail to ride in the Grand Junction area. There’s simply nothing else like it. Rising above the town of Grand Junction is an enormous slab of rock, pasted onto the side of a mountain. One day, years ago, mountain bikers realized it’d be awesome to ride down it! This is a trail that’s usually shuttled unless you’re a glutton for punishment and want to make the 90-minute trudge up the road to where the trail begins.
The highlight of the trail are the two high-speed slab sections, where fearless riders have been known to go over 40, even 50 mph. The Ribbon also has several technical sections between and after the slabs in the form of steep slickrock, sandy corners, and rocky chutes that will challenge most riders. Everything is walkable but also completely rideable if you’re up to the task. (Check out the footage of some of our riders cleaning the trails most technical moves!)
Though not entirely necessary, it’s nice to ride the Ribbon with a guide or someone who’s ridden it before as it’s easy to lose your way on the massive slab or get in over your head. At the very least, it’s always best to not ride alone. The trail has some skinny and exposed sections on the slabs where you could feasibly ride off a cliff. But it’s all worth it for the incredible moonlike landscape and unique features. Nowhere else can you ride a slab like this. It’s a trail you’ll tell stories about when you get home.
Colby sticks to Bruce's wheel on The Ribbon Trail.
Free Lunch - Lunch Loops, Grand Junction
This is one of Grand Junction’s most difficult trails, and the personal favorite of our founder, Nick Martin. Free Lunch is a veritable playground for technical mountain biking. At only just over a mile long, it’s short, but in that distance, it packs drop after drop and plenty of chunky, technical riding.
This trail is for experts only, and at the entrance is what is known as a “filter.” This is a feature that you must be able to ride if you plan to ride the rest of the trail. It’s an angled slab that you boost off of onto the trail. If you can’t do it then no worries, the Lunch Loops trail system is expansive and filled with a plethora of other exciting and fun trails. But if you’re ready to get rowdy then this is the place to be.
After descending from the opening you begin a series of large and technical drops that get harder as the trail progresses. We recommend inspecting each on your first ride before trying to ride them. If a drop seems beyond you then there is a slightly easier ride-around option for each feature that is clearly marked with handy signage. Though it’s over quick, this is a trail worth repeating. Each feature lends itself well to sessioning and you can work your way up to hit each one. Once you can successfully link every feature together, you can’t help but feel like a superhero.
Svet, our computer programmer at TPC, navigates some flowy downhill at Lunch Loops.
Fruita and Grand Junction provide excellent trails for riders of any skill level, from beginners to experts. The prime season is in the Spring or Fall when the weather isn’t too hot, making it the perfect way to bookend your riding season. And if you’re not mountain biking, nearby Colorado National Monument is worth exploring and easily one of the most beautiful places on Earth.
We couldn’t ride everything worth riding in a single weekend, so we’ll return again soon. Maybe we’ll see you on the trails!
Want to learn more about these trails, check out the trail guides on MTB Project.
Bruce is a writer who loves getting his bikes dirty, trying new tech, and riding tough trails that make him suffer for hours at a time.