Heaven Krista Crabtree -
Fruita, Colorado boasts some of
the best singletrack in the U.S.
The setting sun illuminates the blades of grass in
the meadow that spreads out before us. A smooth, shoulder-width trail stretches
to the horizon. Banded cliffs flank us on each side. There's no one else around
save forearm-sized lizards. Is this a savanna in Africa? No, it's Fruita,
Colorado, one of the country's newest mountain bike destinations.
Mountain bikers have been driving past this
mostly agricultural town for years en route to Moab, Utah, the pre-ordained
of biking. What they didn't know was that locals began developing trails in
Fruita in the early 1980s. Thanks to them and numerous volunteers, you can now
ride miles and miles on some of the buffest, baby-butt smooth, singletrack in
"An hour before sunset we head out for our
first ride in Fruita. We cruise down a drainage on Prime Cut to Joe's Ridge, at
first a curvy singletrack like a Disneyland ride without the lines..."
We pull off I-70 at the Fruita exit and load up
on food and water at City Market. Then it's a visit to Over the Edge Sports to
pick up the Fruita Fat Tire Guide, complete with maps and honest trail
descriptions. There are several camping options; we choose the Bookcliffs area
off of 18 Road for its proximity to the multiple loops and out and backs. It's
"leave no trace" camping in designated sites because of the fragile desert
ecosystem and means packing out all human waste.
The most noticeable aspects of the area, besides
the incredible open space and the fragrant Juniper trees, are the dust and the
heat so we create a tarp city between our vehicles as a respite from the
relentless, afternoon sun. In the vacation mode we set up lawn chairs and a
grill to entertain ourselves during the almost unrideable heat between 1pm and
4pm. People ride in Fruita year-round but many prefer the more mild
temperatures of spring and fall. Locals advise not to ride in the mud, as it's
the type of clay that will stop your bike and propel your body as well as
damage the trails. An hour before sunset we head out for our first ride in
Fruita. We cruise down a drainage on Prime Cut to Joe's Ridge, at first a curvy
singletrack like a Disneyland ride without the lines. The amusement park
grounds in this case is the Grand Valley fenced in by the Bookcliffs, a cliff
band of sandstone and adobe. We ride almost effortlessly through meadows, pump
our legs up whoop-de-dos and negotiate steep, technical sections.
There's something for every level here, including
the IMBA's first epic ride called The Edge, a 29-mile loop on singletrack and
fire roads complete with a rope portage down a 30-foot waterfall. The next
day we ride trails like Zippity-Doo-Dah, an advanced eight-mile loop with a
mellow start into a hard climb and a steep descent. Later, an out and back on
The Fronted provides us with a great views of the valley. A fiery sunset over a
beautiful meadow with a fast descent of the ladders off Chutes and Ladders
marks our finale at this mountain biking dreamworld.
For a change of venue, we pack up camp and head
just west of Fruita to Loma. The extensive trail systems here mark the genesis
of Fruita riding and also the beginning of the popular
Trail, a 144-mile trail with 4800 feet of climbing on singletrack and
two-track all the way to Moab.
On trails like Horsethief Bench, Lion's Loop and
Mary's Loop we find some radical descents and more singletrack with plenty of
exposure over the Colorado River, so much so that at points I feel my energy
bar resurfacing. Every corner delivers a view and there are plenty of scenic
stop points along the loops. For the desert, Fruita is unbelievably green. For
such an incredible mountain biking area, it's uncrowded. Watch out for the
Krista Crabtree, MountainZone.com