The sleepy desert town of Fruita, Colorado has made a massive comeback since almost falling off the map back in the nineties, and it’s all thanks to one thing: mountain biking. At the time, the sport was in its infancy and Moab was the big destination in the West. Most of the bike trails around Moab utilized established 4×4 trails, which as you can probably imagine, creates some issues. For one, sharing trails with different types of recreationists can be messy. And for two, you’re faced with obstacles that are meant to be handled by a 4×4 SUV. Locals in Fruita saw an opportunity, with hundreds of miles of untracked public land all around town, they started building singletrack trails for the express purpose of mountain biking. The result was a world-class network of flowy, winding singletrack in the hills north of town that has drawn tourists to the area for nigh on three decades.
But the trail network north of town (called the 18 Road trails) isn’t the only thing going on around Fruita. There are three main clusters of awesome mountain bike trails around town: the aforementioned 18 Road area, the Kokopelli Mountain area (west of Fruita), and the Lunch Loops (east of Fruita, just outside Grand Junction). There’s so much to explore here, you couldn’t possibly hope to see it all in a weekend… or could you?
We were inspired by the “carpe diem” attitude of 57hours.com, a service that links up nine-to-fivers with certified guides across the US to help you plan a jam packed weekend in Fruita. 57Hours represents a philosophy on recreation – you have exactly 57 hours between 3 PM on Friday (a reasonable time to call it early and leave work) and midnight Sunday, to yourself. Those 57 hours are a precious resource, and you’ve got to make the most of them. So in the spirit of 57hours.com, we present to you a curated agenda for ripping across the endless, magical desert of Fruita, Colorado over a 57-hour weekend. Here’s the low-down on how to make the most of your 57 hours.
Step By Step Itinerary for 57 Hours in Fruita
3 PM Friday
You leave home. Fruita is centrally-positioned between Salt Lake City and Denver, a four-hour drive either way. If you plan ahead, snack in the car, and go in the summer, you should have a good amount of daylight left when you get there. Which means this is the perfect time for a sunset ride off the 18 Road.
Beginners and those wanting a good warmup can get started on Zip Off, an easy, gradual downhill beginning on the road. Vegetarian to Lower Chutes Loop is another, less-technical option for newbies. Neither are more than 5 miles, and offer a good intro to what the area has in store.
Intermediates have a lot of trails to choose from off the 18 Road. You could go for the Kessel Run, a fast, flowy downhill, or PBR, with its many little jumps and berms. Both are around 2 miles, and you could easily run up a few laps on either, or both, before bedtime.
Experts who want to get their hands dirty right away could go for Zippity Do Da, a descending staircase of short climbs followed by big, steep drops. It can be done as a loop, increasing the total distance from 2.4 miles to 8.5 miles, or you can shuttle back to the start for maximum downhill enjoyment.
After you get done flying over rollers atop the many ridges off of the 18 Road, you should definitely pitch your tent at the 18 Road Campground or North Fruita Desert (NFD) Campground. What these campgrounds lack in amenities (expect a pit toilet and not much else), they make up for in access. You can ride straight out of camp onto the trails, making it a perfect place to crash out to maximize your time riding. The scenery around the 18 Road Campground is fantastic; the book cliffs below Garfield Mesa loom in the background. The campgrounds also have sparse junipers growing around them for shade.
If you get a wild hair and feel like cruising into town for a beer, check out Copper Club Brewing in Fruita. Their beer menu includes a great spread of options to wet your whistle. Or, if you don’t feel like sitting, grab a quick growler fill and head back out to the hills to relax and wait for the stars to come out.
Picture this: you wake up early, still covered in dirt from riding awesome singletrack the day before, make a cup of coffee, hop on your bike, and do it all over again. Sounds like a pretty perfect morning, right? Welcome to Fruita. For the first part of the day you should have one objective: to ride as many of the 18 Road trails as you can.
Beginners could try Vegetarian in reverse, or, for a variation on the loop, you could take the fork down Down Uppity. This route offers a winding, more challenging detour from the main route that will be a good first step up into more advanced riding.
Intermediates, once again, have the most options to choose from. Joe’s Ridge and MoJoe are two classic 18 Road downhill trails, with fun gaps, tabletops, and jumps along the way. You’ll most likely head back up Prime Cut in between runs, as it’s the main climb back up to the top of the ridges. The incline goes slowly enough to take your time or gun it, depending on your fitness level. If you’re looking for something longer, check out the Zippity Loop, an 8.5 mile round trip connecting Zippity Do Da, Zip Off, and Western Zip.
Experts who want to really dig in can go for The Edge Loop, a 29-mile circuit around the front side of Garfield Mesa. If you’re a multisport enthusiast, you can bring a rope and rappel 50 feet down a dryfall as part of the route, or hike your bike around instead. The views on top of the mesa are outstanding – the whole landscape of western Colorado from mountains to desert stretches out before you. Another, shorter option is Sarlacc, a trail that runs parallel to the upper portion of The Edge Loop. It’s a steady climb to start, followed by a long, slow dropoff staggered with short hills. Either way, you’ll absolutely have your socks knocked off.
Time to pack up, load your bike onto your car and head south. Drive into town and head to Munchies Pizza & Deli for a quick bite. Then cruise west to the Kokopelli Mountain area. There are some very worthy high-exposure trails to tackle just west of Fruita. Here’s how to fill your afternoon.
Beginners would be remiss not to check out Rustler’s, a 3.9 mile loop that’s fun for everyone. There are plenty of small challenges along the way, but nothing too tricky or worrisome. Take in the scenery as you descend a plateau to the Colorado River.
Intermediates, get ready to step your game up. There are plenty of good blue and blue-black trails on Kokopelli, though most have some added difficulty. Loose rock and steep climbs are more common out here. Check out Wrangler, Wrangler North, Horsethief Bench, and Steve’s Loop. All relatively short, moderately difficult trails with great scenery that can, in some cases, be chained together.
Experts have some stellar choices in the Kokopelli area, particularly if you’re willing to commit to longer distances. The Kokopelli Loops and Hard Earned Loops offer a combination of flow and technical challenge. Hard Earned Loops is a mashup of several of the less-difficult trails in the area, which you could opt out of if you’re strapped for time. If you want to run the gauntlet, Moore Fun should be your go-to. It’s techy, physically punishing, and worth every ounce of blood, sweat, and tears you’ll shed along the way.
If by this point you’re not ready for a shower, you’ve been doing something wrong. Since you’ll end the day so close to town, this is a great opportunity to get a hotel room and rest in an actual bed. There are several options for cheap lodging around Fruita, including the Balanced Rock Inn.
And since you’re in town, you should probably grab a victory beer. Hop on your bike and head over to Suds Brothers Brewing, a homey spot to get a pint and something hot to eat. Dig in and rest up.
You’re probably feeling pretty tired this morning. But should you sleep in? Take a raincheck? Come back next year? No way! There’s tons more stuff to see before you take off! Remember, you’ve only got a little while before clocking in Monday morning. Time to fuel up on hotel breakfast and take advantage of what’s left of the weekend.
For your last day in Fruita, you could definitely revisit either of the areas we’ve already discussed. There will almost certainly be something left you haven’t done. But if you’re up for it, you should drive east to Grand Junction, about 20 minutes down I-70, and check out the Lunch Loops area. You could easily burn as much time as you like in the Lunch Loops before returning home. Here are some suggestions for how to spend your time.
Beginners looking for something quick and easy-peasy could start on Kids Meal. If you’ve made any progress at all over the last two days, you’ll probably be ready to start moving into blues, in which case you could try Maramonte Rim, a solid introduction to the area. There are plenty of short easy to intermediate ridges and rim trails in the Lunch Loops. Check out Raven Ridge, Coyote Ridge, and Ali-Ali, all of which you could do back to back.
Intermediates wanting to take it easy on their last day in the Fruita area should check out Miramonte, a slightly longer combination of several rim trails in the Lunch Loops. But if you want to go a little bigger, send Second Thoughts, or even better, the Gunny Loop. The Gunny Loop is one of the best trails in the Lunch Loops area, a solid combination of technical and flowy riding with some decent drops and jumps.
Experts will have a lot to choose from, and even more if they have extra time to spare. The definite must-sees are Holy Cross and Free Lunch, both action-packed challenges for those with real guts. The Ribbon Trail is also a unique experience, leapfrogging downhill over slabs of rock like you might see in Moab. Prepare to go fast. The Lunch Loops honorable mention goes to Butterknife, a strenuous trek that’s sure to soak up whatever strength you have left.
You’re back in the car, speeding toward home, covered in dirt, probably some new scabs, and hopefully not too many cactus needles. You’re haggard tired, but if you’ve done your weekend right, you will have gotten a thorough taste of what the desert outside Fruita has to offer. On your way out of town, stop by Rib City Grill for a picnic pack. You’ll probably be in the mood for something hearty to fuel you for the drive. It’s smooth sailing from here out. Just keep your eyes on the road and think about all the mileage you’ve covered, all the incredible ridgelines and canyon rims you’ve traversed. The weekend is drawing to a close, and soon you’ll be dreaming about getting back to where you are, right now. Soak it up. You’ve earned it.