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Fruita, Colorado’s Best Mountain Biking Trails for Families

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Is there anywhere on the planet where Fall is not glorious?

As the day grows shorter, the cool air seems to clarify the light, the outline of mountains against the horizon seem sharper, color are thrown into greater relief. And did I mention cool air?

The Perfect Season For Desert Mountain Biking

During the summer, mountain biking at the North Fruita Desert (also known as 18 Road) is too daunting. Unless you go really early in the morning, it’s hot. Although the trails wind through some sparse pinion and juniper forest, those trees — while green — don’t offer much shade to creatures taller than a bobcat.

In the Spring, the North Fruita Desert rocks. The campground at 18 Road is full, the trails are (mostly) dried out and after a winter of suspended animation in your garage, your bike (and hopefully your body) is ready for some singletrack action. Of course, Spring in the North Fruita Desert also means wind, rain, snow and hail. And did I mention wind?

That leaves Fall. By the end of September, the aspens are golden in the mountains while the changing cottonwoods and willows are beginning to light up the valleys. Temperature swings in the desert are extreme. It may be 80 during the day and near freezing at night. Layers are essential. The sky is deep blue and the stars multiply by the millions on clear nights. A full moon can provide enough light for a good hike, if not a safe bike ride.

While I hate to see the end of summer, I say bring it on. Yes, as a Brave Ski Mom, I’m all about winter, but I still want to relish each golden fall day.

Where is Fruita?
Located 250 miles west of Denver along I-70, Fruita, Colorado has positioned itself over the past decade as a mountain biking mecca to rival Moab, Utah. An hour and a half closer to Denver than Moab, it makes for a perfect Fall family mountain biking getaway. The North Fruita Desert/18 Road area has the smoothest trails in the area (for a map, click here), as well as the most convenient camping.

Fruita, Colorado’s Best Mountain Biking Trails for Families

Prime Cut: The Prime Route to All The Fun
In my opinion, the best trail for families is Prime Cut. Prime Cut is a single track trail which starts in open desert and soon winds riders among pinion and juniper trees at the base of the Bookcliffs. Prime Cut ascends gradually and gets progressively harder as you ride, with some up and down whoop-de-doos (is that a technical term?) and some rocky areas. But there is no exposure.

Prime Cut terminates near the campground and the start of several harder trails which climb into the Bookcliffs and traverse along the base of the mountains, notably Zipity-Doo-Daa and Chutes and Ladders (aptly named). Neither of these trails is easy, but they are mostly smooth and rewarding if you can take the climbs and the ripping descents (when I can’t stomach the exposure, I simply dismount).

In addition, Prime Cut links up to two other super fun trails. Kessel Run is the easiest option and is a blast, especially for kids. Like Prime Cut, it is butter smooth and there is no exposure. It is basically a downhill slalom, winding back and forth quickly, and sure to elicit smiles and build confidence. Joe’s Ridge takes you from Prime Cut to Zipity-Doo-Daa, but then climbs away from the Bookcliffs up some steep foothills and rewards you with a roller coaster downhill before heading back along a double track to Kessel Run. Joe’s offers a great introduction to the challenges of the other, harder North Fruita Desert trails.

Camping Information
As for camping, the BLM operates a 30 site established campground with vault toilets in the area. According to a BLM ranger I met recently, the campground gets “more than full” in Spring. Come Fall, however, the pressure eases a bit as many families are busy with school activities. Camping is first-come, first-served and there is currently no fee to camp. If the campground is full, there are perimeter areas for undeveloped camping, provided you have a fire pan and camp toilet.

The nearest groceries are in Fruita at City Market, and the nearest showers are at the bright, shiny and new Fruita Rec Center (phone 970-858-0360) which has an indoor pool, water slide and hot tub, as well as basketball, a running track and weight room, in case you haven’t gotten a good enough workout on your bike. And did I mention a hot tub? Admission is $6 for adults, $4 for kids.

Enjoy!

Kristen Lummis lives on the Western Slope where the powder meets the red rocks. While she is passionate about skiing, her true passion is for her family. She blogs at braveskimom.com

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