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BELOW IS EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT MOUNTAIN BIKING IN GRAND JUNCTION, COLORADO - INCLUDING THE BEST TIME TO ADVENTURE, WHAT TO BRING AND THE BEST TRAILS TO EXPLORE.
Grand Junction, Colorado was recently ranked as one of the best outdoor adventure towns by the Matador Network, and after scouring Google Maps you will likely be able to see why. This exciting town in the heart of Western Colorado is surrounded by multiple unique natural features - including the Colorado National Monument and the Grand Mesa - many of which are home to many outdoor adventures like hiking, mountain biking, canyoneering and climbing.
While there are a lot of adventure opportunities to pursue in the Grand Junction area, in our opinion, what really makes this area stand out is its super fun mountain bike trails. From fast and flowy trails all the way up to super technical and steep routes, the mountain bike trails in Grand Junction really have something for every type of bike rider (including riders who are just getting into mountain biking).
Below you will find lots of helpful information about mountain biking in the Grand Junction area (including the best time of year to visit) as well as a list of the 17 best mountain bike trails to explore (plus five of our absolute favorites). So with that, let's get exploring!
THE BEST TIME TO MOUNTAIN BIKE IN GRAND JUNCTION, COLORADO
Spring and fall are by far the best times to mountain bike in Grand Junction and the rest of Western Colorado.
Between the months of April and May you can expect nice sunny days, temperatures in the mid-70s (around 22° C) and lots of wildflowers. In fact, even though we spent a spring season in Crested Butte, Colorado - the Wildflower Capitol of the state - we found ourselves just as in awe of the desert wildflowers near Grand Junction as we did in the mountains near Crested Butte.
Likewise, in the fall - especially during the month of October - you will find many trees in the Grand Valley have changed color; including, many of the large trees along the Colorado River. This is also the time of year when the temperatures start to cool down and nights begin to get a bit chilly.
During the winter (November - February) and summer (June - August) months, the temperatures are usually just a bit too harsh for mountain biking in Grand Junction. In truth, during the winter, snow is possible (though not very common) and the wind can make the somewhat manageable temperature feel even colder. Similarly, unless you are planning to ride early in the morning, the summer temperatures and intense sun exposure makes mountain biking a boiling and sweaty affair - especially since shade is hard to come by along many of the mountain bike trails.
❔ GOOD TO KNOW: while almost all of the Grand Junction mountain bike trails will be cleared of snow and have perfect temperatures by late April, you can unfortunately still expect a good amount of snow up in the Grand Mesa until late May and even into June. If you are looking to mountain bike up in the mesa, we suggest planning to do it in mid-June to early July.
WHAT TO BRING WITH YOU MOUNTAIN BIKING IN GRAND JUNCTION, COLORADO
Due to Grand Junction's rougher high desert terrain, you are going to want to come prepared with plenty of mountain bike gear - especially if you are planning to head out onto some of the more backcountry trails. Below are a few important things to have with you while mountain biking in Western Colorado.
LONG SLEEVED SUN SHIRT
Nothing ruins a day out on the trails faster than getting too much sun exposure (or worse, a sunburn). Therefore it is definitely recommended that you wear a shirt that helps block the sun's harmful rays (in Grand Junction the sun is extra intense due to the elevation). If planning to mountain bike in the area, make sure to wear a shirt that protects your full upper body - like this one by Backcountry. Plus, it's also a great idea if you are planning to ride some more technical sections for the long sleeves will also give your skin that extra layer of protection in case you take a tumble.
See our recommended sun shirt here.
Just like too much sun exposure can turn a great day out on the trails into a less than optimal experience, so can riding all day without proper paddy on your bum. Because let's be real, bike seats are not very comfortable and after 10+ miles on the saddle your booty will start to feel a little tender. Luckily, bike shorts can help curb some of this pain. This pair by PEARL iZUMi are comfortable, breathable and stylish.
See our recommended bike shorts here.
WATER BLADDER AND BACKPACK
Many of the Western Colorado mountain bike trailheads do NOT have water available so you will definitely want to show up prepared - especially if you are planning to ride during the middle of the day when the sun is at its fullest or if you are looking to do a big ride. This water bladder and bag combo from CamelBak holds 9 liters of water and still has plenty of room to spare for stuff like snacks, extra layers and your phone.
See our recommended biking bag here.
This handy toolkit comes with everything you would need to fix all kinds of mishaps while out mountain biking in Grand Junction (or anywhere else for that matter). This lightweight toolkit can easily be stored in your biking bag or left in your car if you are only planning to do a shorter route.
See our recommended mountain biking toolkit here.
A BIKE BELL
Another helpful thing to have with you while out mountain biking - especially on the more curvy mountain bike trails in Grand Junction - is a bike bell. This is just an easier (and slightly more courteous) way to let people know that you are coming down the trail. This one by Knog is simple and efficient.
See our recommended bike bell here.
Rounding out the list of things you should definitely bring with you while mountain biking in Grand Junction (and mountain biking in general) is a solid helmet that not only keeps your head safe, but is also comfortable enough to wear all day long. This one by Giro comes in a couple of fun colors, is very comfortable and lightweight and has enhanced breathability for when you start to climb and the sweat begins to pour down.
See our recommended mountain biking helmet here.
MOUNTAIN BIKE TRAIL RATINGS | WHAT TO KNOW
Just like with many other sports - most notably skiing or snowboarding - there is a clear difficulty rating system for mountain bike trails; in this case, the ratings are based on 5 things:
| Trail width
| Tread surface
| Average trail grade
| Maximum trail grade
| Natural obstacles and technical features
Below is a brief outline of what you can expect from each trail rating - which is super helpful to know if you are new to the sport and are trying to figure out what kind of trails you should do (or not do... yet). The trail rating information below is according to IMBA (or the International Mountain Biking Association).
GREEN CIRCLE | BEGINNER
Trails that are labeled as green circle will have 36" trail width, firm and stable surfaces, a 5% or less climbing grade and a max of 15% climbing grade. Also, you can expect some small unavoidable obstacles on the trail (like rocks and logs).
BLUE SQUARE | INTERMEDIATE
On trails that are labeled as blue square you can expect 24" trail width, mostly stable surfaces with some variability, a climbing grade between 10% and max of 15%, unavoidable obstacles that are max 8" tall and some natural bridges that you cannot avoid.
BLACK DIAMOND | EXPERT
On trails that are labeled as black diamond you can expect 12" trail width, surfaces that are widely variable, a climbing grade at around 15%, some unavoidable obstacles that are max 15" tall and many loose rocks. Also, there is a likelihood of coming across multiple technical features that can be up to 48" high.
DOUBLE BLACK DIAMOND | SUPER EXPERT
On these expert level trails you can expect routes with 6" trail width, highly variable and unpredictable surfaces, an average trail grade of 20% or more, unavoidable obstacles that are max 15" tall, many sections of loose rocks and unavoidable bridges that may be less than 24" wide. Finally, many trail sections can exceed this criteria and be even more technical (be prepared to test yourself).
Besides these four clear ratings, you may also find trails that fit between - like a trail that is rated Green/Blue, or more commonly, a trail that is rated Blue/Black.
➳ Find the full guide on trail difficulty ratings here.
THE 17 BEST MOUNTAIN BIKE TRAILS IN WESTERN COLORADO
\\ Kokopelli Trailhead
Maybe the most famous trail in the Grand Junction and Western Colorado area, the Kokopelli Trail system is a great spot to head to if you want to ride fun, flowy loops and get some stunning views of the surrounding area (including the mighty Colorado River). Plus, once you finish riding you are very close to the cute town of Fruita, home to many bike stores, cafes and the famous Hot Tomato Pizza restaurant.
Below are some of the best mountain bike trails that start at the Kokopelli Trailhead.
3.9 mile loop | Green / Blue
This is a great beginner loop to explore if you are new to the desert terrain or if you are just getting into mountain biking in general. Plus, this beautiful and scenic loop also comes with lots of informative signs on the various plants and natural features in the area. We highly recommend this route if you are just looking to test the waters of mountain biking in Grand Junction.
3.9 miles | Blue / Black
This is very likely THE ride you think of when planning to go mountain biking in Western Colorado. This intermediate loop is absolutely gorgeous and a whole lot of fun. If you only have time for one ride, this might be it.
There are two sections along the Horsethief Bench trail that are very technical and will likely require walking and carrying your bike (unless you are an absolute rock star). Besides those two sections, this scenic ride is actually quite beginner friendly and definitely worth doing even if you are not a hardened mountain biker. Just be prepared for some rocky sections and a few bumps here and there along the trail (and of course there is no shame in walking). Also, as you would expect with such a well-known trail, this loop does get very busy, especially in the right season and on the weekends.
5.6 miles (without the road) | Blue
This is a great mountain bike trail to ride if you are looking to combine a couple of loops (it connects to many other trails in the area) or if you want to do a bit of a bigger ride and avoid some of the crowds. To start the ride, head out on a rocky doubletrack road that climbs up to the rim (it's a bit of a tough start, but don't worry it's worth it!). Soon enough the trail levels out and you can start to get some speed going. Keep riding past a couple of other trails, including the famous entrance to Horsethief Bench, until it becomes a singletrack trail.
Mary's can be done as a loop ride by combining it with Wrangler (see trail description below) or with Hawkeye Road (which is a super wide and fast dirt road). If you choose the former, it is roughly 5.7 miles back to the trailhead, and if you choose the latter (Hawkeye Road) it is around 3 miles back to the trailhead.
💬 INSIDER TIP: if you are looking for a jam-packed, fun day out on the trails, consider doing Horsethief Bench and then ending with Mary's Loop (via the road). In total, this will be about 12.6 miles, much of which will be intermediate level singletrack.
5.7 miles | Blue / Black (upper)
This longer trail is actually split into two sections: the Wrangler North trail and the Wrangler trail. The first section, Wrangler North, is rated as a Blue/Black and is roughly 3 miles long. To reach this trail - which is known for its tighter switchback turns - you will need to head out on Mary's and then turn right onto the trail right before you reach the parking lot at the end.
The other trail, Wrangler, is a bit more popular and slightly less challenging (it is only a Blue). This mountain bike trail starts with a bit of a rocky climb before leveling out for some fun flat and fast sections. And because this tail is a tad higher than others in the area, you will get great views of the surrounding landscape. Ride the fun singletrack trail all the way back down to the main dirt road and either meet up with your car there or ride the dirt road back up to the main parking lot.
Other great mountain bike trail options from the Kokopelli Trailhead area are the Kokopelli Loops, which is just under 19 miles and includes a combination of many of the trails mentioned above, and Rabbit Valley Loop, which is 13.4 miles total and rated as black (this ride is a bit further away from the others).
THE KOKOPELLI TRAIL
Of course we couldn't talk about the Kokopelli Trailhead and not mention the famous Kokopelli Trail :)
This stunning 143-mile ride takes you all the way from Fruita, Colorado over to Moab, Utah. The ride - which is usually done in 3-4 days - takes mountain bikers through deep canyons, across wide open desert plains and up some steep dirt roads. If you are looking for an exciting and adventurous bikepacking trip in the desert, then we highly recommend taking on this popular ride.
DIRECTIONS TO THE KOKOPELLI TRAILHEAD
From Grand Junction, head west on I-70 for around 17 miles. You will get off at exit 15 (Mack/Loma) and then turn left. Keep driving until you see signs for the Colorado Port of Entry (DON’T TURN HERE). Take the dirt road that heads slightly left from the main paved road (there should be a sign). Keep driving until you see a parking lot with bathrooms and a big map. Park here OR keep driving up the dirt road that climbs up and over the ridge and then back down to park at the lower parking lot (this saves you a bit of biking time).
The start of the trail for Horsethief Bench, Rustler's and Mary’s are from this lower parking lot.
\\ Lunch Loops
Whereas the Kokopelli Trail system between is known more for its excellent flow with a few technical sections thrown in, the Lunch Loops are practically the opposite: expect very technical, loose and rocky trails with a bit of flow interspersed. If technical mountain biking isn't your thing, then the Lunch Loops trail system might not be the right spot for you. But, with that being said, if you do want to test yourself and your riding skills, then this is a great place to do it.
1.8 mile loop | Blue
This short loop is a great beginner trail if you are new to the Lunch Loops trailhead or the slopes of Western Colorado in general. To reach the start of the trail, you can either head out on Klunker via Little Park Trailhead (exact location here) or via the Big Sister - Time Machine - Leftover Lane trails, which start at the main trailhead parking lot.
💬 INSIDER TIP: the Miramonte Rim trail is a great ride if you are looking to get comfortable biking around rocky and somewhat slick terrain. It is also a somewhat popular trail running route, so always keep an eye out for people coming around the numerous tight corners.
0.6 miles | Blue / Black
This is one of the many short connector trails that crisscross the Lunch Loops area. This one is especially fun thanks to its short but steep downhill sections and beautiful terrain (the last bit feels a bit like a rainbow Mars). To reach the trail, head out either on the Gunny Loop Trail or on either Miramonte or Coyote Ridge.
Other fun connector trails in the middle of the Lunch Loops are Raven Ridge and Pet-e-Kes.
THE GUNNY LOOP
12.1 miles | Black
Likely the most popular mountain bike trail at the Lunch Loops Trailhead, the Gunny Loop is a technical ride that takes mountain bikers from the main trailhead on either Eagle's Tail or Pet-a-Kes and up to the actual Gunny Loop (which is just over 6 miles long). Once you finish the Gunny Loop you can head back to the parking lot via Holy Bucket, Ali Alley and Curt's Ridge (all Blue trails).
This ride, though long in distance, is also quite technical. Be prepared for long climbs and steep descents - plus a lot of rocks and sharp turns.