The Dirty Dozen: The Grand Valley’s best rides

Photos courtesy of Keith Kitchen

The Grand Valley is considered by many to be the mountain biking mecca of the world. People from all over go out of their way to come to the Valley’s world famous trails. Trails range from an easy family ride to an extreme technical experience.

The Valley has three major trail systems: the Tabeguache, 18 Road north of Fruita, and the Kokopelli. Although there are many more trails in the surrounding area for riders of all levels, these are generally considered to be the best, as well as the most popular.

Whether you’re looking for a great family exercise of something a bit more arduous, here is a list of trails at each of the three systems and a short description for all levels of riders.


This trail system is just minutes from downtown Grand Junction on Colorado Highway 340, near the east entrance to the Colorado National Monument.

Getting there: From Grand Junction, travel west on Grand Avenue , which turns into Broadway. Cross over two bridges, at the next stoplight turn left on to Monument Road, follow the signs to the Colorado National Monument. Go approximately 1.5 miles. There will be a large gravel parking lot on the left marked with a BLM sign for the Tabeguache Trail.

Gunny Loop: Intermediate
This is a fast and fun loop that can be ridden by itself or tied together with several other trails in the area. Gunny Loop heads toward the Gunnison River, but turns left just before the rider reaches the river and dips down into a beautiful valley. After riding through several smaller valleys filled with rocky obstacles and exciting single track, the rider will drop down to the main trailhead.

Holy Cross: Intermediate to Advanced
Many people consider Holy Cross to be the top in the area. Holy Cross is a challenging trail built for rocks, ledges, drops and ascents that will test the rider both on and off the bike. Although many people ride Holy Cross, few ever master it. Access to the loop is usually through the Tabeguache double track or Pet-e-Kes trail.

The Ribbon: Intermediate to Advanced
This is the trail for experienced mountain bikers. It has fast descents, tough trail finding, big exposure, tight single track action and some very scary drops. This trail also boasts a huge waterfall. The trail drops close to a hundred feet in approximately half a mile into the canyon below. After a short hike-a-bike, the rider can choose several different ways back to the trailhead. Some riders pedal their way to the top, but most have a car at the trailhead and shuttle this run.

Free Lunch to Pucker-Up: Advanced to Double-Black Diamond
This is the first downhill-specific trail ever built on BLM land. It starts with a small drop into tight single track with lots of single- and double-black diamond drops, jumps, step-ups and step-downs. There are also two play areas where riders can test their skills and nerve. These trails are tough and not for the beginner, most wear full-face helmets and some type of body armor.


This trail system begins off Interstate-70, exit 15, just west of Fruita.

Getting there: From Grand Junction, head west on I-70 for 15 miles to the Loma exit. Take a left at the top of the exit ramp and cross over the interstate. When you come to a “T” in the road, take a right and drive toward the truck inspection station. Where the road meets the truck station exit, take a left, cross a cattle guard, and keep going up. The trailhead is 1/2 mile up the road.

Rustler’s Loop: Beginner
Rustler’s Loop is a great ride for anybody, from the beginner learning new skills to the advanced rider wishing for a fun, fast, single track. Views from this trail overlook the Colorado River and the Grand Valley. This loop is fun for all and a great warm up for more advanced trails in the area.

Mary’s Loop & Horsethief Bench: Beginner to Intermediate
Mary’s Loop and Horsethief Bench are good second steps to trail riding. Mary’s Loop is an old Jeep road with plenty of ups and downs, yet easy bypass routes that allow beginners to avoid more technical areas. Horsethief Bench is a sweet single track accessed only from Mary’s Loop. One can walk or ride the drop onto the bench, but once on the bench, look forward to awesome single track and even better views. After completing the loop, bikers can return to Mary’s Loop and the way out.

Lion’s Loop to Mack Ridge: Intermediate
Lion’s Loop is one of the oldest loops in the area.  Its original purpose was to link Jeep roads together, but the trail sections make this loop a worthwhile mountain biking destination.  Taking the turn onto Mack Ridge brings you on top of the ridge with breathtaking views.  Once across the top, there is a portage down to more single track back around to Mary’s Loop. Lion’s Loop and Mack Ridge are rocky, technically demanding trails that are accessible by other surrounding trails.

Moore Fun: Intermediate to Advanced
Moore Fun is considered the “best of the best” by many of the locals.  The most challenging of the entire single track loops, Moore Fun offers tight lines stretched out along the ridgeline. If you love rocks, ledges, climbing, scary descents and heart pounding fun, then Moore Fun is the trail for you.


This trail system begins at the northern end of 18 Road, at the base of the Bookcliffs.

Kessel Run: Beginner
Kessel Run is a cross between a single track and a slalom course.  It’s a winding, twisting trail full of jumps and fast turns.  This trail is good for riders of all levels.  It’s a fun trail to help riders learn the fine art of descents, while keeping the dirt under the tires and not in the face.

Prime Cut and Joe’s Ridge: Intermediate
These two trails are the original Bookcliff’s Loop trails; they’re short rides, but well worth several trips at a time. They’re also good trails to combine with other trails in the area. They have big descents, a narrow winding ridgeline, and a huge drop off of Joe’s Ridge.  It’s heart-pounding fun for all.

Chutes & Ladders: Intermediate to Advanced
Chutes & Ladders is a single-track descent, beginning with three extreme ups and downs. Much like the childhood game, this trail is filled with a very technical single track not designed for the faint of heart. The way out is similar to a slalom course that is very fast and very fun, with many jumps and fast turns.

The Edge Loop: Advanced
The Edge Loop is a premium loop.  It’s completely single track without an escape route.  The trail is approximately 29 miles long.  Much of the trail is on the edge, overlooking the Grand Valley south to the San Juan Mountains. This is an all-day trail, so plan ahead and be ready for an epic ride.

Whether you’re an experienced rider who loves new challenges or maybe someone who hasn’t ridden in a while, there is sure to be a trail that’s perfect for you and your skill level. And, with all the beautiful scenery in the Grand Valley, why would you choose to ride anywhere else?

Keith Kitchen is an employee of The Bike Shop in Grand Junction and leads group rides of local mountain bike trails.


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