Mountain bike riders will get their chance to experience one of the most exciting new trails in the state, or at least half of it, beginning this weekend.
The phase I section of the Palisade Plunge Trail, which covers the lower half of the route, officially opens to the public for the first time this Saturday.
The phase I section runs 17 miles from Lands End Road down to the Palisade Rim Trail area. This section of the Palisade Plunge navigates remote, backcountry terrain with some sections of extreme exposure recommended only for experienced riders, according to a release from the Bureau of Land Management (BLM).
This portion of the trail, accounts for most of the trail’s descent into the town of Palisade. Most of the phase II section travels over the top of Grand Mesa. Colorado Plateau Mountain Bike Trail Association (COPMOBA) President Scott Winans said it has taken a lot of work to get the trail ready to open.
“It’s very exciting to get to the point where the public can get on more than just the minor couple of miles down at the very bottom next to the Rim Trail,” Winans said. “I’m just excited that people will be able to see it and be on it and start to experience this country that’s just so neat.”
Over the last few weeks COPMOBA, along with partners at the BLM and Mesa County, have been actively working to get the trail ready for use with trail crews doing clean up on several sections. Winans said some annual spring maintenance will be needed every year, but that it needed some extra work following the trail’s first winter.
“We’ve had two COPMOBA crews out, we’ve had the BLM crew out and we’re actually funding the Mesa County Trail Crew for some maintenance time starting tomorrow (Wednesday) there as well,” Winans said. “So it’s kind of getting everyone engaged in the process to make sure we’re ready to go for this opening.”
While riders will be allowed on the trail, getting to the top of the open trail section will require some riding on Lands End Road. Lands End Road is closed just above the U.S. Forest Service’s Wild Rose recreation site. Riders will have to head up the road about two miles, gaining around 700 feet of elevation, before they will come to the trail access.
Winans suggested riders utilize a shuttle since parking in the area is limited. For up-to-date information on the Palisade Plunge and a list of shuttle providers, visit www.palisadeplunge.com.
There is no fresh water on the trail, Winans said, so riders should bring what they need with them. Dogs are not recommended and he said riders should be prepared for a variety of weather, from cooler temperatures up high and more desert-like weather lower on the trail. This is a trail for experienced users and Winans said riders should know their skill level and be prepared.
“When you leave Lands End Road, you really don’t have good bail out points,” Winans said. “The best thing to do is to continue down the trail. So give yourself time and consider your ability before you take off.”
Construction on the upper phase of the Palisade Plunge is continuing as conditions allow and a full opening of the trail is expected by late July.
Winans said trail crews have some final projects left to complete, but that they believe they can be done for a planned celebration in July. Conditions are still wet up high, so crews have been working below the rim of the Mesa between Lands End Road and Shirttail Point.
“They are getting some signage placed, some stream crossings placed and a little bit of final hand work on some of the mileage of the trail below the rim between Shirttail Point and Lands End Road,” Winans said. “As they finished up last year, that was kind of their main construction area.”
A celebration of the opening is being planned for July 23 in downtown Palisade. Winans said there may be a ribbon-cutting on top of the mesa, but final details still in the works.
Winans praised the partnership that together got the trail built, which included BLM, the National Forest Service, COPMOBA and local municipalities. BLM Grand Junction Field Manager Greg Wolfgang said in a release the trail will benefit the entire community.
“The Palisade Plunge exemplifies how a community can come together and create something special for the community and visitors,” Wolfgang said. “This project will have positive impacts to the Grand Valley for generations.”