In the past few years, every time we visit Moab for biking, we leave thinking, “How do they do it?” Here we are getting 2 miles of trails built in a year and feeling successful while they’re an hour and a half away building 30 miles a year. I met with some folks from the Moab Trail Mix group a few months ago and to be honest, I STILL don’t know how they do it. All I know is that when we head there we feel woefully inadequate when we come home. Which we shouldn’t. In no way should we feel inferior to Moab.
Grand Junction and Moab are two very different biking destinations. Moab biking involves lots of rock, both slickrock (entrada sandstone) and other similar rock types. There are lots of painted lines to follow and lots of fun and often technical rock features. In recent years Moab has begun to focus more on beginner and intermediate riders with areas like the Brand Trails and Klonzo. There are lots of variety to their trails now and lots more singletrack (as opposed to the mostly doubletrack riding they used to have), but there is still a lot of rock.
Moab’s Navajo Rocks area
Grand Junction trails have some rock, but depending on which area you visit, you can find trails with almost no rock, trails with some rock, or trails with lots of rock. At 18 Road, for instance, the trails are mostly flowing dirt singletrack. This doesn’t mean there aren’t any rock features or obstacles, but they’re few and far between. Most of the trails and obstacles here are rideable by intermediate riders. 18 Road is also a great place for kids because of trails like Kessel Run and Vegetarian. Both are easy (the lower half of Kessel is easier than the top half) and Kessel is a lot of fun. I’ve seen little bitty kids get to the end with huge grins on their faces and adults still have the same look at the end of it!
The Kokopelli trails are rockier. This area does have our best “beginner” trail, Rustler’s, but even it has several rock portions. It’s a great place for beginning mountain bikers to learn to navigate simple rock obstacles. The best thing about Kokopelli is that as your technical skills grow, there is a trail to match. Once you master Rustlers you can move on to Mary’s, Steve’s and Wrangler (watch out for the ending on that one). Once those are easy, try Horsethief. Eventually you’ll work your way up to Lion’s and Mack and then, if you’re insane enough, Moore Fun (which, by the way, is not more fun.)
18 road biking – swooping singletrack
Finally, there’s our Lunch Loop area which is filled with awesome narrow singletrack and lots of rock obstacles. Even the beginner trail here, Kid’s Meal, has several rock features. Still, there are long sections of dirt trail riding to be found here on trails like Nor’Easter, Time Machine, Clunker and Holey Bucket.
So while Moab reigns supreme when it comes to number of trails and slickrock, I think we still offer more variety. If you think you’ve come here and ridden everything we’ve got, I bet you’re wrong. Check out these newer and lesser known options for more scenic views and challenging rides:
Butterknife – a 14 mile technical ride with views of the Gunnison River
Sarlaac – our newest 18 Road trail. This is a long one and difficult to get to, but I’ve heard it’s a pretty fun ride. Best done as an out-and-back, Saarlac is closed from November – April. The link will provide you with some information, but you might want to stop into a bike shop or REI for more details.
Gunnison Bluffs (see page 13) – The Gunnison Bluffs area is scheduled for some expansion, but right now I think there’s just the one trail. This is a great place for beginners because the views will keep more advanced riders entertained while the Spanish Trail portion of this ride will put beginners at ease.
The Rabbit Valley area – Western Rim not withstanding, there are plenty of other rugged options in the Rabbit Valley area…you could ride from Loma to Rabbit Valley via the Kokopelli Trail (that’s a LONG way though), you could check out Zion Curtain or Westwater Mesa, or the more elusive Eastern Rim trail. There are lots of 4×4 roads here for exploration too.
Anything on the Grand Mesa. While these aren’t my favorite trails, they do add variety and in the summer the wildflowers really can’t be beat. There’s the Flowing Park trail (the best part of this is the Indian Point (right side) trail. Just do this as an out – and – back. Mesa Top is complete now, so if you’re really into punishing yourself you can ride Mesa Top out to Flowing Park, ride all 14 miles of Flowing Park and then ride back up Mesa Top. This ends up being about 30 miles. Mesa Top as an out and back isn’t bad either, but I’d start from the Flowing Park end. That way you get downhill on the way back. There are other trails popping up here too, at Powderhorn Resort and at the County Line Cross Country Ski area.
Finally, we can’t forget Palisade. The Palisade Rim Trail is technical and exposed, but offers the chance for petroglyph sightings!