Riding Ridges at Sunset and Scratching the Sandstone Surface in Fruita… Also, Fanny Packs

Fruita, it’s the mountain bike mecca you’ve most certainly heard about before and it was the meet-up location for our group after our road trip to Green River. We had people coming in from Minneapolis, Philadelphia, Bozeman, Northern California, and Southern California so Fruita seemed like a good starting point.

Then some bad news hit. While I was in Green River, I met some people who had fled their home base of Moab due to the Easter Jeep Safari. Oh yeah, it was Easter Sunday! Each year, supposedly 100,000 Jeeps register for the event, overrunning the small town and its trails. With this news, I immediately realized camping at Kane Creek was most likely not going to be able to happen, especially over the weekend. All this was in the back of my mind as I drove from Green River to Fruita on that Sunday morning.

Fruita is an amazing little town, filled with a thick paleontological history and over the past decade, has seen a massive growth in their mountain bike tourism. With the growing popularity of the sport, even more trails have popped up and most importantly, ample places to camp alongside the trail networks. Our group was set to meet up off the Road 18 trails, at an overflow camping zone just below the trailhead.

Groups this size are sometimes hard to wrangle, yet everyone had the same agenda on their minds; ride as much as possible. Half of our group hadn’t ridden a bike all winter and were eager for some high desert shredding. We’d ride the Road 18 trails before heading over to the Kokopelli region to ride Horsethief prior to packing up and moving the caravan back to Utah.

Road 18

This zone is unlike any trail system I’ve ridden before. With trails ranging from beginner to advanced, and although nothing is too technical, the trails’ beauty makes up for the lack of danger zones. In fact, I couldn’t imagine having to pay attention to the trail ahead while taking in the beautiful vistas. After running a number of trails, we didn’t hit anything of real consequence until our sunset ride up on Zippity, a trail that crescendos atop a beautiful ridge ride after snaking its way past alluvial fans and open plains. It’s a long way down on that trail!

Camping out at Road 18 is easy, with pit toilets close by and plenty of space. We were there during Spring Break, so there were tons of families out and about, sleeping in everything from tents to full-size RVs. Luckily, our zone was quiet and not too crowded. Even with the influx of campers, the parks department kept the toilets clean and orderly. Then, to top it off, if you have to go to town, it’s only a 20-minute drive.

The problem is, if it’s windy, you’re in for a sandstorm of Biblical proportions, which was the case on our first evening there. If it wasn’t for Nicholas and Curtis’ Sprinter van, we would have all been eating sand tacos while being blasted by the high winds. Luckily, I brought headphones and took a rip from my Danglebong before going to bed to help aid in my sleep. Yay, recreational marijuana.

As rough and windy as the night was, you couldn’t even tell the following morning. Well, aside from the nice layer of dust and sand all over everything. By the time we woke up, made coffee, ate breakfast and broke down camp, it was close to 10 am, meaning the sun would be harsh for our morning ride. It sucked for photos but was perfect for our cabin-fever friends from the midwest. We wanted to ride Horsethief as a group, before refueling in town for our trip to Moab.

Horsethief

Upon arriving at the trailhead, we were amazed at how many kids and parents were out for a Monday morning shred session. It was a beautiful sight to behold. Kids of all ages, parents of all skill levels and smiles abound. I talked to a mother and her daughter who were working to take apart the daughter’s chainguard which was rattling all over. I loaned them my tools and sparked up a conversation. It was their first time ever riding mountain bikes and they wanted to do something new for spring break that year. She exclaimed it’s a lot easier than she thought it would be and the hardest thing was finding a bike that fit her. I commended their efforts, gave out high fives and directed them to Road 18 when they asked what other trails to check out.

Horsethief is an XC trail with a few technical spots, which loops out a few miles down a network of banked, hardpacked trails, onto rock slabs and swooping turns. All this, however, is guarded by the fabled steps at the beginning. We all took attempts on our hardtails, but Steve was the only one in the group to clear this feature. For the rest of the loop, our group stopped to session various jibs or to re-ride sections, with hopes of learning the smoothest line possible. You can spend hours out there, so plan accordingly.

Mason, the co-owner of Alter Cycles with Steve, made these sections look easy. She was on one!

All this high noon riding left our group in need of one thing; Hot Tomato, a go-to spot in ‘downtown’ Fruita. You can’t ride here and not visit this famed pizza parlor. They even let us fill up all of our 5-gallon water jugs! If you need some parts, clothing or a tune up, Over the Edge is right down the block.

From there, we had to buy food for a few days, along with beer and firewood. A word of caution; it’s illegal to transport liquor across state lines into Utah, so if you’re going to break the law, do so in a stealthy manner. On our way out of town, we saw a car getting turned over at the border…

What came next was a series of unknowns; what would happen with Jeep Week? Where would we camp? What about riding? Well, I had some ideas, it was just a matter of giving it a go.

If you’re planning on riding in Fruita, download a trail app like MTB Project or Trail Forks, observe the Leave No Trace principles, spend money in town to support the community, and most importantly, have fun!

  • Willy Don Gouda

    The hip pack game is almost too strong with this squad

    • They’re the best! Especially if your bike can carry two bottles.

  • Nicholas Haig-Arack

    I still can’t believe we fit 11 people and the #numberonebrowndoginamerica in the Sprinter! Still high from all the good vibes on this trip. Thanks for capturing it so beautifully.

    • Mason Griffin

      All the vibes! All the high. Such a good time! Thanks John!

  • hansgman

    What fanny pack are those ppl using? I see a roll top style..

    • Sklar’s intern made them a while back.

      • Jeffrey Frane

        I’m using a Beard Bags fanny jammer

      • Cove Fylpaa

        Hey, I’m that Sklar intern. My name is Cove. Inquiring minds will be able to find these fanny packs on half-round.us soon.

        Great work as always John. I love me some internet biking, but its even better with familiar faces. Looking forward to seeing the photo sets to come!

        • Mason Griffin

          Cove! My bag was awesome! I can fit so many snacks now, and even a spare tube for Adam.

        • Thanks Cove! The packs are so good!

      • hansgman

        Ouch! those Hunter Cycles fannys are $75!?? ROFL…

        • … and? It’s made in Canada by Porcelain Rocket. $75 is a fair price considering the details and material. This ain’t polyester.

    • auton0my

      Yah, what’s the deal with fanny packs? New hot thing in MTB? Or a way to carry tools on remote rides without having them shake and rattle on your bike?

      • I’ve been riding with a hip bag for over 4 years. I carry snacks, tools, and usually my gloves while climbing. It also fits my Danglebong.

        • AlTilleythebum

          I figured it’s been a thing for years because I just got one and I’m hopelessly behind the times. I bought a North Street bag (after seeing one on this site) and I use it mostly for commuting purposes but I love it irrationally.

          My wife does not.

          • Ha! Cari keeps stealing mine to use when she runs.

        • Billy Arlew

          #dontgetcaughtnotdangling ;)

      • hansgman

        New? backwards fanny + bike have been a combo for a long time.

      • benreed

        If you’re not running a hydro pack or in full kit, it’s the only way to go. You can carry everything you need right on your lower back and you can’t really tell it’s there.

  • Stumpjumper 29R

    Havnt seen so many fanny packs since 1991.

    • Nicholas Haig-Arack

      1991: The Low End Theory, Nevermind, Silence of the Lambs, T2: Judgment Day, launch of the Hubble Telescope… and fanny packs. Sounds like they were really doing it right back then.

  • Fruita was so fun, but my favorite part was definitely my fanny pack!

    • Nicholas Haig-Arack

      The Sprinter is kind of like a fanny pack. But instead of delicious snacks and useful tools, it carries human beings.

      • That’s the fanny pack I was referring to, of course. In addition to wonderful humans it had tacos and a howling dog.

  • benreed

    What’s with Jeff and his full squish and backpack? Get with the program.

  • benreed

    This sentence is one of the best features of a hardtail: “We all took attempts on our hardtails, but Steve was the only one in the group to clear this feature.”

    Also, what’s with Jeff and his full squish and backpack? Get with the program.

    • I thought for sure he’d bring his Electric Queen. Wait til you see his Moab outfit! haha

      • Jeffrey Frane

        I ride hardtails every day in Minneapolis, no way was I going to Moab without a dually. Rigid is fine at 18 Road but I know ya’ll were jealous at Captain Ahab.

        • I wasn’t jealous. I was having plenty of fun. I’ve ridden Ahab 6 times, 4 of which on a hardtail and never really felt it necessary. My only gripe was not setting my fork up correctly but once I got that dialed, I was good to go.

  • Locke Hassett

    Goshdern I love Fruita. I member my first trip there…even drafted an article about it to send in, but didn’t know if it would work out. We had a blast at 18 road. Topping out Joe’s Ridge at sunset was unreal. We also did an overnight into the book cliffs north of 18 road…the lake we had planned on reaching was so heavily gated we legitimately worried about getting shot. Turns out the mineral rights had been bought out. We filtered some really gnarly water and camped high… it was a dry mash out of there, but it was so beautiful. https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/783b52f462663da28c9e3cd59604d6c30a6442c13387acf3faba17bf94f9d601.jpg

    • Great photo!

      • Locke Hassett

        Thanks John! Ektar never disappoints.

    • Ethan Goodwin

      what was your overnight trip like? were you riding on a lot of trails? dirt roads? im in grand junction and trying to figure out some overnight trips!

      • Locke Hassett

        It was all gravel roads and some doubletrack up to a mesa. Really beautiful up in the book cliffs. I would definately recommend bringing loads of water. We were heading to Echo Lake, but like I said, it didn’t go.

        There’s probably some good options for doing a mixed dirt road/trail overnight using the beginning of the Kokopelli trail… heading out from Horsetheif into rabbit valley, where there are designated campgrounds.

  • Curtis Inglis

    Great shots John!! Such a fun week of riding and goofing off with friends.

  • Adrian Bouthot

    Bummer you guys had to camp in the overflow area, but riding Joe’s at sunset makes up for it! Great photos as always.

    • We didn’t mind. We had A LOT of vehicles with us.

  • Kerry Nordstrom

    Those brake bumps at the bottom of the drop in (#29) of Zippity Doo Dah are noooo joke. PBR is probably my favorite trail there due to how awesome it is to ride at night.

    • So wild! I didn’t even touch the brakes and was running dumb-high pressure, so I kinda glided over them.

  • Barrett Hoover

    Just a heads up, camping at 18 road is not free unfortunately. There is a kiosk with envelopes to drop in some cash. It is pretty cheap though.

    • Yes, You’re correct. You pay a fee to use the area, but there isn’t a fee to camp in the overflow area per se. Thanks!

  • Gordon M

    Love seeing so many hardtails out there!

  • Thad Hoffman

    Fruita + Brown Dogs = Pure Gold. Great photos. Thanks for the stoke. The Kokopelli trails are awesome, especially given how wide the gambit of riders is. So rad seeing so many kids and families out there. Future stewards.

    Can’t believe Curtis didn’t give a heads up being so close to my back yard. Was in Fruita the weekend on either side of your trip.

    https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/628f7531c571eb1beec2e7348ea0a82e97ece5beadc81e9ff4bef7368e550092.jpg

  • Bas Rotgans

    Love all the photos. Am I the only one seeing the strength of the colour coordination between the gloves and rock in pic #24?

    • That was one of the things that made me like that photo so much. “Lichen” those colors. ;-)

    • Bob

      That is a sweet photo. The color coordination is a just a bonus!

  • Selling my house and moving here.

    • I know, right? Ugh. Endless rides, good weather, good state. Close to Moab!

  • Stuart Hanson

    Great pics! Fruita is rad!

  • Matt Karwoski

    Damn I wish I’d known about this. I was just over in Grand Junction right around that time. 18 Road and Kokopelli are both incredible! Awesome pics and story.

  • kevingraves

    ” it’s illegal to transport food and liquor across state lines”, are you sure about this? I’ve only ever know about laws around bringing fruit to California and Hawaii.

    • Superpilot

      Even food for personal consumption? I can understand trade quantities being a problem because of differing sales taxes, but personal/road trip quantities? Harsh…

    • ““It is unlawful for a person, including a motor carrier, or staff of the person to order or purchase an alcoholic product or to cause an alcoholic product to be shipped, carried, or transported into this state, or from one place to another within this state …” https://www.ksl.com/?sid=33200194&nid=148