5 Early Season Mountain Bike Areas

Tasha Heilweil Free Lunch Trail Photo Credit Xan Marshland - OutThere Colorado

Spring is in full swing and you’re ready to get on your bike, but your favorite trails are still snow-covered? Don’t worry; we’ve compiled a list of places to shred some singletrack before the high alpine trails are melted out. These trails are all at lower elevations (well, as low as it gets in Colorado), but that doesn’t mean you should have lower expectations. These 5 areas offer amazing trails for riders of all abilities.

Phil’s World – Cortez, CO

Phil's World Mountain Bike Trail - @coloradic (Instagram) - OutThere Colorado
Phil’s World Mountain Bike Trail. Photo Credit: @coloradic (Instagram).

Phil’s World is hands-down the flowiest area on this list. The trails here are best described as fun. Whether you are a beginner or expert rider, Phil’s World will leave you grinning. Cortez is located west of Durango outside of the San Juan Mountains. It’s one of the first places to dry up in the spring and last places to get wet and snowy in the fall. All of the trails are rolling; there aren’t any true climbs or descents, but linking up all the loops adds some great mileage.

Ride suggestion:

  • Start on CoCo and then choose between the Abajo Loop, Ledges Loop and Stinky Spring Loop (or do them all!) Get back to your car via Here For More.

Pro tips:

  • The dirt here is a type of clay that turns into a sticky, peanut butter-like consistency when wet. To preserve the trails and your bike do not ride this trail system during or immediately after it rains.

RELATED: Mountain Biking Fun Facts That Will Blow Your Mind

18 Road Trail System – Fruita, CO

18 Road Trail System - @mysticmountainadventures (Instagram) - OutThere Colorado
18 Road Trail System. Photo Credit: @mysticmountainadventures (Instagram).

Fruita, CO is known as one of the mountain biking meccas of the west, and for good reason. The 18 Road Trail System offers both flowy and technical trails and is a great place to ride short laps all day long and work on your skills. The trails here are full of locals out for an evening spin, toddlers on their first bike ride ever and visitors from all over the US discovering this incredible desert riding.

Ride suggestion:

  • Start off with flowy lap climbing Prime Cut and descending PBR (Pumps, Bumps and Rollers). Then climb Prime Cut again, but at the top turn left onto Frontside. For a fun and moderately challenging descent drop down on Joes Ridge. If you don’t mind a little exposure and want to challenge yourself on steep, but smooth, ridges ride Zippity Do Dah.
  • If you still aren’t tired and what to try out some slower short technical climbs and descents climb Prime Cut again but this time turn right at Chutes and Ladders. Get back to the trailhead via Edge Loop (S).

Pro tips:

  • If you aren’t feeling the singletrack climb, you can climb the road right out of the parking lot and bypass most of Prime Cut.
  • If you are camping, try to get a spot at the 18 Road Campground. It’s great waking up to trails at your doorstep.
  • Grab a bite to eat at the famous Hot Tomato Pizzeria. It is usually busy, but it’s always worth it.
  • For any repairs or to grab a trailmap stop by Over the Edge Bike Shop in downtown Fruita.
  • On day 2 or 3 of your trip after riding 18 Road, check out the Kokopelli Trail System (described below).

Kokopelli Trail System – Fruita, CO

Kokopelli Trail System - @noahsears (Instagram) - OutThere Colorado
Kokopelli Trail System. Photo Credit: @noahsears (Instagram).

The Kokopelli Trail System lies on the sandstone mesas above the Colorado River. The view is spectacular, but don’t let it distract you too much; mistakes in some spots could land you in the river far below. The Kokopelli Trail system offers some beginner and intermediate trails, but the technical sandstone is what draws people from around the country to these trails. Give the infamous Horsethief Bench Drop-In a try on your way down to the Horsethief Loop, but we recommend scouting it before shredding down the exposed sandstone ledges. Also, don’t feel bad if you walk, most people do!

Ride suggestion:

  • Start with a warm-up lap on Rustler Loop. Then climb up Mary’s to do a Horsethief Loop.
  • If you want a more technical ride, start from the parking lot riding Mary’s to do a Horsethief Loop. Then continue on Mary’s to ride Moore Fun from west to east.

Pro tips:

  • Bring your lunch on the ride and take a break overlooking the Colorado River.
  • Make sure to bring a spare tube. The rocks here are notorious for tearing through tires.

RELATED: Mountain Biking Fun Facts That Will Blow Your Mind

Lunch Loops – Grand Junction, CO

Tasha Heilweil Free Lunch Trail Photo Credit Xan Marshland - OutThere Colorado
Tasha Heilweil dropping in to Free Lunch at the Lunch Loops in Grand Junction. Photo Credit: Xan Marshland.

The Lunch Loops offer some of the best technical riding around. Located conveniently close to downtown Grand Junction, this trail system is literally the “lunch ride” for many locals. After riding it, you’ll be jealous that you don’t have these trails out your back door. The Lunch Loops offer trails for all levels of riders, but the expert level trails here are the real gems. Free Lunch and Pucker Up combine the natural desert features with rock rolls and drops to make insanely fun trails. The Gunny Loop is more mellow, but still tests your

Ride suggestion:

  • For an intermediate ride, park at the Little Park Trailhead and do the Gunny Loop counter-clockwise. Take Gunny Loop into Gunny Loop (East) and then take a left onto Gunnector to bring you back around. To make this ride longer, stay on Gunny Loop (East) to some of the lower trails before climbing back up to your car via the Tabeguache Trail.
  • For a more technical ride that highlights the best trails around (and give you a little air time), start at the Tabeguache Trailhead. Climb the Tabeguache Trail to Lunch Line. Then descend down Free Lunch to Pucker Up. Warning: these two trails have high consequence features and many drops (there are walk-arounds). Then climb the Tabeguache Trail to Lunch Line again, but this time descend Eagle Tail (South) to Eagle Tail.

Hartman Rocks – Gunnison, CO

Hartman Rocks - Gunnison, Colorado - @westelkproject (Instagram) - OutThere Colorado
Hartman Rocks. Gunnison, Colorado. Photo Credit: @westelkproject (Instagram).

Crested Butte gets all the attention, but just down the road Gunnison has some amazing trails that are ride-able before any alpine riding is snow-free. Hartman’s Rocks Trail System is the perfect place to break out the wheels for your first ride of the year.

Ride suggestion:

  • Warm up by climbing Hartman Rocks Drive and get in the groove with a flowy run on The Luge. Then ride Top of the World for a rolling trail with some great views of town.
  • To push your skills climb Ring Dike and descend Rattlesnake, both of which have lots of rocky, technical challenges and require short bursts of energy for steep and short climbs.

RELATED: Mountain Biking Fun Facts That Will Blow Your Mind

More from OutThere Colorado