Another season approaches for a mountain bike trail still being discovered in Colorado — what many have called the most epic ride to join the state's portfolio in a long time.
The seasonal closure for the Palisade Plunge lifted at the start of May. With dirt still drying along the 32-mile track dropping 6,000 feet toward town from atop the Grand Mesa, riders might want to wait until June to launch, said Austin Roberts, manager of Palisade Cycle and Shuttle.
Near the start of next month, he expected shuttles to ferry bikers to Wild Rose Campground, where they can catch the trail's lower 17 miles. Roberts said it might be middle to late June before the higher elevations dry.
It'll be the third summer Palisade Cycle and Shuttle — formerly Rapid Creek Cycles — has brought groups up to the trail, affording a new, in-demand line of business. The Palisade Plunge partially opened in 2021 after years of locals dreaming of a mountain bike destination on this side of the Grand Valley, opposite the vaunted singletrack around Fruita.
"The trail is still in the process of gaining traction, pun intended," Roberts said. "Ridership is really what that trail needs to be packed in and benched out."
It needs riders — but far from just any riders, Roberts warned.
Last year provided an ultimate, tragic warning: A 52-year-old man was found dead after running out of water while riding the trail alone.
"We have most certainly turned some (customers) away," Roberts said.
Those were customers determined to have a lack of experience and/or lack of water, food, spare tubes, tools and clothing for the venture spanning the alpine forest and the rocky, hot desert below, with no bailout in between.
The "plunge" in the name can be deceiving, Roberts said.
"Some folks don't quite get the 1,500 feet of climbing in there. A lot of people are coming from the Whole Enchilada in Moab and wanting this full-on, downhill track. It's not that. It's a full day, endurance, adventure ride. It's fun, but it's a physical test for sure."
A mental test, too, notes Colorado Plateau Mountain Bike Trail Association. The stewarding group warns of "sections of extreme exposure that require high levels of confidence and skill."
Shuttles save important hours and energy. Without a shuttle, the ride up and down is "impractical," Roberts said, "unless you've got two days to do it."
For first-timers, Roberts recommended shuttle drop-offs granting 17 or 21 miles rather than the trail's full 32.
He recommended a nearby trail that might be more suitable for skill levels: Palisade Rim Trail, running about 13 miles along the cliffs above town.
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