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A sneak preview ride along the Palisade Plunge in western Colorado. The trail is expected to open this summer.

Colorado mountain bikers are getting a taste of the state’s most anticipated trail in years.

The first section of Palisade Plunge has opened — a 17-mile stretch of singletrack traversing the wooded flanks of the Grand Mesa to the town of Palisade. Final work continues on the upper portion of the trail; a Bureau of Land Management press release said the job is expected to be complete by July 31.

Once opened in its entirety, the Plunge will span 32 miles, twisting and turning about 6,000 feet from the top of the world’s largest flattop mountain, through classic desert canyons and down to the town famous for fruit and wine. It will be the culmination of years of planning between local, state and federal agencies.

The trail “exemplifies how a community can come together and create something special,” BLM Grand Junction field manager Greg Wolfgang said in a press release.

Based on studies of Salida’s Monarch Crest Trail and Moab’s Whole Enchilada Trail — two mountain biking destinations of Plunge caliber — the new route anticipates drawing 5,000 riders annually to Mesa County.

That’s a “modest estimate,” said Scott Winans, president of the group that has spearheaded the project, Colorado Plateau Mountain Bike Trail Association.

In a previous interview with The Gazette, Winans said test runs of the Plunge had garnered rave reviews. “Everybody who’s been on the trail has shaken their heads and said, ‘Wow. This is something else.’”

Riders of the trail’s first phase are asked to park at the Wild Rose recreation site below Lands End Road. Riders will have to pedal about 2 miles up the road to reach the start of the Plunge.

The section “navigates remote, backcountry terrain with some sections of extreme exposure only for experienced riders,” the BLM warns.

The agency advises riders “to consider their experience, skills and preparedness” and bring food, water and bike repair supplies.

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