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Most folks of the Four Corners States relate the sleepy town of Palisade, Colorado, with fruit and wine. For Front Range mountain bikers though, Palisade is perhaps better known as a highway sign indicating that Fruita is near. Not fruit, Fruita—the iconic riding destination just east of Palisade.
Despite having the ability to provide riders with several vices, with its numerous wineries, a solid brewery, distillery, and the only legal marajuana dispensaries in the Grand Valley, Palisade has always lacked mountain bikers’ drug of choice: singletrack. But that’s about to change.
Slated to open in May, the recently constructed Palisade Plunge trail will take riders from the trail’s high point of 10,700 feet above sea level, high atop the Grand Mesa, all the way to the Colorado River 6,000 feet below. With a total length of 32 miles, the trail aims to compete with other downhill-biased epics like Moab’s Whole Enchilada and Salida’s Monarch Crest.
With plenty of steep, exposed, technical and rocky terrain, Palisade Plunge is not for the faint of heart. Following a classic route off the mesa established by John Otto, a legendary trailbuilder, guide and the first park custodian of the nearby Colorado National Monument, build crews had to construct massive retaining walls in order to make the sheer cliff section of Otto’s Wall rideable.
Completing a 32 mile-long trail that descends 6,000 vertical feet from the top of the world’s largest free-standing mesa takes a village. Along with Singletrack Trails, the company commissioned to build the trail, the Town of Palisade, City of Grand Junction, Mesa County, Powderhorn Mountain Resort, Orchard Mesa Irrigation District, Bureau of Land Management, United States Forest Service, Colorado Parks & Wildlife, Colorado Plateau Mountain Bike Association (COPMOBA) and countless of individual volunteers all took part in bringing this trail to reality.
Construction of the Plunge has taken place over the past two years, but the trail is the result of a decade-long dream that began with eight years of work between private landowners, local ranchers who lease land on the Grand Mesa, and local and federal government officials to secure land easements and permitting.
The trail crosses over six property lines, including USFS, BLM, Bureau of Reclamation, Town of Palisade, the City of Grand Junction, as well as grazing lease easements, so it’s no wonder it took so long. Finally though, all the patience, paperwork, compromise and calloused hands will all be worth it.
Descending from the evergreens atop the Grand Mesa, through multiple stunning ecosystems, down to the orchards of Palisade, the Plunge is sure to put Palisade on the mountain bike map.
Note: All shuttle permitting is handled through the USFS as the drop-off points are all on Forest land. Currently permits are held by Palisade Plunge Cycle & Shuttle and Pali-Tours which is also based in Palisade.