Kokopelli Trail – 142 Mile Two Day Mountain Bike Adventure from Fruita, CO to Moab, UT
if you’ve ever done any research for endurance mountain biking routes you’ve likely come across the famed kokopelli trail. at 142 miles it travels south west from fruita, colorado to moab, utah on singletrack, country road and a bit of pavement.
although i’ve made at least two trips to moab per year for the last 6 years, riding this entire trail has somehow alluded me. last september i had even arrived and planned on running it self supported. but the foot injury that subsequently took me out for all of 2009 wasn’t ok with that plan.
fast forward to the end of this winter. my buddy, the quintessential weekend warrior, steve copson and a coaching client, endurance mtb studd and friend dj brooks had both mentioned a fall trip to the mountain bike meca. dj and i quickly hatched our plan to ride the kokopelli trail in two days.
we drove from seattle to salt lake city and my second home in the sugarhood. mandy helped us prepare for our two day mountain bike epic, which made it possible to actually leave with enough time on monday to get everything done. the logistics weren’t pretty, but we figured out a reasonable plan. we drove to moab booked a hotel room for wed night and dropped some apre gear in the bike storage at the archway hotel. we then drove to dewey bridge where the kokopelli trail crosses the highway on 128. it’s also a good mid point at mile 77 of the kokopelli trail heading south. we hid our camping gear and a cooler of food in the bushes here. we then drove to fruita, colorado for a quick bite to eat, then sleep.
Day 1 – Loma, CO to Dewey Bridge (77 miles with 7,000 ft of gain)
we started day one a bit later than planned at 8:06am. we assumed around 9hrs of casual riding for the 77 miles with 7,000ft of gain. the northern trailhead of the kokopelli starts in loma, colorado a few miles from fruita. for the day one ride to dewey bridge i brought 11 hrs of food (around 200 cals per hour), 122oz of water and 1 tube of nuun for the trip. with just 122oz of water i knew i’d be risking a bit of dehydration but the weather looked cloudy and not super hot. i also figured with the trail crossing the river some 50 miles in i’d be able to replenish if it was looking like i made a mistake and was at risk. i made sure to super-hydrated before the start as well. which i would never do before a race, but we weren’t racing so i figured i’d be ok… and it did in fact work out perfectly.
after the climb up mack ridge from the trailhead/parking lot on the dirt road off i70 the trail turns onto mary’s loop which runs on a shelf above the colorado river. this section of kokopelli trail was so amazingly beautiful we were quite literally stopped in our tracks every few miles or so to take photos and video.
after some fun downhill singletrack the trail then drops down crosses the river and has a few hundred feet of hike a bike. from westwater to the cisco takeout dj and i got our paceline on, or as mandy calls it our “kokapellaton”. the wind was intense, pedal down hill type of intense. it was kind of fun to have to work hard to pull us through the nasty wind.
as you can see in the video the ride down to mcgraw bottom was beautiful with the vibrant fall colors lighting our way as night started to descend upon us. after crossing highway 128 we both said “we’ve only got 8.2 miles to go today!”. well after 69 miles that last 8.2 to dewey bridge seemed to take forever. the climb was pretty tough and there were sections of soft sand that caused our bikes to get super squirrely. it required more walking than we were willing to admit, fighting for every inch through the sand. although we had lights just in case, we luckily made it to our camping gear at dewey bridge without having to use them in 10hrs 40mins.
one of our water jugs had drained overnight, so we had to boil a bit of water to assure we had enough for coffee, and i suppose for food and hydration reasons as well… but mostly coffee. i was pretty excited to get another night in my black diamond lightsaber bivy (it’s only 1lbs 10oz!). it was however a restless night with hours of intense wind. i had totally irrational nightmares of the colorado swelling and gobbling me up as i lay helplessly in my bivy.
Day 2 – Dewey Bridge to Moab, Utah (66 miles with 11,000ft of gain)
we headed out into a light rain on the second day at 8:34am. my lack of bike training mean my biggest issue was how saddle sore my butt was. having done a few adventure races and 24hr mtn bike races in my day it was a familiar feeling really, but one i don’t appreciate. we call it ‘monkey butt’ and i think that about says it all.
as you can see from this elevation profile of the entire trail, our second day started out with a climb and didn’t let up a whole lot. i worried a bit about our finish time and pace so i made an effort to keep us moving with minimal breaks. the climb out of cottonwood canyon was sandy and steep at times. this section was ranked difficult to very difficult and felt really remote. like we were the only ones on earth and we were miles and miles from comfort, safety and civilization. the final drop into the valley was a super steep road with loose baby head rocks that i walked most of. the reward however was rolling the flat road through the sage into fischer valley . fischer valley was amazing. dead flat for miles and then bam! sheer cliff walls. stunning.
from there we climbed up and out to beaver mesa, our first big climb of the day. the second was castle valley road to mason draw. i’ll be honest here, the end of the kokopelli is uneventful. first there is no trailhead for a finish photo, it just sort of ends at the slickrock trail parking lot or in town moab. second the ride down and out sand flats road sucks. it sucks even more when you do it in the dark. once we hit moab it was once again back to our kokapellaton for one final hammer sesh to archway hotel and the sweet relief of getting off the saddle and taking off my nasty bike shorts.
i feel like kokopelli, the god of fertility, blessed us with a great adventure (and quite possibly super-fertility). the ride was amazingly beautiful and i feel so fortunate to be healthy enough to do such a trip. thank you dj brooks for the great company and adventure of a lifetime. also thank you mandy hosford for all your help getting us to the trailhead ready to ride 142 miles.
wanna ride the kokopelli trail?
check out my coaching services if you want to get ready to mountain bike or run the kokopelli trail. i’m also available as a personal guide for the trail. email me – Matt@CoachingEndurance.com
my gear for the kokopelli trail
bike: turner nitrous mtn bike
bike shoes: northwave aerlite S.B.S. bike shoe
helmet: rudy project helmet
shades: rudy project kalyos photochromic glasses
energy gels: clif shots
energy bars: mandy’s homemade energy bars (link to recipe) & clif bars
electrolytes: orange ginger nuun
watch and GPS: suunto t6 w/gps pod to track distance and elevation
tent/bivy: black diamond lightsaber bivy
map: this is the only map i needed. the trail is very well marked.