Colorado’s Palisade Plunge
The Palisade Plunge isn’t all about daring. Plenty of areas let you kick back and enjoy.Courtesy Image

Colorado’s Palisade Plunge Is the Most Epic New Mountain Bike Trail in America

If you build it, they will plunge. That’s the premise behind turning a line from Field of Dreams into a trail of dreams near the dinky western Colorado town of Palisade. Opened in July after 10 years of effort, the aptly named Palisade Plunge is fast becoming the most epic ride in the Rockies.

Patterned after shuttle-up-and-schuss-down classics like Moab’s Whole Enchilada and Colorado’s Monarch Crest, the trail is the brainchild of Rondo Buecheler and Scott Winans, owners of Palisade’s Rapid Creek Cycles. The 33.8-mile route traverses seven alpine-to-desert ecosystems while dropping 6,000 vertical feet from the 10,735-foot Grand Mesa to Palisade far below.

In between is everything from rolling, flower-filled single-track to technical, don’t-fall switchbacks. Throw in sweeping vistas of the La Sal and San Juan ranges, desert spires of Colorado National Monument and lush farmland of the Grand Valley and it’s one you’ll want to notch on your seat post.

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“It’s definitely a marquee draw for the region,” says Winans, head of the Colorado Plateau Mountain Bike Trail Association.

The first section winds 11.8 miles through alpine terrain from Mesa Top to Shirttail Point. Then it gets spicier, seemingly dropping off the edge of the world. Starting with a series of spiral staircase-like switchbacks (no dishonor in walking here), the next three-mile section follows a reworked portion of the century-old Otto’s Wall trail before dropping like a shot of whiskey for the final 19.2 miles through cliff bands, slickrock ramps and creek beds.

The trail took nine different stakeholders a decade to plan and build. “I was having dreams of dying before it opened,” Winans says of the undertaking.

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This is an adventure trail, with consequences, but it’s not a full-gear “gravity” trail. There’s too much up for that. As well as descending 6,000 feet, you’ll also climb 1,900. Eventually you’ll round a corner and see Palisade and the Colorado River below. Don’t celebrate too soon—there’s still 3,000 vertical feet to go before you can cross the Plunge off your list and dunk in the river at trail’s end.

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