Bikeapelli at the Fruita start
Most people’s only familiarity with Kokopelli is the ubiquitous petroglyph depicted on everything from t-shirts, coffee mugs, and stickers to yard art and tattoos. He has also morphed into Bikeapelli, Climbapelli, and Golfapelli, etc, turning the legendary flute player into a cartoonish symbol of the desert southwest.
But Kokopelli origins date back to the Ancestral Puebloan people in 750-850 AD, when he was known as a god of fertility, prosperity and a trickster. Many petroglyphs of his image can be found on rock walls throughout the four corners region.
As a mountain bike guide, Kokopelli conjures up much, much more. Namely the epic 145 mile route from Fruita, CO to Moab, UT.
When done as a point to point over 5 days like we do at Escape Adventures it becomes a pilgrimage between the two mountain bike meccas, with the La Sal Mountains growing larger in the background as each day passes.
A guide favorite, the only way this route is predictable is that it’s different every time. You have to go into this tour ready for adventure, absolutely heeding the packing list requirements of bringing a winter beanie and long underwear. Even on what I like to call our luxury car camping tours, nothing should be taken for granted. Rain can make many sections impassible, turning the roads into what can be discribed as grey peanut butter.
Weather reports mean nothing out here in the Utah-Colorado border lands, as if the trickster Kokopelli is showing himself in the occasional flip of an untethered EZ-up on an otherwise calm day or the freak 5 minute blizzard.
The biking itself is varied and challenging and the long days in the uncrowded backcountry are well worth the price of admission.
Starting with Day 1 on some of Fruita’s best singletrack off of the Loma Exit in the morning, we ride until lunch. We meet the truck and re-up the hydration packs then head west using the well worn Lion’s Loop.
As we leave the support vehicle and the crowds behind and enter onto Kokopelli proper, things get interesting. Shortly after crossing the small tributary of Salt Creek, the mandatory for most hike-a-bike tests your endurance – giving this trip the designation of arguably the hardest Day 1 of any of our tours
But at the end of the day, with a great meal, camping in Rabbit Valley is a just reward for the all hard work. The feeling of really being “out there” sets in on Day 2 as we head toward our second challenge of the trip – the climb of Bittercreek Overlook. First dessert goes to anyone who can clean it.
I once confidently rolled up to this climb only to find it completely buried in prickly tumbleweeds. Kokopelli!
Tonights camp will be Fish Ford, one of my personal favorites, where we can take a dip in the Colorado River (things seen at this camp: bald eagle, beaver, turkeys, a bear who sniffed a shammy, drunken boaters singing as they float by, rainbows, and misty morning fog). But first we have to get there on fast rolling 4×4 roads….
We break camp in the a.m., load the truck and get ready for another big day on the bike.
The morning brings a scenic mix of road and singletrack, sometimes traversing the banks of the Colorado. Meeting the support vehicle on Hwy 128, we regroup and use the pavement to get us to a shady lunch spot at historic Dewey Bridge*.
Guide Anne St. Clair took this photo as she rode by on a Kokopelli scouting trip! Guide Anne St. Clair took this photo of Dewey Bridge in 2008 as she rode by on a Kokopelli scouting trip! No more Dewey:( The afternoon will bring us to the distractedly beautiful Onion Creek climb, our alternative route to the Kokopelli’s Rose Garden section.
This 4-wheel drive road crosses the creek over 25 times through a twisted, deep canyon of Cutler formation. This ride preps us for the Day 4 3200′ climb up into the LaSal mountains which seemed so far away just a few days ago.
Pack a lunch, ride all day up into aspen and ponderosa forests, check out the dinosaur tracks and the massive views. Then pat yourself on the back for getting here by human power.
I think can see last nights camp from here! The last day is the icing on the cake, riding Porcupine Rim! This world famous (mostly) downhill trail is the alternate route on the Kokopelli trail. Sand Flats road into Moab is the official route but we didn’t come all this way to ride a graded dirt road to town! Following the wheel of an expert guide is a great way to navigate through the ledges and drops of this exciting, varied, and breathtaking trail.
The big descent out of the mountains on Porcupine Rim is just on of our rewards The big descent out of the mountains on Porcupine Rim is just one of our rewards…photo by Landon Monholland Thousands of riders travel to Moab each year just to ride this trail…only a few can say they rode there from Fruita.
Make no mistake, this tour is epic in every way. We often tell guests, “if you’re looking for adventure, look into the Kokopelli.” It’s the stuff stories are made of. If you want bragging rights to go along with your memories, this is the tour for you.
For more photos of the Kokopelli Trail visit our gallery: https://escapeadventures.com/activity/photo-gallery/mountain-bike-tours/kokopelli-trail
Keep the rubber side down – Nancy