Home to scenic hikes and riveting mountain biking — Fruita, Colorado, has another side that will make you drool.
Mountains are indeed beautiful and majestic, but the desert holds a different kind of wonder. A desert sky somehow looks bluer, in particular when pressed against the red curve of the Colorado National Monument located in Fruita. This small, rural town that sits off Interstate 70 (I-70) just west of Grand Junction, Colorado, possesses an inner beauty without even trying.
For a killer weekend visit, these adventures will give you a good taste of the locale.
Colorado National Monument
Set your sights where the horizon and the desert meet. The Colorado National Monument’s west entrance makes its home just outside of Fruita. One of the best ways to experience the Colorado National Monument is to drive the aptly named Rimrock Road all the way through the Monument, arriving back at Grand Junction. Ranger stations mark the beginning and the end of the drive. After this twisting drive, it is easy and somewhat of a relief to drive the rigidly straight I-70 back from Grand Junction to Fruita.
Driving the Monument affords an inside-out look at the Grand Valley. Standing outside the Grand Valley and looking in is a totally different experience than the other way around. Along the drive, frequent pull-outs allow for further investigation of the sandstone curves. If you only do one hike on your drive, make sure that it is Devil’s Kitchen. Park in the last pull-out that you will see before the Grand Junction ranger station, which takes the form of a small parking lot on the right-hand side of the road. Devil’s Kitchen is a three-quarters of a mile hike from the parking lot. A short and easy scramble at the end of the sandy trail (guided by cairns) will lead you into the Kitchen itself, which is a large flat sandstone area that is surrounded on three sides by sandstone towers. This area is a local’s favorite because of the almost endless amount of nooks and crannies to climb over and around.
Perhaps you prefer to move around on two wheels instead of two feet. In that case, Fruita is probably your dream come true due to its proximity to gorgeous and challenging mountain biking trails. The 18 Road trail system shuts down the competition. As if the free Bureau of Land Management camping on the road to the trails is not enough, 18 Road sits right at the foot of the impressive Book Cliffs. Follow 18 Road until you cross a cattle guard. Stick left until you see the first parking lot. You can bike here, but the more popular route is to ride your bike up the trails (or the dirt road) until you reach the very end of the car-accessible driving, which is marked by a map. If you follow the road to the left, you will find dispersed camping for a fee. However, just at the end of the road before you turn left, you will see a trail leading off the road and curving away. This trail is called Kessel Run and will take you on an easy but thrilling roller coaster ride through desert meadows and trees.
Here’s a local’s favorite way to spend a fall afternoon or evening: Moon Farm. It is a jewel of a pumpkin patch that opens in late September. This farm boasts over 20 unique playhouses created by the Moon family. Originally built for the entertainment of local school children, Moon Farm also has a petting zoo and a pumpkin patch. The last, but not least, attraction of this unique farm is its gigantic Barbie and assorted dolls collection — we’re talking thousands of dolls. If you visit around October, Moon Farm also has a haunted maze.
You’ve worked hard adventuring all day, and now it’s time to fuel up for what tomorrow has to offer. The Hot Tomato Café is legendary for its highly original pizzas (a potential topping choice is seasonal Palisade peaches) and a bar where people not only enjoy the taste of a good beer, but appreciate its rejuvenating effect after a long, dusty day.
For the best burger in town, check out Suds Brothers Brewery. If you love green chile, try the El Bandito burger. The green chile aioli will make even the toughest chile lover reach for a cool craft beer.
You’ll be planning your next trip to Fruita before you even leave city limits. Depending on the season, you can explore river sports, the Powderhorn Mountain Resort, or the weekly rodeos. If you can’t wait, come back soon to view the fall colors on The Grand Mesa, the world’s largest flat-top mountain.
Chloe Bourdon was born and raised in Durango, Colorado, and is a recent graduate of Colorado Mesa University with an English degree. Her time in Grand Junction has convinced her of the charms of the desert, despite her homegrown love of the mountains. While not working as executive director for the non-profit Blood Brothers Foundation, she loves to write, rock climb, travel, raft, read, mountain bike and camp.