Colorado National Monument is referred to as the “Heart of the World” for a reason. It’s other-worldly red rock formations, sheer cliffs and star-filled skies will leave you gasping in awe in front of one of Colorado’s most under-rated national park sites. The charming city of Fruita is the place to headquarter your trip to the monument. An outdoor adventurer’s paradise, it’s still held on to its small-town feel. And, best yet, its vibrant downtown is located just minutes from the monument’s entrance.
Drive, or if you’re feeling adventurous, bike the monument’s 23-mile Rim Rock Drive for incredible views. For a chance to get away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life, spend the night in the Saddlehorn Campground. Watch the sunset over the rim, roast some marshmallows, and wait for the stars to come out.
Fruita is famous for its world class mountain biking, with endless miles of single track trails. Beginners and experts alike should head to one of the city’s bike shops, Colorado Backcountry Biker or Over the Edge Sports (both located right downtown) for local advice and bike rentals. Before you head off for a day of adventure, stop by Tacorado, an Austin-style breakfast taco food truck to fuel up for the day. It’ll be parked at Colorado Backcountry Biker for the 2019 season. The pro move? Order “The Combo”, which will let you try their most popular tacos: the Migas, tortilla chips, sautéed onions, scrambled eggs, avocado and queso, and the Papas, scrambled eggs, potatoes and Cojita cheese.
If you’re new to mountain biking, head to Rustler’s Loop at the Kokopelli Trailhead. It has a nice mix of terrain but will allow you to stay in control. City manager and avid mountain biker Mike Bennett reminds riders, “there’s no shame in getting off and walking. You can always try it again.”
Bennett moved to Fruita five years ago and has immersed himself in all the opportunities the high desert city has to offer like teaching his three kids how to mountain bike.
“There’s such a community feel,” he notes, “if you come to town spring through fall, it’s guaranteed that there’s going to be something going on.”
Some of those community events include the weekly Rim Rock Rodeo on Tuesday evenings through the summer, and the Mike the Headless Chicken Festival, May 31– June 1, 2019. Yes, you read that correctly. Each summer, more than 20,000 people gather in Fruita to celebrate a very lucky chicken. Destined for a local farmer’s dinner table, a vital artery was missed when Mike was beheaded in 1945. The chicken lived for 18 months without a head and became the star of a traveling road show. The festival in his honor has a different theme each year, but the highlights include a Peep eating contest, more than 200 chickens participating in festivities at Civic Center Park and live music.
Fruita is known as a fall and spring destination, when the temperate weather attracted those seeking relief from the Rocky Mountain snow, but any local will tell you, Fruita is incredible in the summer too – the key is getting wet. Check out the only full-service cable wakeboard park in the region or reserve a campsite along the Ruby Horsethief Canyon on recreation.gov and float all the way to Utah. You can rent a raft, kayak, canoe or stand-up paddleboard at Rim Rock Adventures. Make sure to stop and pet the donkeys while you’re there. New to rafting? Rim Rock also offers guided trips through a variety of areas, so you can choose to float lazy river style or take on some rolling rapids.
Whether your day under the Colorado sun was spent mountain biking, hiking, trail running, floating or walking through town, there’s no better way to end it than at the famous Hot Tomato Pizza. A mecca for locals, tourists and mountain bikers alike, the Hot Tomato and its owners, Jen Zeuner and Anne Keller, are even the stars of a Patagonia film premiering this year. Enjoy a slice and a cold Colorado craft beer on the patio while you’re planning what adventures tomorrow holds.
Learn more about Fruita at www.gofruita.com.