Singletrack, World-Famous Pizza and a Headless Chicken in Fruita

Why to visit this small town on the edge of Colorado National Monument.

Photo: Courtesy Go Fruita

The charming city of Fruita is the place to headquarter your trip to Colorado National 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.

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.

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.

Biking through Colorado National Monument
Biking on Rim Rock Drive through Colorado National Monument. Courtesy Go Fruita

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 Bestslope Coffee Company to fuel up.

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.”

Family mountain biking near Fruita, Colorado
Family mountain biking / Courtesy Go Fruita

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.”

Outhouse races at Fruita's Fall Fest
Outhouse races at Fruita’s Fall Fest. Courtesy Go Fruita

Some of those community events include the weekly Rim Rock Rodeo on Tuesday evenings through the summer, and the Mike the Headless Chicken Festival, June 3-4, 2022. 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.

Rafting at Ruby Horsethief near Fruita
Rafting at Ruby Horsethief on the Colorado River. Courtesy Go Fruita

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 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.

Yoga on stand-up paddleboards at Fruita's Snooks Bottom Open Space
Yoga on stand-up paddleboards at Fruita’s Snooks Bottom Open Space. Courtesy Go Fruita

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. Enjoy a slice and a cold Colorado craft beer on the patio while you’re planning what adventures tomorrow holds.

Pizza at Hot Tomato in Fruita
Pizza at Hot Tomato. Topher Yanagihara

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