Exploring Fruita, CO

Fruita, Colorado has become one of the preeminent destinations on the state's Western Slope for mountain bikers, history buffs and dinosaur enthusiasts.

Conveniently located between Grand Junction and the Utah state line on I-70, Fruita is gaining the kind of reputation that other outdoors-centric towns would love to have. If you're searching for two-wheel adventures, the Fruita region is home to some of the Colorado's most beloved mountain biking trails. Experienced riders will find an abundance of well-defined singletrack and slickrock trails that go for miles into the high desert. Fruita’s marquee ride, known as the Kokopelli Trail, winds through 142 miles of remote canyons and forests, ending at the high-profile mountain biking destination of Moab in Utah.

Outdoors lovers aren't flocking here just for the biking either. Just south of Fruita is the Colorado River, which offers amazing opportunities for rafting trips. Hikers, cyclists and campers will also love the town's convenient access to the Colorado National Monument's western entrance. The drama of the landscape is undeniable: the gnarled junipers hanging from cliff ledges and the vertical cliffs erupting from the valleys below make for a truly awe-inspiring landscape.

The town itself is a history lesson, with buildings that date to the late 19th century, neatly kept Queen Anne houses, and a Depression-era Beaux Arts style schoolhouse that today is home to the Fruita Civic Center. Early settlers were mainly farmers, though many out-of-staters may be surprised to find that Fruita sits in the middle of a considerable fruit-growing region (hence the town’s name). To visit Fruita – downtown and beyond – is to take a step back into multiple generations of Western history.

But Fruita’s main attractions are more than just historic homes and outdoor fun. This is a place with more sunny days than the rest of the country. You may just be in Fruita for a visit, but the town’s charms could have you wanting to stick around for a lot longer.

If you're traveling with kids (or the young at heart), the city's abundance of dinosaur fossils is a definite draw. Fruita established itself as a paleontological wonderland around 1900, when scientists from Chicago’s Field Museum received word of ranchers finding strange bones near Fruita. The paleontologists ventured west, began excavating and within a few years had found numerous new species previously unknown to science.

Today, you can best see what ancient Fruita was like is by visiting Rabbit Valley, part of McInnis Canyons National Conservation Area that contains the lesser-known Trail Through Time. The main attraction along the 1.5-mile long trail is the Myatt Moore quarry, a fossil site that contains 140 million-year-old creatures whose names would challenge any spelling bee contestant. Paleontologists today are still discovering dinosaur remains here. Want to dig for fossils? Check out programs offered by the Dinosaur Journey Museum, which include opportunities to be a paleontologist for a day (or longer). The museum is located one block south of the Colorado Welcome Center and includes a number of fun and educational exhibits. 

If you visit Fruita in late September, you can catch one of the town’s biggest annual events, the Fruita Fall Festival. Celebrating its 100th anniversary in 2014, the three-day party features more than 150 vendors, an expected 50,000 visitors, and one of the most memorable of any events you will find at a fall fest. Dubbed simply the “bed race,” this contest is an opportunity for Fruitans to show off their engineering and imagination by transforming beds into elaborate racing vehicles. Past entries have included beds transformed into covered wagons and other themes.  

The Fruita Fall Festival also invites competitors to a baking and canning contest, and, for younger residents, a pet show and talent show. The addition of food and craft vendors, a parade and comedy shows to the mix only proves that Fruitans know how to party.

These are just a few of the many attractions found in and around Fruita. When you stop by, you’ll only begin to understand its charm. You’ll know the town really has won you over when you start imagining how to put wheels on your bed.