Despite what its name may imply, mountain bikers might want to ride Grand Junction’s famous Lunch Loops before their midday meal, as the famed technical series of trails only becomes more challenging on a full stomach. But no matter when you decide to hop on your bike, you’ll find some of the most exciting riding in all of Colorado on more than 23 miles of trails. Though it will certainly call for a celebratory feast upon completion.
Thrilling drops, tricky rock features, flowing curves through the sagebrush-covered valley, fast descents, and incredible vistas are all on the menu for this Grand Junction classic. But those postcard-perfect views are best enjoyed while you’re taking a breather, as these are highly technical trails that require 1oo percent focus.
While it might be so close to Downtown Grand Junction, the Lunch Loops (aka Tabeguache) Trailhead lies about three miles (about a 20-minute pedal) from Main Street on Monument Road. You could pop over for a ride on your lunch break, but you’ll want to spend more time exploring this labyrinth of trails. A large parking lot is an option for those who prefer to save their legs for the dirt. While there are bathrooms at the trailhead, there are no water facilities, so bring ample amounts with you: It can get very hot during the summer, and the routes don’t provide much shade.
The best loops—including the one outlined below—will take you at least an hour and a half. The Tabeguache Trail itself is a double track that begins at this trailhead and stretches for 150 miles all the way to Montrose.
Tackling the Gunny Loop
As for recommended routes, a popular favorite is a circle connecting a series of short trails called the Gunny Loop. Beginning and finishing at the trailhead on Monument Road, this ride stretches for just over 12 miles climbing up and around the rocky mesas and descending down into the valley for close to 1,400 feet of elevation change. The route offers a solid showcase of the Lunch Loops’ highlights, connecting many of the area’s most exhilarating (and trickiest) trails.
If you need a warm-up (or a dose of motivation by watching the high-flying tricks of other riders), there’s a bike park at the trailhead complete with a pump track and jumps. You’ll also find an easier set of short loops, including a smooth singletrack called Kid’s Meal.
Even without a warm-up, this counterclockwise loop (start with the bike park and metal fence to your left) begins with a refreshingly light pedal up the wide dirt track that is Tabeguache for about a half a mile. Eagle’s Tail will come up on your right; take this singletrack and pedal for about a quarter mile before taking a left on Pet-E-Kes.
Here’s where things get serious: You’ll stay on this rolling singletrack, hammering up and over rock gardens and wedging between tight boulders and slabs. You’ll take a left and experience more of the same on High Noon until your next intersection, where you’ll turn right back onto Tabeguache for a bit of a respite via a smooth, easy climb to Holy Cross. Take a left for a rocky descent into the valley.
After a short while on Holy Cross, you’ll turn right when the trail splits onto Prenup, which will climb steadily (with a few technical steps and narrow boulder wedges to navigate) back up to Tabeguache. There, you’ll turn left, and after 50 yards or so, cross Little Park Road. On the other side of the road, you’ll see the sign for Gunny Loop/Gunnector to your left. You’ll begin to descend and will want to stay right on Gunny Loop (not Gunnector), which takes you on a long, pedal-y descent with views of the Grand Mesa in the distance. You’ll have to remain vigilant here to look for the rock slab drops and quick turns through the sagebrush. After about three miles, you’ll come to an optional series of big rock drops to challenge experienced riders.
The Homestretch Montage
You will once again cross Little Park Road and continue on Gunny Loop for about a half mile before taking a left on Holey Bucket, then make some more quick turns, so be sure to look at the signs. From Holey Bucket, you’ll take a left on Holy Cross, left on Coyote Ridge, rights on Ali Alley, Raven Ridge and Curt’s Lane—climbing and descending back toward the trailhead. You will stay on Curt’s Lane until you reach the easy lower trails surrounding the bike park and trailhead.
In addition to bringing plenty of water, sunscreen, and your A-game technical skills, also keep an eye out for wildlife on and off of the trail. Afterward, enjoy a well-deserved meal and pint at a local favorite like Handlebar or Rockslide Brewery. Handlebar is located right on Monument Road, just down the road from Lunch Loops. With open seating, a sunny patio, big burgers and loaded fry plates—plus over 20 beers on tap—it’s easy to see why the parking lot is crowded with bikes. Rockslide Brewery has been serving up cold and artfully crafted brews for 25 years. Alongside its beer is a full menu of hearty burgers, sandwiches, pizza, and two unbeatable local favorites: Bacon-wrapped meatloaf and salmon fish and chips. After some time on the trail, you’ve certainly earned your lunch.
Written by Shauna Farnell for Matcha in partnership with City of Grand Junction and legally licensed through the Matcha publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to [email protected].