Kokopelli Trail May 4 & 11, 2017
All About the Trail
The Kokopelli Trail was conceived & built in 1989 by the Colorado Plateau Mountain Bike Trail Association, a small group of committed mountain bikers who envisioned a single, contiguous trail stretching from Grand Junction, Colorado to Moab, Utah. It was named for Kokopelli, the magical flute player who wandered the desert and was able to drive back winter, as Hopi legend holds.
Without any additional loops, the Kokopelli covers 142 miles total. Most is on remote BLM property, with a few confluences on private & NFS land.
Rating the trail's difficulty is a challenge, as the terrain can vary widely from serene, meandering graded 2wd roads to steep, rocky & technical pieces best hiked thru. 95% of the trail is completely ridable by a strong intermediate rider with average technical skills and a solid base of endurance training.
Still, this is considered a strong-intermediate to advanced ride and is not recommended for beginners.
Elevation charts read like an EKG after espresso — but remember you're looking at almost 150 miles of climbing & descending condensed, so don't be intimidated. There are several short, steep climbs & descents, and a couple very long climbs & drops at a more moderate grade.
The single longest climb comes on day 3, and climbs to over 8500 feet into the La Sal Mountains. While that may sound grueling, remember that a large percentage of riders rank that climbing experience as a high point of their trip. The elevation low - about 4000'. Most of the Kokopelli stays around a mile high.
The terrain is classic Colorado Plateau and will vary frequently. Those familiar with Moab riding will feel right at home, those new to the area will encounter trail surfaces unlike anything they've ever seen.
You'll start off skirting the Colorado River, following increasingly technical singletrack on hardpack and occasional slickrock. Later that day, Kokopelli climbs out of the Salt Creek area to gentle hills and rolling jeep trails past enormous entrada formations reminiscent of a moonscape from a Dr Seuss book.
Day two drops into the Cisco desert, a less colorful section passing a ghost town frozen in time and the historic Dewey Suspension Bridge, once the only passage across the Colorado but unfortunately now just a burnt reminder of what used to be. Again, the rider is confronted by numerous photo ops as Kokopelli climbs thru sage & juniper forests into Fisher Valley, passing thru several canyons and a slickrock playground for those willing. This is a magical section with a challenging climb and descent.
The final day carries the riders thru an extended climb into the pine & aspen forests of the La Sal's and over Castle Valley. From the summit, the views of nearby Moab are spectacular, and it's all downhill from here! Descend thru rollercoaster-like singletrack to Sand Flats Road, and choose between the traditional casual descent past the Slickrock trail or for those feeling strong, the daring descent along Porcupine Rim.
Routefinding: The entire trail is well-marked at every junction (in theory), and there is no reason why any rider should expect to lose their way so long as they follow the signs and don't wander off trail. Still, it is essential that each rider carry a map and know how to use it. With an eye on safety, each day starts with a pre-ride meeting in which the route is detailed extensively.
Water: There is no potable water on the trail, so support vehicles will truck in as much as we need.
Weather: Early May is an ideal time to be on the trail. Expect daytime temps to be mid-70's to 80's down low, cooler as elevation increases. Nights will be cool, in the 40's to 50's.
Safety: This is our number one concern. While we take extensive precautions, the best risk management is prevention. Every rider is expected to have the ability to complete the trail and be self-sufficient between camps & aid stations. Opportunities to shuttle do exist if necessary.
We have the means to evacuate riders from Kokopelli but will only in emergencies. This is a safety net, NOT an escape from a difficult hill or flat tire.
Looking for a guidebook? Our guidebook is now available free for download on the 'guidebook' page.