Grand Valley’s Palisade Plunge set to open after 10 years of planning, partnerships

The work of three federal land agencies, three municipalities, landowners and mountain bikers yields not just Colorado’s most anticipated trail, but a model for how communities can bring big ideas to fruition.

The following excerpt comes from an article in The Colorado Sun on September 30 and details the Palisade Plunge project:

“The dozen-plus mountain bikers lean over their handlebars and scan the cliff next to the narrow singletrack. A few nervous chuckles evaporate in the gusting wind. 

For the next hour, the riders mutter “moreso” to each other as they navigate a ribbon of dirt above sheer cliffs. 

The 32-mile, soon-to-open Palisade Plunge is the most anticipated mountain bike trail to debut in a decade in Colorado. It’s taken more than 10 years of negotiations between federal and state agencies, local communities, mountain bikers and private landowners. And the end result is a trail that will challenge even the most skilled mountain bikers as they bounce down the crown jewel of the Grand Valley’s blossoming outdoor recreation economy. 

But the Palisade Plunge is more than an economic engine luring mountain bikers who are expected to deliver as much as $5 million a year to Mesa County. And it’s more than a destination-worthy trail that traverses distinct alpine-to-desert ecosystems, blending rolling singletrack with technical, high-consequence terrain and unrivaled vistas.

Scott Winans, the longtime head of the Colorado Plateau Mountain Bike Trail Association, spent more than 10 years negotiating the development of the 32-mile Palisade Plunge trail, which descends more than 6,000 vertical feet from the top of the Grand Mesa to the Colorado River. The bottom section of the trail — which is scheduled to open later this fall — features technical, exposed singletrack. (Joey Early / RockyMounts, Special to The Colorado Sun)

The Palisade Plunge is emerging as a prototype for how diverse groups, agencies and governments can combine forces and spend many years working to build something big. 

‘We are going to set the tone not just for Mesa County and what it can do for us economically, but for the whole country as a model for how, when a community comes together to get something done, we can really do it with partnerships with federal government and the state government and so many other groups,’ Mesa County Commissioner Rose Pugliese said last week as she addressed a crowd in the new $187,000 Shirttail Point parking lot built by Mesa County to serve as a Palisade Plunge launching point. 

Descending more than 6,000 vertical feet from the top of the Grand Mesa to Palisade’s verdant vineyards along the Colorado River, the trail is set to join Colorado’s Monarch Crest and Utah’s Whole Enchilada as mountain bike rides that draw hardy pedalers from all corners. 

‘This is the first point-to-point, shuttle-able, purpose-built mountain bike trail ever in the country. All the other point-to-point trails have been pieced together by linking existing trails,’ said Greg Mazu, whose Singletrack Trails crew is building the Plunge Trail. “

Read the full article in The Colorado Sun >>

See more photos from this “sneak peek” ride of the Palisade Plunge >>

Watch a video of the “sneak peek” ride via Spoke+Blossom >>

Feature photo courtesy Joey Early at RockyMounts, an outdoor recreation manufacturer that recently moved from Boulder to Colorado’s Grand Valley.