Yesterday, The Colorado Sun took readers on a beautiful ride behind-the-scenes of the 34-mile (and 6,000-foot descent) Palisade Plunge trail and the massive community effort to make it happen. Once completed, the news outlet predicts the Palisade Plunge “is destined to be one of the top mountain biking destinations in the country.” Here’s more:
“For more than a decade, [Scott] Winans and a small band of outdoor recreation advocates in Mesa County have worked on an audacious plan for a 33.6-mile trail plummeting 6,000 vertical feet from the top of Grand Mesa to the Colorado River in Palisade. The Palisade Plunge trail project corrals three federal agencies, three municipalities, landowners, water districts, ranchers and hunters under a single banner, marking a coalition of Western Slope residents about as diverse as can be assembled.
‘At any point, if any one of the partners had really held back or come out against this, it would have killed everything.’ Winans said. ‘Even a lack of enthusiasm would have done it. There has been so much partnership and interaction that led us to this point. We are stronger as a community across this whole valley because of this project.’
Last month, a team of trail builders started boring singletrack into forest so thick they might as well be miners blasting tunnels. When the crew with Singletrack Trails finishes — hopefully next year, depending on funding — there will be more than 31 miles of new purpose-built trail, and about 3 miles of existing singletrack, descending from the basalt-fluted alpine rim of the state’s highest mesa. Riders can start at 50-degree temps in the alpine and jump in the river in the 100-degree valley when they finish. It’s a destination-worthy trail destined to become a crown jewel of Colorado mountain biking, joining the state’s Monarch Crest and Utah’s Whole Enchilada as iconic, must-pedal rides.
‘The total commitment in concept, from Day One, was that it had to be high-quality trail experience,’ Winans said. ‘This thing would never be what we envisioned if someone got on it and said “Ho-hum, I don’t need to come back and do that again.”‘
But support for the trail isn’t rooted in making mountain bikers happy. It’s about growing the valley’s economy with an asset projected to draw visitors and new residents and contribute at least $5 million a year to local businesses. With that kind of promise, the arduous process of designing, approving and building the Palisade Plunge is emerging as a model for communities across the West as they tap trails to breathe new life into old economies dependent on crops, coal, oil and cattle.”
Photo credit: The Colorado Sun, featuring Scott Winans riding a newly constructed portion of the Palisade Plunge trail.