The Palisade Plunge (and its 6,000-foot descent) will be one of Colorado’s crown jewels |

The Palisade Plunge (and its 6,000-foot descent) will be one of Colorado’s crown jewels

Jason Blevins
The Colorado Sun
Riders navigate a recently constructed portion of the Palisade Plunge Trail, a 34-mile descent that will connect the Grand Mesa Plateau southeast of Grand Junction with the Colorado River in Palisade. (William Woody, Special to The Colorado Sun)

Perched on basalt boulders at the end of a path freshly carved through a jungle of scrub oak, Scott Winans is as close as ever to a 10-year goal that promises to highlight the recreational assets of his Grand Valley home turf.  

“It’s been a lot of work to get here. A lot of work,” he said, plunging his face into the icy Whitewater Creek tumbling off the Grand Mesa. “Sometimes I can’t believe it’s finally happening.”

For more than a decade, 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.

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