Round Trip Distance: 7 miles
Elevation: 4627 - 4789 feet
Cellphone: 1-3 bars
Time: 18 hrs.
Trailhead: near swim beach
Attractions: Annual mountain bike endurance race
The 18 Hours of Fruita trail is located in the Highline Lake State Park north of Loma, Colorado. The trail is the route for an annual mountain bike endurance race held in the spring during the Fruita Fat Tire Festival. The course is made up by combining portions of other trails in the Highline Lakes trail system. The race is limited to the first 100 teams that register. The fee, which includes 2 days of camping, t-shirt and a post event party, is based upon the number of team members with discounts for early registration. For the 2016 race the entrance fees ranged from $225-$680.
Highline Lake State Park is located at the end of 11 8/10 Road about 6.4 miles north of Loma.
If you are here for the race then they will have their official starting place which is usually near the north end of the picnic area. For everyone else you can jump on the trail anywhere along its course. For this post we are starting from the parking area at the north end of the picnic area.
For the most part the 18 Hour trail follows the routes of the other trails around Highline Lake but it doesn't follow each of them completely so it has its own set of trail markers at various junctions along the way.
As it leaves the area around the East Entrance it is following a section of the Highline Lake Loop.
The trail routes around the hills above the reservoir and then turns east and cuts across the top of the boat launch area. After that it descends into the wash and crosses a bridge over the Highline Canal where the canal feeds into the reservoir. At the half mile point the 18 Hour trail leaves the Highline Lake Loop and begins following the East Bluff trail.
The East Bluff trail begins with a little climb to get on top of the hill. After that it is an easy roll across the bluff followed by a downhill that takes it almost to the lake level.
After nearing the lake level at the back of an alcove the trail climbs again and traverses around the bluffs a bit and then makes another descent.
At the 1.8 mile point from where we began the 18 Hour trail leaves the East Bluff trail and follows a connector that takes it over to the Engle Loop.
The mile long Engle Loop pops over a hill and follows various shallow washes that it dashes in and out of.
Just under the 3 mile point the 18 Hour trail finds itself rejoining the Highline Lake Loop.
The next leg of the 18 Hour trail is routed through Greasewood Flats. As the name implies there isn't much in the way of elevation change for this stretch of the course until it gets to the western end where it does a little climbing.
At the 4 mile point the Greasewood Flats trail comes to an end and the 18 Hour trail begins following a section of the Mack Mesa trail.
The Mack Mesa trail contours around the northern side of Mack Mesa Reservoir. Most of the trail in this direction is downhill followed by a mostly level stretch.
Near the 4.7 mile point the 18 Hour trail leaves Mack Mesa and crosses the gravel road where it begins a stretch of trail that is all its own.
This part of the route has a big uphill climb that takes it on top of another hill. From there it is an easy ride across the top of the hill which is followed by an awesome downhill run through a wash where the trail makes big swings up one side and down the other until it comes out at the bottom.
At the bottom of the wash the trail crosses the road again and then rolls over a little bridge that dumps it back onto the Highline Lake Loop. Continue following the signs and you find yourself coursing along above the western shoreline of Highline Lake.
The 18 Hour trail continues following the Highline Lake Loop all the way to the dam. Rather than following it across the dam though it jumps off onto the Blue Heron trail that takes it around the area below the spillway.
The Blue Heron trail makes an easy run around the area below the dam and then ends with a climb that takes it back up to the picnic area.
The home stretch of the 18 Hour trail follows the paved path past the swim beach and along the shoreline.
The number of people that can participate in the annual 18 Hours of Fruita race is limited obviously but there are no limits to those that can ride the course at any other time and there are those that like to do just that. The following slideshow has a lot more pictures of the course and should give a pretty good idea of what it is like. If you would like to see it for yourself then all you have to do is grab your bike or 'Take a hike'.