Chutes and Ladders

One-way Distance: 5.1 miles
Difficulty: Strenuous
MTB Skill level:
Elevation: 5054 - 5607 feet
Elevation gain: 811 feet
Cellphone: 2-5 bars
Time: 1 hrs. 20 mins.
Trailhead: North Fruita Desert/18 Rd.
Fee: none
Attractions: Advanced downhill

The Chutes and Ladders trail is located in the North Fruita Desert Area, at the end of 18 Road, about 8 miles northwest of Grand Junction. The area is popularly referred to as simply '18 Road'. Working with various groups in the area the BLM has set aside different sections of the land for OHV use and mountain biking. The trail area at the end of 18 road is open exclusively to hiking, mountain biking and some equestrian. There is a campground with vault toilets and about 35 camping spots equipped with picnic tables and fire pits. The campsites currently run $10/night but there is a primitive camping area across from the North Fruita Desert trailhead that is free.

For the Chutes and Ladders trail you can begin at either the 18 Road Campground trailhead or the North Fruita Desert trailhead. From the North Fruita Desert trailhead you can come up the Prime Cut trail to where it intersects with the Chutes and Ladders trail. That is the spot shown here in the photo. The Pumps Bumps and Rollers trail also begins at this point.

Right of the bat the Chutes and Ladders trail makes a short climb up a steep slope.

The initial climb takes the trail to its highest point where it is followed by a nice descent that leads across multiple hills and hogbacks that flow off of the Little Book Cliffs at a pace that only a geologist can appreciate.

After working across the minor washes the trail reaches a much larger one where it turns down and drops into.

Looking ahead the trail can be seen making its descent into the wash on its west side and then crossing the wash and climbing out once again on the east side. The slideshow at the end of this post gives a good idea of what the trail is like through here.

The climb back out of the wash starts abruptly with a short but very steep section of trail that gets a little more moderate as it goes.

Once out of the deep wash the trail continues working its way eastward across the foothills.

There is one more significant wash that comes up. This one isn't as deep as the last one with the big climb to get out of but it does take a bit of a grunt to get up.

For the next quarter mile or so the terrain levels off enough for a sparse forest of junipers to take root.

All the toil and trouble is soon forgotten when the trail turns away from the Little Book Cliffs and begins a monster downhill roll across the grassy plains leading away from the mountains.

At the 4 mile point the Edge Loop Cutoff joins in on the left and just past that is the intersection where the Vegetarian trail begins on the right.

The final stretch of the trail has a couple of spots that are getting rutted and washed out a little. Recent riders have been braiding side routes along the main trail to get around the bad spots. It is easy to race through here in high gear otherwise.

The Chutes and Ladders trail runs into the Edge Loop and comes to an end.  The trailhead is a little less than 2 miles away from this point. There is the option to jump off onto the Down Uppity trail after about a mile if you feel a need to extend your trip a little. The toughest parts of the Chutes and Ladders trail are more of the type that require steep uphill riding skills rather than other technical maneuvers. There are a couple of spots though where advanced skills will keep you in the saddle rather than walking your bike. If you would like to see it for yourself then all you have to do is grab your bike or 'Take a hike'.