Mel's Loop

Round Trip Distance: 16 - 27 miles
Difficulty: Strenuous
MTB Skill level:
Elevation: 4369 - 4737 feet
Cellphone: 0-3 bars
Time: 4 - 6 hrs.
Trailhead: Mel's Loop
Fee: none
Attractions: Scenic singletrack

Mel's Loop is located just across the Colorado/Utah border in the BLM's Utah Rims Recreation Area. The trail begins next to Interstate 70 where it climbs the hills to the south before working its way around to Cottonwood Wash where it passes beneath the railroad tracks and meets up with the Kokopelli trail. From there it can be cut short by following the Kokopelli trail to where it passes back under the railroad tracks and loops back to the trailhead or it can be extended by following one of several routes between the Kokopelli trail and the Colorado River.

To get to the trailhead follow Interstate 70 west for 30 miles from Fruita, Colorado or 35 miles east from Thompson Springs, Utah and get off at Exit 221. The parking area is right there on the south side of the Interstate.

For this post we followed the loop in the counter-clockwise direction where the trail takes off across the sparsely vegetated adobe flats toward the hills to the south. Along the way the trail dips in and out of several washes.

Near the 1.5 mile spot from where it began the trail makes a steep plunge down a hill in typical dirt bike fashion taking the shortest route between 2 points.

After making the plunge the trial works its way up the next hill where it reaches the highest elevation for the loop and crosses a dirt road that began at the trailhead and was marked with a sign for a camping area. The campsites are all primitive in nature with no facilities provided. Route finding can get confusing as you pass through this area. Dirt bikers have created multiple side routes that braid the main route and ATVs have flattened many of the brown carsonite trail markers. ATVs can make use of the roads through here and get to most of the same places that Mel's Loop does so it works out pretty nice for everyone.

If you manage to stay on the correct route you will end up traveling around the hills and through a few scenic valleys until you reach Cottonwood Wash. This is a very pleasant section of trail other than some spots in Cottonwood Wash with deep sand.

Near the 6 mile point the route passes beneath the railroad tracks.

A half mile later Mel's Loop meets up with the Kokopelli trail which is following a road. The lower section of Mel's Loop continues directly across the Kokopelli trail. For this post we went to the left on the Kokopelli trail and left the lower part of Mel's Loop for another day.

As you head east on the Kokopelli trail for a little over 2 miles there is a newer section of Mel's Loop that branches off on the left. This new 1.6 mile stretch of Mel's Loop provides an alternative singletrack route to the Kokopelli trail. It was built with switchbacks and other features that are much friendlier to mountain bikes.

After the new stretch of trail rejoins the Kokopelli trail it continues for another half mile or so before it is rejoined by the lower loop. It then breaks off from the Kokopelli trail for the last time and passes back beneath the railroad tracks where it begins looping back to the north.

The trail is moderately easy as it works its way around the hills and gets to a spot where it starts climbing again.

Most of the climbing isn't all that steep and for the effort you are rewarded with a fantastic 3 mile downhill roll.

After that there are 2 more washes that come up that are followed on the other side by steep hills.

And it all comes to an end right back where it began. We rode our mountain bikes when we did Mel's Loop. That is until we came to the hills that the dirt bikes attack head on and then we hiked our bikes. Probably 99% of the trial is easy to moderate. We only tacked on the black diamond because of a couple of the plunges. All in all it was an excellent workout coupled with some really nice scenery. Even though we have ridden the Kokopelli trail through this area before Mel's Loop opened up a lot more of it to enjoy. We have had it on our todo list for years but it always seemed like it got too hot out before we ever got around to it. (There is absolutely no water if you are thinking about bringing your dog.) If you would like to see it for yourself then all you have to do is grab your bike or 'Take a hike'.