With events being cancelled left and right, my dad and I decided we needed to have some big ride or goal to motivate us to stay in shape. After various big rides were thrown around, Kokopelli Trail came up. A 139mi route running from Loma, Colorado to Moab, Utah, the route is a combination of singletrack, jeep roads, gravel roads, and pavement, and all in the dry desert of eastern Utah/western Colorado. The total elevation gain is somewhere in the vicinity of ~16,500ft, and a lot of it comes from a few big climbs. Many people do the trail over three days, with crews meeting them with tents and hot food every night. We decided that in order to really make it a physical challenge we had to do it in one day, one ride, no sleeping. We estimated 16-17hrs of riding to complete the whole thing, since we figured that ~6hrs slower than the FKT set by Pete Stetina was achievable.
And so the planning began. Poring over extremely detailed maps by Latitude40, we pieced together the trails and roads that connected the whole route. Then it was time to do some recon and preriding. So in late April we headed out to Moab for a few days to ride some of the Kokopelli trail, look at points where we could restock our supplies, and also riding some other fun trails.
At this point we had decided to have my mom and siblings meet us every once and awhile to give us a chance to refill bottles, grab food, and generally take a break. So we spent hours driving around to find the most ideal spots for them to meet us. This also gave us the opportunity to scout out some other portions of the trail that were accessible by vehicle, and it did help give us some idea of what was ahead.
Fast forward a couple of weeks later and it was Easter Sunday. This was when we roped in my dad’s cousin as a third member of our party. We knew we probably wanted more than just two people for our group, but not too many more than three or four. It also took someone crazy enough to want to do something like this with no idea what they were in for. So after a little convincing, we had three people for our expedition. We also figured out about what time of year we wanted to do this in, and we determined that late October would be ideal, so as to avoid the really hot temperatures.
After a lull in the planning for the ride we started getting ready for it with a couple of months left to go for the big ride. Originally we planned to ride the trail from Moab to Loma, but after considering it, we decided that we didn’t want to do the singletrack coming into Loma last, and possibly in the dark. So we switched our starting point to Loma, and readjusted our plans accordingly.
We started ordering the food, lights, and other accessories that we were going to need, and tested equipment, especially the lights to make sure we like them. We knew that we would end up riding in the dark at some point, so we needed to make sure we were happy with our setup. We also ordered spare batteries for our lights, thinking that it might be good to have spares. (and a good thing we did too)
We planned to travel to Loma on Sunday, and then ride the trail Monday, starting at 7am with the crack of dawn, and hopefully being done sometime before midnight. This is when misfortune struck. The wind forecast was for 20-30mph winds most of Monday, and coming from the south, which was the direction we were heading. So the night before we left, we had to rethink our whole plan. Finally, after several phone calls and discussions, it was decided that to avoid the wind we would start at 4:30pm Sunday night, and ride through the night to avoid the wind. So a quick 6hr drive to Loma and an hour or so of resting, and it was time to hit the trail.
We ended up starting about 15mins late, but we weren’t too nervous, since we still had a good amount of daylight to complete the first 13 or so miles of singletrack. We setoff, settling into a rythmn and getting ready for a long day ahead. The first 2hrs were pretty uneventful, and we finished the singletrack right as the sun had gone down. After a few miles of spinning on smooth jeep track and gravel road, we were at our first refueling stop. After spending some time there to get all loaded up with our water and food, we headed out into the night with enough water to make it the (hopefully) 6 or so hours to our next stop.
For the most part things went smoothly for the next 7hrs. There were some steep jeep road climbs covered in loose rock that proved tough, and sand did rear its ugly head in a couple of places. The worst thing to happen was losing a one-liter bottle on a fork mount cage. Thankfully we weren’t drinking as much as we though we would have to because of the cool temperatures, so the loss wasn’t a big issue.
We arrived at our next stop at 2am, and spent quite awhile getting ready for the longest section ahead, which we thought would be around 7hrs. This was the hardest bit to get going again, but finally we headed out up a long gravel climb. For the next two hours we suffered our way up a steep gravel road, an absurdly steep and rocky jeep road up a canyon, and then up some more gravel road till finally we knew we had a decent descent before us. This was probably the hardest part of the ride, we were all tired, especially mentally, and we knew we still had a few hours in the dark, and then a long way to go, even after that. After descending the roughest jeep roads I’ve ever seen, we reached the bottom and it was rolling terrain to the start of our next climb.
This climb was the longest climb we had the whole ride, and we knew that it would take some effort, so we all just settled into a rythym and went. At this point my dad and his cousin were walking the steeper stretches, simply because mentally it was really hard to push at more than an easy pace. The sun had come up right at the bottom of the climb, so thankfully we had the boost of daylight to help us. About halfway up the climb we decided to split up, and send me ahead to let our family know that everything was fine, while the other two made their way behind me. The next 6 miles were fairly uneventful, and I rode to the top of the climb and rolled down the other side to where our crew was waiting. At this point we knew we were going (had) to finish, so we took our time getting ready at the last stop.
After sitting down and eating for quite awhile we set off at around 11:30 to head up the last climb, thankfully a miniscule 2000ft compared to the 3500ft monster we had just tackled. This climb was also paved and we knew that after that it was basically a long descent into Moab. With the fresh burst of energy from knowing we where near the end, and the little bit of rest before, I was able to make it up the climb in just under 45mins, which was not much slower than I might do on a normal day.
After regrouping at the top we all descended Sand Flats Road and finished at Slickrock Trail Parking Lot just before 2:30pm. After 21hrs and 22mins, we were exhausted, sore, and dusty. After scarfing down some pizza we headed back to the Airbnb for some well-deserved sleep.
An epic adventure that took way longer than planned, Kokopelli trail was something else, easily becoming the hardest ride I’ve ever done. Even after resting I was less than enthusiatistic about doing it again, but maybe someday…
Full Kokopelli Stats
Check out some more stats and such below, and also check out the full gallery from the ride: https://cyclingspiel.com/kokopelli-trail-full-image-gallery/
Total Distance: 139.00mi
Avg Speed: 6.5mph
Max Speed: 40.49mph
Total Ascent: 16,532ft
Total Descent: 16,545ft (Moab is slightly lower than Loma)
Calories Burned: ~8,347
Estimated Calories Taken in: ~7,000
Estimated Water Drunk: ~5 litres (I drink way too little water when riding, and since this was at night it didn’t help either)
Number of Times Contemplating Quitting: 1 (Just over halfway at Dewey Bridge in the middle of the night)
Worst Part of the Ride: Around 4:00am
Best Part of the Ride: Climbing the final paved climb
Easiest Part of the Ride: The descent at the end
Hardest Part of the Ride: The miles 5, 6, & 7 of the second to last climb
Biggest Mistake: Not bringing enough food during the longest section
Most Inspirational Song Listened to: Watching for Comets by Skillet