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ADVENTURES
ESCAPING WINTER

A SPRING ROAD TRIP to UTAH
WORDS/PHOTOS Ian Hylands

Many people in the Northern hemisphere would love to go somewhere warm and sunny for a winter riding vacation, but not everyone can afford to go to places like Jamaica or the Canary Islands. For a lot of us the winter riding vacation is simply a road trip, and in the northwest that usually means south to California, Nevada or Utah. Places that sometimes aren't that much warmer, but they can be a little bit dryer...


Katrina Strand Brook Baker and Ian Hylands camping in Utah.

Last Spring Katrina Strand called me up and mentioned that she and Brook Baker were driving to Utah for a little riding getaway. I was already in Utah shooting with the Diamondback team so I decided to join them. We camped for a few days and rode some Utah classics, Grafton Mesa, Gooseberry Mesa, and a few others...

bigquotesThe trails in my backyard are amazing. But not when they're covered in snow! 2011 was a long winter, and I hadn't been on my bike in over 8 months due to an injury. I was ready to see the dirt and I hadn't been on an adventure with Brook since we raced World Cups together. A road trip was in order, and the agenda was to ride, a lot, so Utah seemed like the perfect destination... - Katrina Strand

The signpost pointing to the almost forgotten ghost town of Grafton Utah.

Grafton and Gooseberry mesa's are both accessible from the same dirt road that leaves the pavement in Rockville. Grafton is actually an old town, and it's claimed to be the most photographed ghost town in the west. It's been in more than a couple of movies, and if you've ever watched the old western "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid" you've probably seen it. The classic Grafton Mesa Trail is an old wagon road left over from the 1800's that climbed up from the town and over the top of the mesa. It's steep and rocky, and just a little bit technical, but it's a lot of fun.

Katrina Strand and Brook Baker riding the Grafton Mesa Trail near Rockville in Utah.

Brook Baker and Katrina Strand riding the Grafton Mesa Trail near Rockville in Utah.

Katrina Strand riding the Grafton Mesa Trail near Rockville in Utah.

Brook Baker riding the Grafton Mesa Trail near Rockville in Utah.

bigquotesGrafton was probably the most technical trail we rode. But maybe because it was 5 am when we got up to ride it! It never seems like a good idea at the time when you wake up in the dark, but then you're up and riding while the sun rises over Zion National Park and it becomes the best idea ever! - Katrina

Zion Cycles bike shop in Springdale Utah

There are a few other trails in the area as well, ask at Zion Cycles and they might point you in the right direction. They also have an awesome fleet of rental bikes...

Brook Baker riding on Grafton Mesa in Utah.

Katrina Strand riding on Grafton Mesa in Utah.

Our guide Bill riding the rock skinny on Grafton Mesa in Utah.

We hooked up with local rider and guide Bill. He showed us a few things, including how to ride the famous rock skinny...

Katrina Strand and Brook Baker riding on Grafton Mesa in Utah.

Katrina Strand and Brook Baker riding on Grafton Mesa in Utah.

Katrina Strand and Brook Baker riding on Grafton Mesa in Utah.

Gooseberry Mesa is probably the most famous of the riding zones in Southern Utah. It features a number of different loops of varying difficulty that join together sections of trail with sections of slickrock that have the lines marked with paint. It's quite literally a case of connecting the dots.

Katrina Strand and Brook Baker riding the Gooseberry Mesa trails in Utah.

Katrina Strand and Brook Baker riding the Gooseberry Mesa trails in Utah.

Katrina Strand and Brook Baker riding the Gooseberry Mesa trails in Utah.

Katrina Strand rides the Gooseberry Mesa trails in Utah.

Katrina Strand rides on Gooseberry Mesa in Utah.

bigquotesFinding features 'ride ready' off the beaten path is what makes Utah so unique. We found this steep slick rock in Gooseberry that has so much traction it made steep easy! Half the time you can't fathom getting up (or down) something and then all the sudden there you are, in control. A nice change from wet weather slick rock riding on the west coast!
- Katrina

Katrina Strand and Brook Baker riding the Gooseberry Mesa trails in Utah.

Katrina Strand and Brook Baker riding the Gooseberry Mesa trails in Utah.

Katrina Strand and Brook Baker riding the Gooseberry Mesa trails in Utah.

bigquotesHow many times were we 'just riding along', when I realized we were actually riding right beside a huge cliff that drops thousands of feet to the ground? Add epic views into the mix, and there were a couple 'oh gawd' moments! It's easy to get distracted from focusing on the trail with scenes like these... - Katrina


Sometimes it's dryer, but not always. It actually rains a fair bit in Utah in the off season, and it's a fine line between perfect dirt and mud. On my last day we ended up waiting out a storm at the Bit and Spur in Springdale before I headed off into the sunset...

How else to spend a rainy afternoon in southwestern Utah The fabulous Bit and Spur


Must Read This Week

51 Comments

  • + 3
 Utah has been great this year with very little snow even in the SLC area and some warmer than normal temperatures too. I love my Northwest riding but the canyon rides are great. Check out Bryce Canyon area for some nice rides and of course the Green River area for some really fun DH riding..
  • + 2
 I spent my 30th Birthday hiking/packing in Utah/Arizona, and went to Bryce as well. What a cool place. Also, Zion was epic! What amazing views. Stayed right bike Zion bike too.
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  • + 8
 beautiful...
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  • + 2
 "Gooseberry Mesa is probably the most famous of the riding zones in Southern Utah"

except you forgot about Moab... haha. Gooseberry is so incredible. I cannot wait to get a crew together again and head back down there. It's def. a different feel than what you get on the slickrock in Moab. Although we do still have to ride Grafton... Utah is the best... that is all.
  • + 4
 Moab is not considered southern Utah. Smile
  • + 2
 Having lived in Utah for all but a few years of my life I always considered Moab southern UT. Hell My brother was a guide out of Moab for 4 or 5 years. According to Moab they are eastern UT. WTH? South of I70 is southern UT to me. Flaming Gorge to I70 I always thought was eastern. Pinkbike (&NoahColorado) have educated me again!
  • + 2
 Hey I just became educated on the subject when I read a few guidebooks, I'm glad I could pass that knowledge or whatever it is along... (trivia probably)
  • + 1
 To a mountain biker like me (I live 19 miles west of the Utah border - Fruita,CO), there are four general "areas" of Utah: Salt Lake/Park City area, Vernal, Moab, and Southern Utah (St. George, Bryce and Zion areas). Those are what I'd reference if someone asked where a particular trial was.
  • + 2
 I always thought Colorado was East of Utah, must have been looking at the map upside down all these years... Wink
  • + 1
 ^ Sad part is that I didn't even catch that... haha
  • + 1
 Derp! I'm directionally dyslexic, derp. Smile
[Reply]
  • + 1
 So bummed I didn't ride there when I was out there. My stupid transmission was eating a bearing (a few thousand km from home) and I was to worried/busy with that to ride when we were in Zion. Next time... next time. Such a pretty area.
[Reply]
  • + 1
 My first mtb ride was in Fruita (with a nice scar on my shoulder to show for it!), first foray into slick rock at Gooseberry Mesa, and I have yet to experience anything quite like it since. Thanks for such phenomenal photos to bring me right back to Utah and Colorado. Trip to the desert this spring is officially imminent!
[Reply]
  • + 1
 So nice to be surprised... reflexively figured it would be another Moab article Wink Really cool photos too. Have to get back there this year, love Goose. Grafton Mesa and Flying Monkey are on the bucket list. Awesome post.
  • + 1
 I love living in Utah!
[Reply]
  • + 1
 Nice to see Grafton and Goose getting some colorful coverage. Next time swing by St. George for something a little faster and more technical. I have to say, I miss riding through the trees and mud, but the views the desert offers are rad and the trails aren't too bad either.
[Reply]
  • + 0
 Hey , Ian, the guide's name is Bill and not Matt. Thought this was a current trip but after talking to Bill from Bike Zion today prior to heading up to Gooseberry myself he shared this was last winter. Nice pics, but time and editing challenges abound. Utah is definitely better than the mud and slime we have in Seattle presently.
  • + 1
 Yeah my mistake, that's what I originally thought but when I asked someone they said Bill. Need to just trust my memory...
[Reply]
  • + 1
 Been traveling to that zone for Rampage since 2003. Amazing landscapes..thx Hylands for the pics. Get down to Phx..the weather is in the 70's right now!
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  • + 1
 The Bit and Spur and Zion Cycles... nice choices! But you missed out on some of the best coffee and the warmest smiles around at Over The Edge Sports in Hurricane!
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  • + 1
 Another great photo essay Ian, this time starring two of my favorite people! Yeah Bucky and Katrina- so stoked I finally got to see pictures of your adventure Smile
[Reply]
  • + 1
 What month was this? I have March off and am curious about going down there and am wondering about the weather. Any input would be appreciated.
  • + 1
 If I go by the date on the photos it was around April 20-22nd...
[Reply]
  • + 1
 Cracking images and article Ian. All those blue skies have me missing the summer even more though!
  • + 2
 Yeah me too, I'll have at least one more sunny blue sky epic in the next few weeks as well, trying to keep everyone in the Northern climes stoked about summer!
[Reply]
  • + 1
 Great photos, I love riding the trails around Zion, they are my primary destination rides...can't get enough of em...
[Reply]
  • + 1
 Fantastic photos Ian!! We were riding most of the same trails in October and you captured the scenery perfectly.
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  • + 2
 Love Utah. Awesome pics!
[Reply]
  • + 1
 It is a must ride if you can! Spent the last week of October 2011 riding the area and will be going back!!
[Reply]
  • + 1
 Is it nice around christmas? Next year I might need to go visit the inlaws. . .
[Reply]
  • + 2
 yet another cracker by Ian, excellent work mate
[Reply]
  • + 1
 Though I have seen these pics before many days,I still feel amazing to the tracks, to the sky,to the riders!
[Reply]
  • + 1
 Excellent pics Ian and nice subjects too - those 2 ladies shred! Almost time for a warm weather riding trip!
[Reply]
  • + 2
 Thanks everyone for the great words, Happy New Year!
[Reply]
  • + 1
 I went to Southern Utah for the first time this year....So amazing. I loved this article!
[Reply]
  • + 1
 cool riding bro...lot's of rock... how long the time for this journey
[Reply]
  • + 1
 another "awesome" pic by Ian.....-u make me envy :-p
[Reply]
  • + 1
 Great pics, great story. I've always enjoyed riding there.
[Reply]
  • + 1
 Zion is incredible, cant wait to go back. Great pics!
  • + 1
 No kidding. I was in awe up by Observation Point.
[Reply]
  • + 1
 Wonderful place to ride!!!! :-)
[Reply]
  • + 1
 really just awesome... i lived in utah for 10 years, best riding ever!
[Reply]
  • + 1
 Love me some grafton, the spine near the end is amazing!
[Reply]
  • + 1
 Hopefully going there in March Smile
[Reply]
  • + 1
 Looks awesome, would love to make it out there this year!!!
[Reply]
  • + 1
 amazing..nice work ian
[Reply]
  • + 1
 nice single track ! Smile
[Reply]
  • - 2
 I see many trek 29er at the shop!!!
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