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