Spring break was coming up and with the weather forecast showing snow in the BC ski town of Fernie we had a hard decision. Ski powder or ride bikes? We chose bikes. Even though the hill had 11m of snowfall this season we felt the powder fever had left us and we were tired of -15֯ weather. It was time to swap skis for bikes (at least for a bit) and head south to Moab where we could ride.
We set off from the still wintry landscape of the Canadian Rockies at 7 am and headed south. Somehow we breezed through the border crossing into Montana even though we looked like 3 sketchy dirtbags loaded with contraband hidden under the big black tarp stuffed with our gear strapped to the roof. It then took us what felt like 10 hours to drive through Montana into Idaho. A quarter of the way into Idaho the wind picked up. It felt like we were a ball of yarn being batted around by a cat as we flew down the interstate. We were also somewhat concerned the bike that was secured to the roof on a broken bike rack using 3 ski straps was going to get ripped off by the hurricane force wind and end up bouncing down the road. Eventually, after 15 hours of driving, we landed an hour away from Moab in Green River.
First sight of Utah's mesas.
The next morning we took advantage of the slow motel wifi to look at Slickrock on Trailforks before heading out to Moab to ride. An hour later we rolled into what has to be one of the craziest places any of us have ever been. When you first set foot in Moab it feels like your'e stepping into a mix of Grand Theft Auto and Star Wars. The landscape is mind-boggling to look at (especially when you come from skiing powder the previous week) and the amount of fancy, jeeps, side by sides, dirt bikes and dune buggies makes the whole place feel like a video game. Just driving 10km down the road to camp we saw people rock climbing, highlines, dirt bikes, jet boats, countless jeeps and people rafting.
After a hard search, we eventually found a site at one of the Bureau of Land Management (or BLM) campsites along the river. From our experience in Moab, we learned that finding a campsite at the BLM campgrounds is a struggle. They are cheap, 15$ a day, but fill up fast. The whole time we were there we had people asking us if we were leaving while we were eating out breakfast so they could take our site.
If you're lucky there are some pretty nice sites. One upriver even had a rope swing.
With camp set up, we headed out to our first trail. Rolling into the parking lot for Slickrock we didn't know if we were in the right spot because of a long train of jeeps that were headed out onto the rock along with us. The trail itself blew our minds. We come from the land of loam and muck so riding my bike for a couple of hours and not touching dirt once was freaky. It felt like we were in some skate park designed by Picasso. The riding was filled with steep punchy climbs and downhills that felt like I was on a BMX cruising through a massive bowl. We never even had to check Trailforks since all you have to do is follow a dotted white line as it weaves through the rocks, bowls, cliffs, and cacti along the trail.
The Slickrock trail crosses paths with 4x4 trails several times.
Plenty of steep climbs with lots of traction.
With just as many steep downs.
From the trail you get amazing 360 views including a view of Arches National Park
On day 3 we decided to check out some local bike shops for information on where to ride next. They sent us to Capt. Ahab and HyMasa. We drove out to the trailhead and started up HyMasa. The trail was a nice mix of slickrock and dirt that made for a really nice climb. Once we got up higher we were perplexed by the sight of snow-capped mountains like the one we had left 1500km to the north while we rode through the desert.
If you're a fan of E-bikes it looks like you might be out of luck on some of Moab’s singletrack.
HyMasa is probably my favourite trail to pedal up. Good grade and the rocky steps make it interesting.
After topping out on Hymasa we started off down Captain Ahab. The trail was a lot like the climb but with more slickrock and some cool rock features. The downhill features almost felt like the way hard sections of a climb feel. You have to unweight and hop around and point the bike on the one line through the gnar. It was a really cool ride but definitely above the level of the least experienced rider in the group. Because of this, we decided not to send it down Lower Capt. Ahab (double black) and instead fly down HyMasa. As it turned out HyMasa was just as fun as the upper portion of Ahab that we rode. There were plenty of features and little hits along the way down. We had to be careful of getting off track and ending up on one of the countless 4x4 trails cross HyMasa.
Unfortunately I didn't take any pictures on the way down since we were having too much fun riding down so here's another picture of the way up.
On a side note, I wanted to point out that the riding in Moab is very different from anywhere else I have ridden. The so-called slickrock messes with your brain since you have almost infinite grip. The terrain is way more suited to those who like lots of ups and downs. In our experience, and after talking to some of the local bike shops, we noticed they didn't have many long descents like we are used to in BC. The riding is more like aggressive cross country on Mars. If all you want is to peddle up so you can ride an uninterrupted downhill for 10 minutes Moab might not be the place for you (But you should still at least give it a chance).
Slickrock and Captain Ahab are good examples of the Moab style of trails. They both have punchy, techy climbs, and steep techy downs. Just don't expect the downhills to be more than 1 minute at a time.
On the 4th day of the Moab adventure, we decided to leave Moab to do something I have been dreaming of. The first night of the trip when we stopped in Green River I thought I recognized the name of the town. That night at the hotel a quick google search confirmed what I thought. Green River has some of the world’s best freeride mountain biking. We looked at a few photos and watched a few edits and decided we needed to ride it at some point during the trip.
Tacos and Horchata from La Pasadita in Green River gave us the energy we needed to hike-a-bike for the day.
Riding towards what was the best riding of the whole trip.
We rode through a field of these plants. No clue what they are but they don't look like Earth plants.
Now before I drone on about how crazy fun riding Green River was I wanted to say that I'm not going to tell you how to get to the riding. The riding is on ranch land and you MUST get permission to ride there. We talked to a few locals who told us it was okay for us to go in as long as we obeyed their one rule to keep the cows in "If the gate is open leave it open. If the gate is closed leave it closed." Seriously though, don't poach the ranch land. The people there were nice enough to let us ride and as we know from the past, it only takes a couple hooligans breaking rules to ruin the fun for everyone.
First tracks on the grey pow.
There were two areas we rode in Green River. On the left, the magical grey pow, and on the right Rampage style ridgelines.
Riding the gnarliest line of the trip over at the Rampage style ridgelines.
Party line off the summit to finish off the Green River riding.
Loading up the Jeep all tired, happy and dirty.
The sky lit on fire for the drive back to Moab.
The next morning in Moab we decided to take a rest day with no biking. We didn't do much other than find a nice swimming hole and check out the downtown. Since we are poor college students we couldn't even afford to pay for the 5$ shower at the swimming pool in Moab. We did find a nice café and coffee at the aptly named Moab Coffee Roasters.
6 days in we decided we better put the climbing gear we hauled 1600km south to use. As it turns out though, most of Moab’s climbing is either trad, which we don't have gear or knowledge for, or it was a grade so hard it makes Rampage look doable. After some hard searching and visiting the multiple gear shops Moab has to offer, we found a couple climbs. One was a 5.8 sandstone chimney that was on the road to camp. The other area was 2 miles (3.219 kilometers for the rest of the planet) on the road past our campsite.
We were careful not to re-enact 127 hours.
On the summit. We were surprised we didn't cause any car accidents with the number of drivers waving at us at the top.
Like I said before, Moab feels like a video game. We were climbing while jet boats were flying by.
the Last couple climbs at the second crag on this fun 5.9 before it got dark.
This lizard made us all feel bad about our climbing ability after he scurried up the climb in 5 seconds with no rope.
A week in and we were getting tired and had plenty of arm pump from exploring the vertical part of Moab the day before so we decided to check out one of the National Parks. Moab, and Utah in general are lucky to have as many parks as they do. To the north, they have Arches which you all have probably seen in videos of people swinging through them on massive ropes. To the south, they have Canyonlands which is almost 4 parks in itself. Canyonlands is divided into 4 districts, Island in the Sky, Rivers, The Maze, and where we decided to go, Needles. Normally we are not hikers but after wandering through the parks we realized why some people enjoy it. Seeing firsthand the history of the land was one of the highlights of the trip.
I swore we were on Tatooine
The plants around here are more alien than the landscape.
Ancient painted handprints of the indigenous people.
The Newspaper Wall. Thousand-year-old drawings that we still haven't deciphered the meaning too.
Now over a week into the trip, we decided to cut it short. Not because we felt like we had "done" Moab but because we wanted to split up the 16-hour drive into two days on the way back. We decided that we would ride Salt Lake City on the way after seeing the number of trails they have on Trailforks. After 4 hours we stopped in Draper for a quick ride along the way. It had rained the day before so we got lucky and were treated to Drapers best hero dirt. By chance, we also met up with a very knowledgeable and stoked local who told us where to ride before speeding away on his full carbon XC race rig.
Draper had a very developed and well-maintained trail network. It looks like the community really values the outdoors. They even have a skills park.
The dirt was very shreddable. And the local knowledge paid off. Draper turned out to be a hidden gem.
I won't bore you with details of the drive back since it was pretty much the same as the way down but in reverse. Idaho was still windy, Montana took forever to cross and we still made it across the border without a hitch even though we looked even dirtier and more suspicious. In the end, Moab was everything we expected it to be and more. Utah's landscape was almost worth the drive itself. Green River turned out to be a dream come true, literally. Draper surprised us with a trail center that was so well maintained and organized you'd think you were riding a place like Vancouver. In the end, we went down to ride bikes and climb but ended up discovering the history of the area, some awesome locals and of course some great riding.
Thanks for the good times, fun lines, and sunshine.
Moab mountain biking trails
Thanks to Ascent Cycle in Lethbridge, AB and Wildways in Christina Lake, BC for helping us out by keeping our bikes rolling.
For more photos check out Gravity_Candy