From Snow to Slickrock

Apr 16, 2018
by Patrick Logan  



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.


Moab, Home of the Jeep.


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.


Jeeps on jeeps.

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.


Heading up HyMasa.

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 on Instagram.

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74 Comments

  • + 24
 So none of the bike shop told you about TWE when you were complaining bout short downhill sections. Is 25 miles plus of downhill long enough? I'm afraid you got trolled by the locals. Slick rocks? The locals gave you the noob treatment brah.
  • + 3
 Even that is not all downhill. And I would bet you could only start at Kokapelli the time of year these guys were there. Judging by the picutes of Draper someone told them about jacobs ladder which it sounds like they dug. More of a consistant down from the top rather than breaking up the downs with climbing in between which is what a lot of the riding in moab is like.
  • + 6
 @weezyb: Lower Capt Ahab is also the desert version of classic Fernie descents
  • + 4
 Good to know the locals are friendly
  • - 15
flag danny (Apr 16, 2018 at 13:57) (Below Threshold)
 The Whole Enchilada is one of the most overrated rides I have ever done (and my friends agree). It has some fun sections, but there is a huge amount of jeep road riding and flat pedalling. Quality "downhill" is a small fraction of the whole ride.
  • - 1
 "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."


hahahaha, thanks for giggles.
  • + 9
 @danny: sucks you missed a turn and ended up on the road.....
  • + 1
 We went down hoping to do TWE but snow was still on the trail so we never got the chance. I for sure want to go back to ride it.
  • + 4
 You cant ride TWE in the spring...
  • + 1
 @GravityCandy: let me know when you're back down here. Id be happy to style you out. (@ the cost of you showing me the goods in Fernie)
  • + 1
 @weezyb: Sounds like a deal haha. Riding with a local always makes it that much better.
  • + 13
 Not sure why Vutt73 comment has so many upvotes. This was a great article. I have ridden Moab more times than I can count and this ride selection is something I would have chosen this time of the year given time constraints. Also, there is no whole enchilada this time of year. The contrast between rugged alpine single track and desert slick rock is what makes TWE special and it is not Whole or epic without it in my opinion. AND there is a shit ton of stiff climbs on it and the downhills are over very quickly. Come back for it when the snow clears it’s cool.

Good job Patrick. Ignore Vutt73.
  • + 1
 @scott-townes: So where are the real trails then? I've yet to find them....
  • + 1
 You got trolled HARD on the GR area being private ranch land... That’s all BLM/ Wilderness study area. And there’s talks of that particular mountain getting turned into a Nuclear Power Plant in a few years.
  • + 1
 Link for the purposed project in Green River... www.bluecastleproject.com
  • + 1
 There's too much snow up there to ride TWE. Who's the noob now
  • + 1
 @SlinkySammy: Moab has tons of riding for visitors, as this article showed. Come more often, and you'll discover some better rides.
I'm sure you tell everyone you see, even from out of town writing about your local area for PB, about your best trails. Right?
  • + 1
 I’m happy to show people the best trails in my area. Maybe it’s a Canadian thing, but most people I ride with would be more than happy to show visitors the goods. Come and see for yourself @Abacall:
  • + 1
 @bonzibryan: it's seems like you are bro. I said 25 miles DH. Twe is like 33 miles and yes the top is snowed in that y I said 25 miles. UPS on down is dry. Someone even just commented they ride it last week just fine bro. You should get out there and ride it. It's an awesome "more then a minute” downhill trail. If u read my original comment you should of came away with "how the hell did no one mention TWE to them when they were complaining bout no more then a minute downhill". That's just mind blowing when you are in Moab saying only one minute downhill. How does everyone who's been to Moab find that not absurd. If u haven't been please go and not try to be a cool guy and comment like you have. Like Scott Townes said "thanks for the giggles"
  • + 9
 Moab is rad! I think you guys really missed out if you didn't ride Porcupine Rim/The whole enchilada. I'm sure you had fun, but potentially missed the best ride in that area (or the world).
  • + 1
 Yeah it was snowed in somwe never got the chance. Thatbtrail is definitely motivation to go back.
  • + 3
 Yeah, I believe any trail this time of year that links up in higher elevation with the La Sal mountains would be hard to get to due to snow covered. From what I remember, Geyser Pass and Burro don't have access until June-July.
  • + 1
 @GravityCandy: @GravityCandy: You can ride sections of TWE, it's split up into Porcupine Rim, LPS, UPS, Hazard, and Burro. Each getting more elevation.
You can ride part of it 90% of the year, and 100% of it for three months.
  • + 9
 Lower Ahab is probably the most fun and flowy section of the whole trail. You severely missed out.
  • + 1
 I’ll have to ride the whole thing next time. On Trailforks it’s listed as a double black so we thought it would be even worse for our newbie biker buddy.
  • + 3
 And what bout rockstacker? Nobody mentions it but it is awesome!
  • + 1
 @GravityCandy: You could have done it! I was there last week and came across a few guys riding 1990's hardtails with canti's. Everything on the lower trail is walkable. When were you guys there? Porcupine shuttles were running every day, up to Jimmy Kean (midpoint) which made for a 22 mile downhill run with interspersed climbing. Above that, there was snow/mud.
  • + 6
 Lol all of us Utah locals are being so cynical about your trip. Just glad you guys had fun. I know the feeling of going somewhere you’ve never been and not knowing what to ride, it’s the worst.

Lower Ahab, Porcupine Rim, TWE and Bull Run are definitely the best rides down there! Jackson as well if you’re feeling some gnar. Y’all come back now
  • + 8
 Heading down to Moab for the first time next week! Stoke level is at 11 already lol
  • + 2
 Get your legs ready! So fun and challenging. Much of the well know trails have technical interruptions in the trail that locals seem to have no issues working through, but you might. Wink . Really fun stuff!

Start with Captain Ahab full route instead of ending with it like I did on Saturday. It's not a big climb, but if you are beat after hitting the most longer and larger routes, you'll not have the opportunity to fully ride this trail to the maximum. Also, DO go ride Bartlett's one evening and ride out to the very end. That's where you'll find the very fun "Toilet Bowl". Just stop before the final roll off the edge that will not end well. The others immediately next to it probably should not be ridden down.
  • + 1
 Porcupine rim is a must. Mag seven and Portal. Amasa back to Jacksons trail. Slickrock trail avoid. Then enjoy some incredible Mexican food.
  • + 4
 @skinnyjeans: Why avoid Slickrock? Anyone going to Moab for the first time should definitely check out at least the practice loop of Slickrock.
  • + 2
 @boxxerace: bartlett canyon was so sick! or maybe it was just the acid
  • + 1
 @Myfianceemademedoit: It's boring and there's better stuff. Like the stuff he mentioned, if you have extra time I suppose it's worth a look but most people don't find it that fun.
  • + 2
 @skinnyjeans: where is the best mex food? The quesadilla food truck was awesome.
  • - 1
 @BullMooose: "if you have extra time, most people don't find it that fun".
BLASPHEMER! Slickrock forever! (The buggies do suck, though). Yeah, go to Bartlett. West side then East.
Nice ride report!
  • + 1
 @LuvAZ: Fiesta Mexicana get the Carnitas. Wash it down with Margarita. Repeat. Even the Moab diner had green chile breakfast burrito that was tasty.
  • + 0
 @Myfianceemademedoit: I agree, but you can ride slickrock on other trails. Slickrock trail was boring. I wish someone would of gave me the heads up. The others I mentioned I will never forget.
  • + 1
 @skinnyjeans: thanks goin next week!
  • + 7
 The plant is the Desert Trumpet. I like it's Latin name. Eriogonum inflatum.
  • + 7
 show off Smile
  • + 6
 @LuvAZ:

Who doesn't toot their own horn now and again!
  • + 5
 Donald Trump - Ego Inflatum
  • + 3
 @LuvAZ: Oh, I forgot! This is the area to criticize, not be informative. Thanks for reminding meWink
  • + 4
 "Draper turned out to be a hidden gem." It's not so hidden in the warm months. It is probably the most crowded trail system in SLC.
  • + 2
 Wow, nice Job Patrick. I have lived in Utah my entire life, we go down to Moab to ride several times a year, so we have seen, been to, ridden every spot you went to, and yes even though you missed out on some of the gems in the area you did get in some good riding. It was nice to see the fresh perspective of someone who had never ridden there, after 30 years of riding Slickrock it has become mundane, so it was nice to see your excitement for riding that trail. Your photography was stellar. You managed to show a very unique environment in a very unique way, nice job. And lastly, I live in Draper, 2 Min. from the trails you rode. Thanks for the props. Jacobs Ladder is definitely the most fun trail in that area. Again though the early season conditions, and probably your time, didn't allow you the proper opportunity to ride what the Corner Canyon area has to offer. Sounds to like you had an amazing road trip. Even though we go up Whistler every year, I would like to get to your neck of the woods someday.
  • + 1
 You definitely should come up to BC. We have a lot more riding than just the coastal stuff. The kootenays have my all time favourite riding.
  • + 1
 Great photos and story telling Patrick! Thanks for sharing! We just came back from Moab last week with an almost identical itinerary ! We swap climbing for the ''Half'' Enchillada and Green River for Barlett Wash Jedi area, actually there are never ending world class technical downhill Wink Climbing must have been amazing, we also went to Delicate Arch what cool place! It was also our first time and it all blew our mind for being used to ride the Vermont forests, no matter what trail we picked did not matter. I will definitely go back soon and try Green River Rampage area and all the other trails we missed, I am sure you guys will too! Cheers!
  • + 1
 @gravitycandy the molar was the name of the short bolted chimney you climbed. There usually is a bottle of whiskey on top. Moab is a climbing (trad) paradise. But, there are a ton of bolted routes on Wall Street and on potash road.
  • + 2
 Going in 3 weeks! 8th time in 5 years. You didn't show the night sky.... so much to do here 24 hours a day it leaves you exhausted from trying to take it all in, in such a short period of time. Great pics and read!
  • + 1
 I ran into some Fernie locals when I was in Moab a few weeks ago. I caught them on their seventh day of riding and they were still super stoked on it! Glad that you were able to enjoy and make a killer trip out of it.
  • + 1
 Thanks for the great photos. I love seeing professional photos of my favorite trails. Like, "Oh, I know exactly where there is!". That wash in Draper is Jacob's Secret (or not so secret), and the climb up is Peak View.
  • + 1
 Looking to do a fast-as-possible Mag 7 shred on any day between May 10-17. Looks like a lot of connectors and I've never ridden this network. Any locals wanna lead the way? PM me.
  • + 2
 Wow! I've been riding Moab since '89 and that is an epic photo journal! Love it, nice work Patrick Logan. You captured it in great style!
  • + 2
 Moab is definitely fun, the steep climbs can burn someone out fast. Lower Ahab is not bad at all, it's actually a TON of fun!
  • + 4
 Couldn’t be an mtb article without tacos. . .
  • + 1
 Very cool man, Draper is 10 min away from my house and Moab is 3.5hrs away. Feeling blessed! Thanks for enjoying it and sharing the experience.
  • + 2
 Oof, slickrock. Not the most enjoyable trail around, but fun for the nostalgia!
  • + 1
 That rope swing was perfect after finishing TWE! There’s a cool, semi-hidden sandy beach spot about 50 yards downriver as well. Best campsite I’ve had in Moab!
  • + 2
 awesome to include climbing as well! both the climbing and riding look amazing
  • + 2
 That landscape looks awesome for some freeriding stuff
  • + 1
 Horchata equals nap time and leg cramps, just sugar and milk. Delicious, but not an energy drink.
  • + 2
 *rice milk. Real horchata is dairy free.
  • + 1
 If you want to get away from the crowds and like techie XC, the Sovereign / Salt wash section north of town is great
  • + 2
 Thousand year old news wall with a bicycle wheel on it.
  • + 1
 Aliens?
  • + 1
 And horses...
  • + 1
 And six toes :O
  • + 1
 Those plants are Triffid's, and they will take over the World .
  • + 1
 looks like a cool adventure!
  • + 2
 save the cryptobiotic
  • + 1
 Stunning landscape!
  • + 1
 Awesome

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