South West Utah - Your next road trip?

Dec 14, 2010 at 0:05
Dec 14, 2010
by Sharon Bader  
 
You must login to Pinkbike.
Don't have an account? Sign up

Join Pinkbike  Login

We packed our bags as per Mitch Chubey's hockey bag method (goalie bags work best), flew into Las Vegas, rented a Mazda 6 and drove the 123miles(2 hours) to St. George - the gateway to Red Rock Country. A warning: although there are downhills in this area (this area is where the Red Bull Rampage is held) we opted to bring bikes which can pedal. Reason one is that we wanted to be self-contained and could not always rely on getting shuttles. Reason two is that we don't mind pedaling for good trails and, in our opinion, pedallng gives you more flexibility and the ability to get to the best trails in the surrounding area.

The following is a suggestion for your next road trip!

Pack the car and get ready to go
Pack the car and get ready to go

Now that the bags are packed and bikes are ready to do, where do you go?

Here is a suggested loop based on our two trips down there in 2009 and 2010.

A - First Stop - St. George - Zen Trail - 9.7km ride with 400m of climbing and 360m of descending. Straight up then straight down
B - Second Stop - Gooseberry Mesa and Jem Trail ( Gooseberry Mesa is a network, the loop we did was 20km. Jem trail was another 20km loop). Classic all-mountain terrain; lots of technical ups and technical downs. Jem is more XC
C - Third Stop - Virgin River Rim trail - 27.6km ride with 950m of climbing and 740m of descending. You climb to just under 3000m of elevation on this ride. Classic Utah XC. Good views. Fast downhills
D - Fourth Stop - Thunder Mountain - 25km ride with 654m of climbing and 638m of descending. Perhaps the best views of any trail that any one in the world could be privileged to ride.


View Larger Map



First Stop - St. George.

St. George is a working Mormon community that has not focused on recreation. But there is a strong mountain bike community here as well as in the neighboring community of Hurricane. You may have heard of Gooseberry Mesa? Red Bull Rampage? Other events that have recently come onto the scene which are more cross country oriented are the 6 and 25 hours of Frog Hollow events.

St George has its back yard trails accessible right from town. West of St. George is an area that includes the Zen Trail, this trail is considered to be one of the more technical pedaling type trails in this area. The Zen trail can keep you busy for half a day, but can be connected with other trails. The local St George trail network itself could keep you busy for quite a few days.

Bryce on the Zen Trail
Bryce on the Zen Trail

Views: 3,850    Faves: 9    Comments: 3


St. George Utah - Zen Trail at EveryTrail



Second Stop - Jem Trail and Gooseberry Mesa

A mere one hour drive away from St George is Hurricane ( Pronounce Hur - Kin ).

The closest trail network to Hurricane is the Jem trail, home of the Frog Hollow 6 and 25 hour events. It's scenic, fast and not all that technical, but beautifully laid out with classic fast desert riding.

Rippin' on the Jem
Rippin' on the Jem

A little further up the road is Gooseberry Mesa. Talk to the guys at Over the Edge Sports in Hurricane for info. There is a trail head map and the trails are marked with painted dots. Gooseberry is a slickrock playground. The main trail itself is rideable by strong beginners and intermediates. There are playful variations off the trails (steep rock faces, natural half-pipes etc) so a stronger rider can do Gooseberry with a more mellow group and both skill-levels can still have a blast.

Gooseberry slickrock slickness!
Gooseberry slickrock slickness!

Views: 2,469    Faves: 6    Comments: 1




Third Stop - Virgin River Rim Trail

Once you've acclimatized you can challenge your altitude fitness with a ride on the Virgin River Rim Trail. This is a loop where you ride between 8,000 to 11,000 feet; not so easy for us sea-level dwellers. It's a good option for this area if it's super hot as the elevation keeps temperatures reasonable. This is about an hour and a bit north from St George itself in the Brian Head area. It's a scenic loop which is definitely more on the XC-ish side. Of course, it has wonderful views and if you time it right (we didn't) the Fall colours here are stupendous.

Lee's applying the vulcan
Lee's applying the vulcan "take up more oxygen grip" on this high altitude ride!

We started our ride at a trailhead east of Cedar City near the Brian Head ski area. There are many options to start this ride and lots of information about this trail as it's a popular area to ride; Google is your friend on this one if you want to try variations (one of the better ride description examples is here).

Virgin River Rim Trail at EveryTrail



Fourth Stop - Thunder Mountain in Red Canyon

There's not many trails that I would put in the category of trails you must ride before you die. To me, they must be unique, have views & fun singletrack. All of these aspects must not be meh or just merely good. The views MUST be killer and the singletrack superb. Thunder Mountain fits this category. It's two hours from St George in the Red Canyon state park area (just outside its more celebrated cousin area, Bryce Canyon National Park), but it's well worth the drive.

If you get a chance or have camping gear, pay up for a camp site in this area. The evening and morning light on the red rocks is beyond description (more on this below).

MUST RIDE TRAIL. Fun, fast, epic scenery
MUST RIDE TRAIL. Fun, fast, epic scenery

Views: 3,450    Faves: 7    Comments: 6


Thunder Mountain, Red Canyon near Bryce at EveryTrail



Accommodations

-St. George is a major city in the area and there are many hotels to choose from.
-At Gooseberry Mesa you can camp right at the trail head. Bring water!
-Virgin River Rim ride - check out our trip from 2009 for some accommodation options.
-Thunder Mountain - There is a campground across from the visitors' center where the trail ends. There is also a campground at the road to the Thunder Mountain trail head. You can also get accommodation near Bryce Canyon which is also worth a visit.

What else is there to do?

On your riding days off you can go for a hike or ride down the closed to vehicles paved road of Zion National Park. At Thunder Mountain you can go for a hike at Bryce Canyon.

What time of year has the best temperature to ride?

Don't worry, rain is not an issue!

Lots of warmth and sunshine
Lots of warmth and sunshine

Bike Shops

Since you are going there to ride your bikes, you'll need to know which bike shop to visit.

Red Rocks Cycles in St. George:

Red Rock Cycles
Red Rock Cycles

Over the Edge Sports in Hurricane:


Still not convinced?

Check out our trips in 2009 and 2010 to Southern Utah. Here you will find more pictures, links to maps at Everytrail.com, more videos and information on where to camp and ride.

Next time you're thinking of heading south check out St. George and the southern part of Utah! If you are a racer, definitely check out the Frog Hollow Race series. This is probably one of the last warm places in North America you can ride before the snow flies!

See you there!
Must Read This Week






33 Comments

  • + 6
 wow, is there a greater sport than MTB Smile


for me this is the essence of mountainbiking, enjoying the nature and sun, beautiful trails, fresh air... i got my day's portion of sun just by watching this
  • + 2
 I live in St. George, gooseberry is the best trail there is, also, on webb hill, there is a SWEET trail. You ride up the road to the top, then, find the starting step up (off to the side of the road near the radio towers) and start shredding.
  • + 3
 there's no trail there, you mean the barrels is where the sweetness is...
  • + 2
 On the way back to Vegas, drive through Boulder City, NV (next to Hoover Dam)...
Definitely go to BOOTLEG CANYON.....
Hit up All Mountain Cyclery for maps and possible shuttle for downhill or "extended xc" ...
Restrooms, Showers and amazing trails that will keep you smiling for miles and miles!!!!
  • + 1
 A great addition to the JEM trail is to turn off and ride Hurricane Rim instead of riding all the way to Virgin. When in the ST. George Area there are another couple great shorter trails that are worth hitting up too. Check out Bear Claw Poppy right in St. George and Barrel Roll/Sidewinder in Santa Clara. The guys at Red Rock Cycle in Saint George are good guys and it is worth stopping in and chatting with them about trails. I love visiting that area.
  • + 3
 "St. George is a working Mormon community that has not focused on recreation."

This statement makes absolutely no sense. What in the heck are you talking about?
  • + 1
 My friends who live there think St. George has a lot of potential for recreation and are quite active in the outdoor community and this is the impression I got from them.
  • + 2
 Happy to call this place home while I'm at school, but I cannot wait to get back to WA and get some real dirt under my tires. NOTHING beats riding in the NW.
  • + 2
 variety is the spice of life! We live in North Vancouver. We love going to utah cause its so different.
  • + 1
 WORD.
  • + 1
 I love living in Utah! down south is not the only spots with great riding, up on the Wasatch front there is some way sick trails too. i went to Moab 4 times this year Smile
  • + 1
 utah rocks!
  • + 1
 St. George is the best!
  • + 2
 Thank you Sharon Bader and PinkBike for articles like this! Can't wait to hit these trails one day!
  • + 1
 I should mention for people from Vancouver that its pretty reasonable flying from Bellingham to Vegas by Alaska Air. Pretty cheap actually.
  • + 1
 Oh man, I was there over thanksgiving but I left my bike. I definately take it next time I go up there. Those trails look epic!
  • + 1
 the do look epic, answer to the title? YES.
  • + 2
 Dark Hollow, and Blow Hard are my two favorite trails in SW Utah, both just outside of Cedar City...sick DH trails!
  • + 3
 lol "I should have taken a dump right off the edge. . ."
  • + 1
 I noticed every trail had slightly more up than down. Can they be ridden from the other direction? Why did you chose the way you did?
  • + 1
 most of the rides we did were the in the best direction. For the Virgin River Rim Trail, there are other loops you can do, but all involve climbing.
  • + 1
 I've got no problem with some climbing. I just wondered. Thanks for the quick answer.
  • + 1
 Thanks Sharon...will look this up in April when its cold and wet in the PNW
  • + 1
 Nicely done! Been to Moab and Fruita many times, but this trip is going to be a must-do next year!
  • + 1
 Thanks for a great place to invite the Whole Family for a Reunion. I can't wait to ride here. Looks so RAD!!
  • + 1
 I'm heading to SW Utah in Feb what are some suggestions for some more DH tracks as I'm riding a Kona Stab?
  • + 1
 There's plenty of dh in the area too. You can ride at the old redbull rampage site where there's tons of steep ridges, drops, and jumps to ride. Another place is Grafton. Grafton is a ghost town out their that has a super fun dh trail that's fairly technical and once you get to the bottom there's a ton of jumps and drops. Just type in Virgin, Utah and Grafton, Utah in the videos on pb and there's a lot of vids so you can see the trails.
  • + 1
 I second the comment about Grafton and Virgin. It is awesome. Bring your balls.
  • + 1
 if you get to go to moab there is some really fun downhill trails but theyre pretty hidden and youll need to ask some locals or go with someone that knows them...
  • + 1
 You have to hit Dark Hollow too. 5000ft vertical descent!
  • + 1
 Yeah I wish we could have brought both bikes but flying with just one bike already = the suck. Decisions decisions
  • + 1
 I will agree with everyone here that Grafton, dark hollow, and others are great but they may not be rideable in feb. Dark hollow won't be for sure since its at the top of a ski resort. Grafton is on the shady side of the mountain. Redbull site may be good depending on the weather.
  • + 1
 cant wait to head to moab at the start of this summer!

Post a Comment



Copyright © 2000 - 2017. Pinkbike.com. All rights reserved.
dv65 0.064242
Mobile Version of Website