Mountain Biking in the Southwest
- Utah is home to the acknowledged Mecca of meccas when
it comes to mountain biking. Of course I'm referring
to Moab but there's more to life than Moab's famous
slickrock. Across the state, Southwestern Utah is a
patchwork of contrasting geography that offers amazing
riding opportunities. The Dixie National Forest is
home to the southwest region called Color Country. Not
only does this region rival Moab, it's a helluva lot
more accessible! Las Vegas is 3 hours away, L.A. and
San Diego 8 hours, Phoenix 7 and Salt Lake City just 4
hours removed from epic riding.
Cedar City and St. George are the main urban areas in
the region with all the ammenities you'll need. Cedar
City is the gateway to Brian Head, Bryce Cayon and
Cedar Breaks National Monument. The area is very
pro-mountain biking. Visit Cedar Cycles at 38 E. 200
So. in Cedar City and speak with owner Brian Jeppson.
While at the shop, pick up a free copy of the Brian
Head Hiking and Biking Guide which list 18 local
ribbons of singletrack.
Fitness is something to consider before riding in the
area. Trailheads at 8000 ft. and above are not
uncommon. If you arrive from near sea-level,
trailheads riding without getting acclimated, or the
necessary fitness, will feel as if your lungs are in a
vice grip. Thankfully, lung bursting climbs are not
the norm as most of the terrain is rolling.
Trails starting from Steam Engine Meadow at Brian Head
wind through mountain forest with minimal elevation
gain. Starting at the top of Brian Head Peak will
allow access to a couple of mega-downhills. Left Fork
of Bunker Creek is a 12 mile downhiller's delight ride
that starts at nearly 11,000 ft. The other ride to
feed the gravity junkie's addiction is Dark Hollow.
It's a 15 mile one-way thrill ride that features a
5000 ft. elevation loss. Yes, that's a vertical mile
of descending that will permanently affix a grin on
your face from ear to ear. Other rides worth exploring
are Navajo Lake Loop, Thunder Mountain and Cascade
An hour south of Cedar City on I-15 is St. George.
Lodging options closer to Zion National Park can be
found in Hurricane, La Verkin and Springdale. If you
find yourself in Springdale, visit Dean Williamson at
Bike Zion on Utah HWY-9 for rentals, service and
shooting the bull about mountain biking.
The recently opened Gooseberry Mesa trail network is
the area's jewel. Trails include elements of technical
slickrock, twisty singletrack, rough doubletrack,
primitive dirt roads and technical challenges of the
like you won't find anywhere else. The slickrock here
is unlike Moab's. On Gooseberry, slickrock can be darn
close to trials riding at times. Short steep climbs,
scary drops, rock stair climbs, tough lines without
bail out routes, everything that adds up to epic
technical riding. There are loops in the network more
suitable for beginner riders but their not nearly as
The J.E.M. Trail is another local favorite that
finishes with a 6 mile singletrack downhill. The trail
is all singletrack with some spectacular desert
If you're really lucky you'll find a local who can
show you to Little Creek Mesa. We were fortunate
enough to have Morgan Harris lead us through this
dizzying maze. Little Creek is very tricky to find but
well worth it if you can get acturate directions.
Extremely technical slickrock, singletrack and amazing
views from the mesa are a must for those seeking a
challenge. Tip - bring extra water, sun block, tire
liners and/or Slime as this is the desert and plants
that prick are everywhere.
Does venturing to southwest Utah sound like fun? It's
more fun than you can image and activities aren't
limited to mountain biking. Hiking, camping, road
cycling and 9 golf courses offer breaks from the fat
tires. Keep in mind that this is the desert. Ideal
times of the year are spring and fall though riding is
possible year round. Winter can be chilly and summer
is brutally hot.
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