utah mounatin biking

Southwest Utah Mountain biking

In a state that features a town which considers itself the center of the mountain bike universe, all other venues are made to seem as compromises by comparison.  Yet it is the southwestern (not southeastern) corner of the state that features the greatest variety of both trails and styles of riding, and, unlike Moab, has a range of elevations from 2800 ft, to 11,000 feet above sea level. This means that you don’t need to put your bike away for any of the seasons, just adjust the elevation and time of day that you choose to ride on the 300 days of the year when it does not rain. It also means an increased sense of solitude on the trails, hours of riding without seeing another soul, and never having to stop and let someone pass on a narrow single track.

mountain biking virgin river rim trail

riding through the aspens on the virgin river rim trail

Why come to Southwestern Utah to mountain bike?                                                                      In a very few words: Variety, Quality and Year- round riding. 

Variety: This means variety both in terms of types of riding; Cross country, technical, trail rides, downhills, or family bike paths. It also means variety in terms of the type of landscape that you are riding through:  low desert, red rock, slick rock mesa tops, spruce/aspen lined lakes and flower covered meadows, hoodoo’s and red rock spires.

Quality:  This means that we don’t ride on gravel roads, farm roads, jeep roads, or double track roads. The trails are hand built single track specifically designed for mountain biking, which means ridable, not push your bike uphill for miles. It also means that we encounter few other users (hikers, horseback riders, motorcycle riders or trail runners) on the trails other than mountain bikers. (no bells required)

Year-round riding: Early morning rides in the summer months mean temps in the 70’s and 80’s moving upward in elevation as the day warms. Winter afternoon rides on most of the trails below 6000 feet is in shorts and t-shirts. Spring and fall when you want to see either wildflowers and blooming cactus or fall colors.

How do I get to St. George?

1. Fly into Las Vegas International airport and either

2. Fly Into St. George municipal airport and rent a car

Should I stay in St. George, Hurricane or Springdale:

  • George offers the greatest choices of accommodations, food, and services than either Hurricane or Springdale, a lower sales tax rate than Springdale, but a small increase in travel times to the trails east of Hurricane of about 20- 40 minutes  Lodging/Camping info
  • Hurricane would offer less travel times to the mesa rides of Gooseberry, Little Creek, and Guacamole as well as the Hurricane rim system, but fewer lodging, eating, or bike rental options. Lodging info
  • Springdale is the gateway village to Zion national park, and would be a good choice if spending several days in the park itself is part of your agenda. Lodging info

St. George Lodging: There are a wealth of lodging options when choosing to stay in St. George itself. From budget motels, to full service options. Snow Canyon state park offers a campground experience, and there are several local holiday resorts that cater to those with either recreational vehicles, the desire to set up a tent or sleep out of their cars. For the ultimate in no cost accommodation the town is surrounded by public lands, and the BLM has designated specific areas north of town that provide the option of dispersed camping available up to 16 days.                                                                                                                                                               St. George Hotel/Motel info                                                                                                                           Vacation Home / Condo Rentals                                                                                                                   Fee Camping                                                                                                                                                     Dispersed Camping on public lands

 Should I bring my bike or rent a bike?

Bringing your own bike is both a great way to keep the costs of the trip under control as well as giving you the chance to ride on equipment that you are familiar with. Though transporting a bike on an airline does often incur extra costs, and the inevitable deconstruction of the bike and packaging in an airline approved container is both time consuming and also costly. The real question is what kind of cost savings will you realize by bringing your own bike vs renting a bike from a local shop.  I would suggest that for trips where you are going to ride 1 week or less, renting would offer both cost savings as well as convienance, while trips of 2 weeks or more the fees for rental really begin to add up and make it reasonable to consider bringing your own bike.

Local Bike Shops                                                                                                                                        St. George has 3 great bike shops that all offer both rentals, as well as reassembly services that will get your bike out of the shipping crate and onto the road.

Rapid Cycling:  On the west side of town off of North Bluff Street, and on the east side near the Red Cliffs Mall.  Rapid Cycling stocks Scott, Kona, and Giant bikes and has a full service shop for repairs and rebuilding.

Bicycles Unlimited:  In the middle of town this is the original shop in St. George with decades of experience and knowledge.  Bicycles Unlimited stocks Cannondale, Trek, GT, and Haro bikes and a full service shop.

Red Rock Bicycles:  In the middle of Bluff Street Red Rock Bicycles is the most upscale shop in the region offering top of the line sales and service on Santa Cruz, Specialized, and S-Works models.

Getting your bike around town and out to the trails

While all of the local shops rent great bikes, once you rent one they kind of leave it up to you to get it around town, and out to the trail head. It is very common to see very nice bikes being pulled out of car trunks on out the back of SUV’s at the trail heads.  Paragon Adventures offers a full range of mountain bike services:

-Free advice on the trails,  how to get to them, and how best to ride them                                             -Bike rack rental                                                                                                                                               -Shuttle services                                                                                                                                            – -Full service guided programs where all the guest has to do is pedal and smile.

 Bike Shuttle Services:

While many of the riding options here are loop rides, and some of them are also fun to ride as out and back, most of the downhill rides are trails that are really only feasible with a shuttle drop off, or pick up.

Rides best done with a shuttle:

  • Thunder mountain
  • Blowhard mountain
  • Dark Hollow
  • Bunker Creek
  • Hurricane rim- to ride all the sections in the best direction
  • The “C” trail

Companies that offer shuttle services:

  • Paragon Adventures
  • Mountain Bike Buddies

Guide Services:

Sometimes you want to leave everything but the pedaling to professionals. Hiring a guide eliminates all of the logistics from the mountain biking experience leaving the guest with nothing to do but enjoy the riding. Full service guiding should also provide instruction on riding technique, offer the ability to handle any on trail breakdowns or maintenance issues, and be a resource of information on the natural history, geology and environment that you are riding in and over. A really outstanding guide service will also help you preserve the experience to share later with friends and family in the form of digital photos and videos.

Full Service mountain bike guiding companies:

  • Paragon Adventures
  • Bike Zion
  • Zion Adventure Company
  • Utah Mountain bike Adventures


The Mesa’s and the Middles:

Climbing up onto the Colorado Plateau or into the Great Basin Desert offers higher elevations and a wide variety of riding possibilities, from slickrock mesa tops to dirt single track along their bases, with some limestone ledges and granite outcrops as a bonus. The elevations from 4500 feet to 6000 feet offer only about 11 months of ride-able conditions a year with the other month being just a bit too cold and windy for those of us who seek comfort over misery. Drive times from St. George are generally less than an hour, with the condition of the many dirt roads being the limiting factor in many instances.

Bike Shops:


Over the Edge Sports:   Hurricane is centrally located to many if not most of these trails and features a full service bike shop for repairs, rentals, retail and supplies. Website: http://otesports.com/locations/hurricane/

Cedar Cycle:  One the way to the higher elevation rides, Cedar City has a full service bike shop and dealership for Specialized, Trek, Diamondback, and Jamis. They are also happy to help with directions and riding suggestions.  Website: www.cedarcycle.com 

Trails:


      · JEM trail-

            Fast downhill romp from the base of Gooseberry to Virgin is the classic ride, but with the addition of the link up trails of Crypobiotic and Goosebumps single tracks it is possible to do an awesome 13 mile loop from the Sheepsbridge trail head at the bottom of the JEM trail.

mountain biking the JEM trail virgin utah
The JEM trail virgin utah

     · Cryptobiotic/Goosebumps-

            Several new miles of connector trails offering numerous loop options for the JEM trail. This system is a co-operative effort by the BLM, IMBA and the Dixie Mountain Bike Trails Association.

     · Hurricane rim / Goulds rim / JEM-

            Amazing loop of single track in remote terrain on numerous different types of trail surfaces. 24 mile loop is one of the epic rides in the region. Year round riding.

mountain biking hurricane rim

mountain biking the Hurricane rim trail

      · Guacamole-

            As close to riding slickrock and single track in Zion national park as possible. Two interconnected loops with numerous alternatives. 11-12 miles of consistently technical riding.  Rough approach road requires 2wd high clearance at a minimum and 4wd when the conditions are grim.

    · Gooseberry Mesa-

            World Class slickrock riding, cliff edges, cruiser single track, stunt areas.  Gooseberry offers something for every level of riding ability from a double track dirt road that splits the mesa in half to hairball riding on the edge of a 100 foot cliff. Multiple camping areas along the access road offer the opportunity to spend several days sampling the wealth of world class mountain biking.

    · Little Creek Mesa-

            Far less famous than Gooseberry, but with the same quality terrain and miles of open slickrock areas that offer smooth and flowy riding on a surface of mars type terrain.  Little creek is marked with cairns that are often difficult to discern and it is common to spend significant time looking for the trail. Combine that with a maze of unmarked dirt roads that seem to head in every direction at once, and it is amazing that anyone ever finds this place.  Riding on miles of slickrock and single track in abject solitude.

mountain biking little creek mesa

twisted trees along the little creek mesa trail

    · Three Peaks-

            Beautiful trail system west of Cedar City. Cross country riding through granite batholiths that offer an unique riding surface for the region. This trail has always been difficult to follow, but recently the local community has put an enormous effort into creating a well (if whimsically) marked trail system that offers a beautifully crafted 3 season ride.


Thin Air Rides:

The top of the Markagunt Plateau rises to over 11,000 feet at Brian Head peak. Besides a lift serviced mountain bike park that operates once the snow finally melts off in June, there are miles of single track trails that offer an afternoon respite from the oppressive summer heat of the desert. Driving the 90 minutes from the triple digits of St. George to the cool 70’s of Navajo Lake is a lesson in the effect that elevation has upon temperature, yet it is the riding up here that makes the drive worth the price of a tank of gas. Whether it is flower-studded alpine meadow single track, or a downhill cruise through a golden fall aspen forest, the difference between environments so close in miles yet so different in aspect, is never anything less than amazing.

Bike Shops: 


Georges Ski Shop:  As many of the trails at Brian Head are down hill runs with significant elevation loss, getting back to your car is always a logistical issue. Georges offers both a flexible and friendly shuttle service as well as rental bikes specific to the type of riding the area features.  Website: http://www.georgsskishop.com

The closest full service bike shop to this area is Cedar Cycle in Cedar city.

Trails:


· Dark Hollow-

            Crazy downhill. Lose a mile of elevation in the course of 12 miles of riding. Deep in the spruce and fir forest the trail eventually runs through stands of aspen on its descent to second left hand canyon road and a fast descent to the pavement of highway 143. Contact Georges ski shop for a shuttle back up the hill before you go.

· Blowhard Mountain-

            Advanced technical downhill– fall out of the sky for 7 miles

· Bunker Creek-

            Another beautiful downhill ride with 2 options

· Scouts Loop / Hendricks Pond-

            Forested single track option off of Dark Hollow

· Navajo Lake Loop-

            Alpine lake loop trail around headwaters of Virgin River

· Virgin River Rim Trail-

            Amazing and epic ride along the rim of the plateau

· Thunder Mountain-

            As close to riding a mountain bike in Bryce Canyon national park as possible