Difficulty: Beginner to expert Kid Friendly: No Dogs: Yes Wet Weather ride: Yes % Singletrack: 98 Quality: *****+ (1-5)
The mesa top riding in southwestern Utah is unlike mountain biking anywhere else in the world. No other location offers the kind of grippy slick rock riding on Shinarump sandstone along with flowy forested single track, stunning scenery, cliff edge riding, and the kind of desert isolation that few people ever get to experience. Yet amongst the unique experiences that each of the four or five developed mesa’s offer, Gooseberry mesa is the crown jewel of the bunch. This is a difficult accolade to quantify, but while Little creek offers vast swaths of slickrock isolation, Guacamole being more consistently technical, Wire mesa for closeness to Zion park, … Gooseberry somehow combines all of these facets into a single trail system that feels truly world class at the same time other worldly.
The Gooseberry mesa is a tilted sky island of convoluted sandstone, broken by drainages and a pinon-juniper forest springing from a sandy soil that also supports a healthy population of cactus and cliffrose offering beautiful blooms and sweet fragrance in the spring. The riding is technical and punchy which is typical of the mesa top trails, but on Gooseberry numerous sections of trail follow smooth and narrow drainages between mounds, which is like often like riding in the trough of a waterslide that twists and turns across the top of the mesa.
A 4WD road splits the mesa in two creating a beginner trail that is often shared with four wheelers and side by side Utv’s. The trails on the north side of the road are intermediate with the south side featuring more expert terrain and higher levels of technicality. Both rim rides, north and south offer cliff edge riding sections where the views are both jaw dropping for their expansive grandeur and frightening with the realization that rolling right off is a possibility.
With close to 30 miles of trails, and surrounded by many other easily accessible trail systems, Gooseberry mesa is a perfect base camp area and offers free public lands camping (14 day limit) with over 70 designated campsites scattered along the sides of the access road. Pit toilets at the road junction and at the main trailhead keep the impact from human waste to a minimum, and the isolation of the area offer quiet star filled nights.