Historic Babylon and Little Purgatory
This 6 mile loop trail is a great aerobic/technical/navigational challenge, with some Anasazi petroglyphs as a cultural bonus. Located within the Red Cliffs Desert Conservation area just east of the small town of Leeds, this trail makes for a great year round ride where you can wear the same clothing during winter afternoons and summer mornings.
The ride begins by riding through a small slot canyon through the east ridge. There are a few petroglyphs high on the left hand wall. The drainage through the slot may be either running water at times of year, or perhaps a bit muddy, but it is short and dry terrain awaits.
The ride ascends the Babylon trail, which is a rocky and relentlessly uphill climb of nearly a thousand feet over 3 miles. There are a couple sections of steep technical riding that are short and easy to push through, but the remainder of the trail is very ridable and at a reasonable grade. Approaching the top of the climb the trail becomes a bit less defined, and some false tracks become a bit distractive, but eventually the summit of the climb provides spectacular views of the Pine Valley Mountains as well as the red rock of Sandstone mountain anti-cline.
The downhill portion of the ride is called Little Purgatory and although designated double black diamond, was surprisingly ridable for most of its 3 mile length. Several sections do mandate caution, and potential dismounting, but as much out of caution as potential injury. This portion of the ride was also difficult to follow at times, with no markings beyond the cleared path that switchbacks down the slope towards the drainage at the bottom.
One significant aspect of this ride is its isloation and solitude. This is probably not ever going to be a popular ride due to the elevation gain and technicallity, and riders should be prepared for mechanical issues or injury and not assume that any other riders will be out there to help.
Wet weather note:
Other than the short portion of the trail that runs through the slot canyon, this trail is on the shinarump layer and would be a good choice when other trails are too wet to ride.
The trailhead is reached by traveling approx 7 miles down a maintained but rough dirt and sand road in the red cliffs recreation area. There is parking for only about 4 vehicles but as this is not a very popular trail, space is typically not an issue.
Difficulity: upper intermediate to advanced riders
Kid Friendly: Probably not
Wet weather ride: Yes
% singletrack: 100%
Quality (1-5) ***