Broken Mesa Rim / Icehouse trails

For years the Broken Mesa Rim trail had the reputation of being the worst trail in the St. George region, only favored by the downhill riders for whom pushing a bike uphill was the never a dissuading factor when it came to getting their downhill fix. In 2016 the first mile of trail was like riding in a 2-foot-deep trench filled with bowling balls, and many locals wrote the trail off as never worth riding again. After several years of concerted repair work organized by the Dixie Mountain Bike Trails Association, Broken Mesa rim trail is not only worth riding, but offers one of the most unique rides in the Greater Zion Region, both for the landscape and riding style.

Basalt is a difficult type of rock to base a mountain bike trail on. Blocky, sharp and frequently immovable, basalt rides require a huge amount of labor and machinery to make smooth and flowy. For Broken mesa the other difficulty is the clay substrate that underlies the basalt. This layer is nearly impenetrable to water, and even with infrequent rain, the runoff is significant and readily adopts any path of least resistance; over time trails become trenches.

Broken Mesa Rim trail is typically ridden as an 8 mile point to point, starting at the trail head parking area about 5 miles up the cottonwood road, and finishing in a housing development in Washington. The ride begins uphill directly out of the parking lot, and continues unrelentingly for about 1.5 miles gaining about 600’ of elevation. During the hot spring and summer months, an early start will have the entire climb in the deep shade. Once at the top of the mesa the trail turns south and drops 2000 feet over 6 miles to the bottom of the mesa where the rock becomes sandstone again.  At 4.3 miles the Icehouse trail merges from the left, (with the trail conditions improving significantly) and the ride continues straight to the edge of the mesa, and down an old pioneer road (with a 20% grade over rock outcrops) to the base.

This is not a typical downhill flow trail kind of ride. It is more of a technical cross country ride for the nearly constant rock outcrops that need to be negotiated. Yet this is perhaps the most unique ride in the Greater Zion region for both the old school riding style, landscape and unsurpassed views of the St. George Basin, Pine Valley Mountains, Red Cliffs and Zion national park on the horizon.

Icehouse:  The Icehouse trail has an independent start higher up the Cottonwood road and a short but rough section of road 902. The ride down the double track makes for an enjoyable warm up, but keep an eye out for the singletrack departing to the right as the junction is easy to miss.  From the start of the single track the trail heads south downhill with a few technical rocky sections, and a limited amount of pedaling, to the plunge off of the edge of the mesa down the old pioneer road. The Icehouse trail is less technical than Broken Mesa rim, does not require the initial climbing, and after the first mile seems to have far fewer rock garden sections, and more flow.

Season: This is a year-round trail with spring and fall offering the best conditions. Summer mornings offer good conditions, with an early start offering the advantage of the initial climb being in the shade. Winters afternoons offer good riding conditions, but the top of the trail is just high enough to receive snow fall from winter storms, making the access difficult.

Wildlife: Great Basin ecosystem merges into the Mojave at the bottom of the ride. Beyond the typical reptile and bird species, the lower elevations support the Mojave Desert Tortoise for which the Red Cliffs Desert Conservation area was created.

Difficulty: Solid Intermediate to Advanced riding
Kid Friendly: NO
Dogs: No- this trail is in the red cliffs desert reserve
Wet Weather ride: Not recommended
Seasonal note:  The Cliff rose bushes bloom April – May at this elevation, with spring wildflowers and cactus in mid may
% Singletrack: 100%
Quality (1-5)***

Website links:


Mountain bike project

Utah mountain