TBT: Utah Mountain Biking

It’s another Throwback Thursday post, as Jeff shares his Utah mountain biking trail review!


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It has been awhile since posting a mountain bike adventure, mainly because nothing seemed to measure up to Whistler’s scenery or vast, adrenaline-filled trail network. Big Mountain in Montana provided a reasonable downhill adrenaline fix, but the trails were not as extensive or as groomed. The smoke from the northwest forest fires also dampened my mountain biking enthusiasm. However, upon reaching Utah, it all changed. According to Singletracks, Utah has three of the top 20 mountain bike trails in the US. Two of them are located in Moab (Whole Enchilada and Porcupine Rim) and the other one in Hurricane (Gooseberry Mesa).

In my exploration of both Hurricane and Moab, I found world-class mountain bike trails with stimulating, multicolored scenery. Hurricane is the staging point for the annual Red Bull Rampage Mountain Biking Challenge, where downhill mountain bikers skillfully carve their way down the gnarliest, jagged terrain on earth. My mountain bike adventures in Hurricane were spent on their well-maintained trail network, more specifically Gooseberry Mesa and the JEM/Goulds Loop. The International Mountain Biking Association (IMBA) designated a 24.1 mile epic variation of the JEM/Goulds loop called the Hurricane Rim Loop. Since the locations were somewhat remote and rather hot in the afternoons (65 degrees in the morning and 95 degrees in the afternoon), my excursions were limited to 17 miles.

For an adrenaline-charged and scenic romp through the desert terrain, choose the 17 mile JEM/Goulds loop. If interested in something longer go for the IMBA Hurricane Rim Epic. Gooseberry Mesa provided a 13.1 mile slick-rock style adventure through a moonscape of rock. Paint marked the way over and around sloping rock formations, making the Gooseberry Mesa Loop. There is also great scenery along the exposed cliff areas.

Moab boasts a vast network of trails, some over 100 miles long. The trails range from beginner to extreme, so Moab offers a little something for everybody. Moab’s trail systems are extremely well marked and equally motivating, displaying a Happy Face location on the trail maps prominently placed at each trail junction. As such, first time visitors can proficiently navigate any trail they choose.  Since I had already completed the Porcupine Rim Trail some years back (a one-way trail requiring a shuttle), my focus this time were loop trails which could be comfortably ridden by an intermediate to advanced rider. The first day was spent on the world-famous slick rock trail, which provided an 11 mile exhilarating up and down romp on slick rock, following paint markings along the way. I forgot how much work it was to crank up the steep slopes, and how much grip is afforded by the rock. The vertical gain was only about 900 feet, but the steep slopes made it seem much higher. The Slickrock Trail also overlooked the Hell’s Revenge jeep trail, and it was entertaining to watch the jeeps and ATVs run over the rocks, while catching my breath on the Slickrock Trail.

Another day was spent on the more advanced HyMasa/Captain Ahab Trail (rated black diamond). This was a 9.0 mile loop trail which entailed a spirited romp down and around slickrock, short drops, single track, rock slabs, and very exposed cliff edges. Some climbing was involved (1,300 vertical ascent), but the stunning scenery keeps you motivated. This trail was incredibly fun, but only for advanced intermediate to expert riders. My Moab stay finished with a 15 mile intermediate loop offered by the Klondike Bluff Trails, which provided some buff single track and colorful scenery overlooking Arches National Park. Moab and Hurricane provided some great, challenging cross country mountain biking and I will be back again!

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