Tag Archives: Mountain Biking

TBT: Utah Mountain Biking

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


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!

Throwback Thursday: Terlingua, TX Mountain Bike Trail Review

Being a full-time adventurer, Jeff sometimes has difficulty carving out time for his trail review posts! What follows is a Throwback Thursday post:  his review of the mountain biking trails near Terlingua Texas, from our stay in the Big Bend area last February!

Terlingua Mountain Biking, Big Bend Ranch State Park, Texas

img_3603.jpgAfter posting the more intense downhill mountain biking of Whistler, it seemed prudent to post about most of my mountain biking adventures which entail cross-country excursions. Downhill mountain biking is predominantly for adrenalin junkies, although you can spend the day on more mellow downhill pathways provided you stick with the green beginner runs. Terlingua, located directly between Big Bend National and State Parks in south Texas, boasts a thriving population of 58. Every year in February they host the Chihuahuan Desert Mountain Bike Fest where mountain bikers from all over the country explore their many trails at Terlingua and Big Bend State Park. Although we happened to be there about the same time, they capped the event at 500 riders, and unfortunately I was not able to participate. However, the trails prior to the event were very well groomed so it was a fabulous time to explore the trails and a great time to be there given the weather.

Big Bend State Park also happens to be the one of the select places in the US to achieve an Epic Trail designation by the International Mountain Bike Association. Less than 50 places in the US and Canada have that trail designation, so my applause to the Chihuahuan Desert riders who made this happen. IMBA’s Epic, better known as the Fresno-Sauceda Loop, totals 59 miles, although there are many, many more miles of rugged desert single track throughout the area. Although a portion of my exploration entailed the Epic Trail, my focus was mainly on the Dome, East Contraband, and Fresno Divide Loops. The Dome Loop was 19.8 miles and the Fresno Divide Loop was another 9.4 miles. My longest single day was about 23 miles. I also spent time the first day on the Terlingua trails which produced another 16 miles of riding. Overall, after multiple days of riding, I managed to complete 70 miles of trails doing various loops around the two areas. Except for a trail maintenance day in preparation for the event, which yielded a handful of people, I never saw anyone on the trails. This was not due to lack of riders because cars were present at the trailheads, but rather the vast desert environment.



These rides were about solitude and self-reliance. If you venture out, you better be prepared to fix a flat or other mechanical mishaps that may come up. Otherwise, you may have a very long walk back to the car. The scenery was visually stimulating, yielding barren mountains in the background, set among a prickly arid environment. Occasionally I would see a rabbit hopping about, but generally did not see any wildlife during the day. Most wildlife in the desert travels at night, which is fine by me. I managed to see a Bobcat in the distance scurrying across the trail one day and a coyote on another. If you ride out here you better bring plenty of water because the desert literally sucks the moisture out of your body with every pedal stroke. The sun was relentless, but during February the temperatures were not too hot even under direct sun (running about 75 during the day). The riding was mainly intermediate level, but there were occasional technical sections to keep it interesting.

Signs were found occasionally on the trail system which provided history of the area. For instance, one of the signs spoke about the red cinnabar ore (mercury sulfide), which was mined from the 1900s to about 1947. The cinnabar ore was extracted from the ground and cooked in small furnaces until the mercury was distilled out. Little was known about the detrimental health effects of mercury at the time. Harris Smith, owner of the (now defunct) Chisos Mining Company in Terlingua, enjoyed great success with the mine, but it came with a price. Smith was plagued by mercury poisoning, a common ailment among mercury mine workers.  In the 1970s he recalled that “every tooth in my head became loose, and I could no longer eat solid food.” He went on to say, “My diet consisted of bean soup, crackers, coffee, and mouthwash.”

One day I rode deep enough (about 10 miles in) into Big Bend State Park to see one of the abandoned mine processing facilities. There were little support buildings which skirted the mine area, and it was here that I noticed a fairly recent pile of scat on the ground. The scat pile was a little larger than what a large dog would produce, but the shape was similar. What made this scat unique was that it contained a considerable amount of hair. It was definitely something I had not seen before being from Florida, so I snapped a picture for further investigation since my curiosity was peaked. After completing my loop and returning to the car, I dropped by the Ranger Station to ask them what it was. The Ranger asked where I saw this, and I provided the location. He stated, “Yeah, there are some big cats up in that area.” From that point forward I was a little more diligent in constantly surveying my surroundings. I also decided to carry an easily-accessible whistle and knife. Don’t know if either one would ward off a mountain lion, but I felt better having those items ready.

The riding in Terlingua and Big Bend State Park yielded some excellent scenery, some great desert riding, and some interesting wildlife. This one will be on my list again and I highly recommend it!



Mountain Bike Trail Review: Texas Hill Country

This is a Texas hill country mountain bike trail review by Jeff. He has so much fun playing, that his review posts are somewhat delayed!

LonghornMy first experience riding Texas was east of Austin at a place called Rocky Hill Ranch. It had rained the day before, so I figured the trails would be well-packed, not dusty, and ready to ride. What was not known was this area is actually low country and my bike went from weighing a trim 27.5 pounds when I started to what seemed like 60 pounds from the sticky, red mud that caked both my wheels and bike while riding a fire connector road to one of the interconnecting trails. I cut that trip short and only did 4 miles as essentially an out and back. Consequently, my first ride out of the gate was not exactly a pleasurable ride, however, I was entertained by the nearby long horns. I am sure that during drier conditions the trail would have been fabulous, but it just didn’t work for me on that day.

mapMy impression of Texas mountain biking changed in a positive way once exposed to the enjoyable riding offered in Texas Hill Country near San Antonio. After stopping at a nearby bike shop (Gotta Ride Bikes), they directed me to two trails which offer the best in the area: Flat Rock Ranch near Comfort, Texas and Madrone Trail overlooking Canyon Lake.  Flat Rock Ranch was smooth and flowy, while Madrone Trail was like picking through a rock garden. Let me start with Flat Rock Ranch first.

Getting to Flat Rock Ranch was easy, just off the highway, but you have to eventually drive your car through a gate which keeps the cows corralled. Being from Florida I am not exactly indoctrinated to this type of trail head entrance. After parking my car, I paid the $10.00 fee and proceeded to the west loop. They have about 29 miles of trails, but the western loop was plenty for me getting about 15 miles out of the run. Although the trail was well marked, my Mountain Bike Project App kept me informed of my progress along the way. If you are a traveler and want a rocking app for mountain bike trails around the country, you should download this jewel. Although the first half of the trail was generally a slow and steady ascent up the mountain, the periodic ups and downs during the ascent kept it always interesting. You know the top is near when the tight switch backs start appearing. It gets a little technical going up the switch backs, but it should be a comfort to know the downhill is not far.

bikeOnce at the top, get ready for a rocking smooth downhill which seems like it just doesn’t stop. After a couple more climbs it is pretty much downhill all the way to the car. This is an active farm, so don’t be surprised by the cows and horned sheep getting out of your way or observing your progress during the descent. This place would be great for cross country races or endurance events. My mind wanted to continue onto the east loop, but my legs just wouldn’t support that decision. I hear that the east loop is shorter and a little more technical, but likely more of the same.

MadroneThe Madone trails did not disappoint either. After parking the car, I proceeded into the loop which yielded about 8 miles. Although this loop was much shorter than Flat Rock Ranch, it felt like doing many more miles. As the loop progresses, you are constantly picking a line through the multiple rock gardens, both up and down hills. Although this is not my cup of tea I managed to keep the bike upright and on two wheels most of the time, and can appreciate the technical appeal of this trail. While picking a path through the rock gardens, distractions abound with the marvelous views of Canyon Lake. Half way through I had a magnificent view of the lake and took a much needed break. Eventually you wind back to the car, shocks fully tested. If anything was marginally loose on the bike before, it likely needs some maintenance now.



Bike Trail Review: Alafia River State Park

This is a guest post by Jeff!

IMG_3291If you look up flow in a modern dictionary, Alafia River Mountain Bike Trail would come up as a synonym. Resist the temptation of applying the brakes and you will be rewarded with seemingly effortless transitions from peak to peak as you navigate the plethora of drops and climbs throughout the trail. From the campground, travel east to access the trail, and if your skills allow it, my recommendation would be to take the first left off the fire road into North Creek Trail (intermediate) toward Twisted Sister. However, be advised that you will need your game face on immediately upon entering Twisted Sister, which can be seen at the trail junction on the right.  If leaving from the trail head parking lot, head east from there, then take the first trail to the right into North Creek Trail.

IMG_3302If you are out on a leisurely Sunday drive, then take the first right from the fire road onto the River Loop (easy), followed by Rock Garden and Sand Pine. The end of Sand Pine gets a little sandy during the dry season (generally winter in Florida), but all of it is rideable. This trail has it all, including a great balance of easy, intermediate, difficult, and double-black runs. Spending a week out here just leaves you wanting more. The mountain bike trail was a gift from the Phosphate mining industry who piled up overburden in their quest to access the deeper phosphate minerals to later sell as fertilizer, after processing. This overburden was then crafted and shaped by trail artisans, and the trail was born.

IMG_3366After finishing Twisted Sister, follow it up with Magic Island, and Buzzard Bay, and by the time you exit North Creek you should be fully warmed up for the remaining adventure. After that take a left off the North Creek exit and finish out your run with Gator Back (Double Black!), Bridges, Rabbit Ears, Roller Coaster, and if you are not too tired, give Moonscape a go. After completing all of these intermediate, black, and double-black trails, 14.5 miles were logged.

This trail definitely ranks as one of the top trails in Florida, and the SWAMP club should be proud of this masterpiece.