Southern Utah Riding: Part 1

posted in: Tales from Trails | 4
Gooseberry Mesa
Gooseberry Mesa

When trails at home still feel like they’re a few weeks away from being ridden, the best thing to do to satisfy my itch to ride is to head down south. After chatting with a few Canmore locals about the best places to ride in Utah, besides the well know Moab area, I’ve decided that a trip to the St. George/Hurricane would be a great way to inform followers of bikepirate.com of all the great spring and fall riding these areas offer. No trip down south of course would be complete without a visit to Moab, so stay tuned for Part 2 of my Southern Utah Riding experience due out next week.

First stop St. George, southern Utah’s largest city located near the borders of Arizona and Nevada. St. George and Hurricane boast some of the best mountain biking around. Hurricane, only 25 minutes east of St. George, is home to the well known Gooseberry Mesa and now boasts the newly built JEM trail named after its builders John, Ellen and Mike. JEM is receiving some amazing reviews and rightly so, this trail is a must do ride. A sweet singletrack that gives a whole new meaning to the word flow. A lesser known riding area located across from Gooseberry is Little Creek Mesa, an area that is well worth experiencing; but, preferably with a guide so as not to get lost. Trails right around St. George include Barrel Roll, Zen trail, Bearclaw Poopy and Paradise Canyon.  With so many choices, we found there was not enough hours in the day to cover the vast network of trails these two areas include. However, we gave our best effort, riding 4 – 7 hours a day, to document and cover the classics and a few of the new trails. Over the course of the next few weeks, look for these to be added to bikepirate for your reference.

Week in review

Our first day started out on Church Rocks and Prospector Loop, a great ride to get your legs warmed up and a great option after it downpours. We found the trail to be a lot of fun offering us a chance to ride some singletrack along with a large section of slick rock on the Church Rocks trail. This was a great way to get use to the riding we would experience the rest of the week.

Church Rocks
Church Rocks

The following day we met up with Mark Erickson from Mountain Bike Buddies. Mark is the only mountain bike shuttle service in the area. His prices are comparable to a round of golf and well worth it. A great resource for anyone wanting to explore the vast network of trails from St. George to Moab. Mark has been running his service for over 10 years now and works with some very well-known tour companies, including Sacred Rides; a great outfit out of Canada. To start us off Mark took us out on Little Creek Mesa, his personal favourite, and showed us the Outer Loop. An area not known to outsiders, Little Creek offers some great riding; however, it can be hard to navigate if you are not familiar with the trails and therefore we recommend that you hook up with a local guide. Of course Mark will happily shuttle you to the trailhead and point you in the right direction if you prefer to explore on your own. If you book with Mark, remember to ask him to tell you about his Sailing adventure while on route to the trailhead – 7 weeks lost at sea. Oh and don’t forget to ask him about the time he took Brad Pitt out for a few days of riding. Or the Italian DH team that experienced Flying Monkey for the first time.

Little Creek Mesa
Little Creek Mesa

Our afternoon rides included the famous JEM trail, a must do ride for anyone visiting the area. JEM was followed by a ride down Bearclaw Poppy to end our awesome day of riding.

Bearclaw Poppy
Bearclaw Poppy
JEM Trail
JEM Trail

The remainder of the week we spent riding Gooseberry Mesa, Zen Trail, Rhythm and Blues, Rock n’ Roll, Paradise Canyon and Guacamole Mesa. On our final day we once again met up with Mark from Mountain Bike Buddies to do a bit of downhilling. Yup, you heard right, there are definitely some DH trails to be found in the area. A number of the higher up trails were still snow covered, but we got in a good day none the less by riding Grafton Mesa. Mark was happy to shuttle us on this expert downhill singletrack; which I was super stoked to ride.

Mark: Mountain Bike Buddies
Mark: Mountain Bike Buddies
Grafton Mesa
Grafton Mesa

The afternoon entailed a drive up to Flying Monkey, an insane downhill trail. WARNING this is a PRO ride; if you think you’ve got what it takes to ride down this trail, think again. After walking the first section of the trail, I decided to save this ride for another day. If you’re a thrill seeker or looking to get out on something that will scare the pants off you, then this ride is for you. For more information on this trail, stop by Zion Cycle and ask to speak with Bill.

We really enjoyed our week in St. George and although we are looking forward to our riding in Moab, we wish we had more time to enjoy the plethora of trails that this area has to offer. A big thank you to all the great folks we met this week, including Quentin form Over the Edge Sports, Bill and Fred from Zion Cycle and Mark from Mountain Bike Buddies.

Bike shops

Over the Edge Sports (Hurricane) – A Fabulous all around Mountain bike shop, conveniently located on the way to some of the areas epic rides, including Gooseberry Mesa. Carries lots of brand names and offers great service. Pop by and visit Quentin and DJ the owners to get the latest beta on the area and pick up some fuel for your ride.

Zion Cycles (Springdale) – A small shop that provides great service, rentals and mountain bike gear. Stop by and ask for Bill for all the dirt on the local trails, including Grafton Mesa.

Red Rock (St. George) – A large shop with a wide selection of road and mountain biking equipment, gear and clothing.  This shop also has a large service and rental area.

Places to stay

St George, Hurricane and other surrounding communities offer a wide variety of lodging options, from national hotel chains to mom and pop ran motels. Personally I like to stay in St George where there is a wide variety of amenities and you are fairly central to all surrounding trails. A few personal favorites;

The Inn at Entrada – if you want to splurge and enjoy all the comforts of home and then some, this is the place.  Spacious Casitas with small kitchen area, patio and even a garage for all of your equipment, all located in a private golf resort community.  The only small downside of this resort is that it does not offer Laundry facilities or services, which come in handy when on a bike trip.  Be sure to visit the clubhouse restaurant – amazing views, fine dining at reasonable price.

The Inn at Entrada
The Inn at Entrada

St George Inn and Suites (formerly Budget Inn and Suites) – centrally located just a few blocks from Main St, this motel style Inn is spacious, with great amenities (indoor/outdoor pools and hot tubs, laundry, free WIFI) and it included a tasty FREE hot breakfast buffet.

Places to eat

No shortage of options for dining out in this area either, whether you are looking for fast food options or a nice sit down dinner.  Here are a few of our preferred places to eat;

Pancho and Lefty’s– Mexican – a great little spot for a cold pint and some great eats after a ride.  An impressive selection of beer and tasty Mexican at really affordable prices.  Tip – sit in the Cantina area for a more relaxed and quiet atmosphere.  $$

Pancho and Lefty's
Pancho and Lefty’s

Black Bear Diner – North American – Home-style cooking, large portions and friendly service.  If you are missing your kitchen or mom’s cooking while on the road, this place may help fill the void.  Pot Roast, meatloaf and other comfort foods are the specialty here, be sure to save room for dessert.  $$

Café Rio – Mexican – a cafeteria style restaurant, fast paced and busy, but offers delicious Mexican at a really great price.  The Burritos are a must try.  $

Happy Trails!

Read Part 2 Southern Utah Riding

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