Mountain biking in southwest Utah—2016 edition

It’s October and time to head to southwest Utah for some autumn mountain biking.

We managed to get out of Flagstaff at the “early” hour of 8 a.m. and arrived at Gooseberry Mesa shortly after noon. After a quick lunch we were off on Windmill Trail. A short distance from the trailhead brings you to the north edge of the mesa with amazing views.

Riding slick rock on Gooseberry Mesa, Utah.
Riding slick rock on Gooseberry Mesa, Utah.

The view from the trail head. That's Zion National Park in the distance.
The view from the trail head. That’s Zion National Park in the distance.
Close to The Edge: Windmill Trail, Gooseberry Mesa.
Close to The Edge: Windmill Trail, Gooseberry Mesa.

It doesn’t take long before the trail veers away from the edge and takes you through ramps, chutes, small hills, and steps on a high-traction surface.  (The geologic name for this rock is Shinarump Conglomerate.) There are no long uphills here—but many short and quick ascents and descents.

Climbing a ramp on North Rim Trail, Gooseberry Mesa.
Climbing a ramp on North Rim Trail, Gooseberry Mesa.
Rolling down a sandstone bowl...
Rolling down a sandstone bowl…
...and taking the turn.
…and taking the turn.
And the next rider follows...
And the next rider follows…

We continued on the North Rim Trail to the west end of the mesa at The Point which provides a magnificent view of the Virgin River valley as well as the Hurricane Cliffs trail system far below.

Another drop into a sandstone bowl, North Rim Trail.
Another drop into a sandstone bowl, North Rim Trail.
Climbing up and through a turn, North Rim Trail.
Climbing up and through a turn, North Rim Trail.

The return to the trail head included a quick jaunt on Yellow Trail. Great fun—No pictures! We then returned to North Rim and connected with Practice Trail. It was getting late and the sun was low in the sky resulting in wonderful light across the mesa and rocks.

The setting sun illuminates North Rim Trail.
The setting sun illuminates North Rim Trail.
Setting sun and glowing rocks on Practice Trail.
Setting sun and glowing rocks on Practice Trail.

The next day we headed for the Hurricane Cliffs Trail System. These trails are at a lower elevation than Gooseberry Mesa and it was a bit warmer—although still comfortable. We headed up JEM Trail, connected to Crytobiotic, and then on Dead Ringer. This took us to the top of the mesa where we connected with the More Cowbells trails.

Ringing the bell at the top of Dead Ringer, Hurricane Cliffs Trails.
Ringing the bell at the top of Dead Ringer, Hurricane Cliffs Trails.
Mesa-top riding on More Cowbells Trail.
Mesa-top riding on More Cowbells Trail.

After taking a lap on the easy More Cowbells trail we returned down Dead Ringer and connected to the Goosebumps—a trail with lots of quick ups-and-downs—and then back to JEM for the fast downhill run back to the car.

Dead Ringer Trail as seen from More Cowbells.
Dead Ringer Trail as seen from More Cowbells.
Return trip down JEM along a side canyon of the Virgin River.
Return trip down JEM along a side canyon of the Virgin River.

On our final day we visited Little Creek. We had not been here before so we were looking forward to trying out some new trails. There are several loops one can take but given our limited time we chose to take Magic Carpet Ride—which is probably the shortest loop. Lots of slickrock, rollers, and quick ascents and descents: a lot like Gooseberry Mesa, only different.

Magic Carpet Ride, Little Creek tralls.
Magic Carpet Ride, Little Creek tralls.
Magic Carpet Ride, Little Creek tralls.
Magic Carpet Ride, Little Creek tralls.
Magic Carpet Ride, Little Creek tralls.
Magic Carpet Ride, Little Creek tralls.
Magic Carpet Ride, Little Creek tralls.
Magic Carpet Ride, Little Creek tralls.

Navigation here can be tricky and we found ourselves looking at three different sets of cairns going in three different directions. We thought we chose wisely—but found ourselves on a secondary trail. No problem—it was still interesting and fun—and we returned safely to the car.