Mountain Biking in Utah
A classic trail in Northern Utah
|The Mecca of Mountain Biking is Moab, Utah. The main reason for
this is the slickrock trail on the edge of town. Petrified sand dunes
of another era once gave motorcycles a challenging course over the slickrock
terrain, and with the invention of the mountain bike it provided an ideal
place for the transformed bikes. Slowly word got out about the slickrock
trail and other trails in the area and this sleepy town became the place
to be for mountain bikers. Motel and restaraunt and other building
surged with the rise of biking tourism. While it was great news for
the chamber of commerce it was bad news for bikers as Moab became a victim
of its own success. The crowds are larger and less experienced than
before and so the overall quality of the experience was less than what
it was in years past, however that does not mean you cannot have a quality
experience. To obtain the best experience I suggest avoiding the
main season of April through October and go during the offseason.
It will be cooler and cheaper at the Motel during the off season, and if
you are dressed appropriately there will be no problems.
A quick review of two guide books to Mountain Biking in Moab will assist you in finding other rides in the area besides the world famous slickrock trail.
Mountain Bike America Moab: An Atlas of Moab, Utah's Greatest Off-Road
Bicycle Rides by local guide Lee Bridgers
The second book is Mountain Biking Moab Pocket Guide: 42 of
the Area's Greatest Off-Road Bicycle Rides by David Crowell.
This smaller guide offers the basic details of each ride, how to get to the trailhead and maps of the trails. As a quick reference this book is great, however lacks some of the detail that the larger book above can offer due to its size.
The book provides the following information about each ride:
I enjoy Moab not only for its bike riding possibilities, but for the parks nearby. Arches, Canyonlands and Dead Horse Point park all have something to offer.
There are plenty of other places to go in Utah besides Moab. Most
trails consist of hiking trails or 2 WD or 4WD dirt roads or paths that
were used previously by farmers, miners, and others.
Grosvenor's Arch is composed of light yellow and white sandstone. It resides within the Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument. The arch is located about 10 miles from Kodachrome Basin State Park in south central Utah. You can park inside or just outside the park as a starting point. The ride is over an alkaline desert landscape with little vegetation, but you are rewarded in the end with a fantastic view of the arch, which is actually a double arch in that there are two distinct arches side by side. The arch extends quite a ways as my standing height in comparison to the arch shows.
One early season favorite ride of mine is Antelope Island. An
Island in Utah?! Yes. There are several islands in the Great
Salt Lake and two of them, Antelope and Stansbury Island are accessible
by mountain bike. Antelope Island is located west of Layton, Utah
and is a few miles west of Interstate 15. You pay your $8 fee per
vehicle or less if you would like to ride the bike across the 7.2 mile
causeway. I have done that too, but with the knobbly mountain bike
tires on the smooth pavement you get quite a work out. Avoid
the crowds and horses by going during the week and misssing the weekend.
To the east of the trailhead parking area is the White Rock Bay trail,
which is a 7.5 mile loop over mostly smooth terrain with some spots of
sand. About half way you have a choice of going up the hill and off
to two alternate routes to Elephant Head (another 2 miles) or the Split
Rock trail. One hill on the trail is so rocky and sandy
you have to get off and go up it on foot. I suggest the latter part
of March and the first 2-3 weeks of April to go as the weather is cooler
and the crowd numbers smaller. If you go later in April or later
in the year ALWAYS wear insect repellent that has DEET in it as the no-see-ums
and the mosquitos are terrible once they come out. There is some
wonderful scenery with the mountain capped mountains all around you and
the lake around you. If you are lucky you may see some wildlife such
as bison, coyote, big horn sheep and various birds.
Since about 1892 a herd of bison has been maintained on Antelope Island
and their number is over 500. Late one afternoon the sky was darkening
and a storm was approaching when I was about half way through the trail
when I saw a fellow biker off to the side of the trail in some yoga position
meditating with his eyes closed. As I went past him I began traversing
a hill and I took a peek back and here they came -- about sixty bison came
running over the horizon and literally surrounded my transcendental friend.
Well you can image his surprise when he heard the thundering hooves coming
towards him. He made it out, but only after the bison moved on.
If you miss the bison out in the open you can see some of them in the corral
that has been set up with some food to attract them. One of the most
memorable moments on the island was seeing about 50 head of bison going
straight down the hill at full gallop. I thought those scenes were
something of the nineteenth century, but you can see them here at Antelope
To explore other Utah trails I suggest picking up one of the several
guide books written by Gregg
Links on Utah Tourism and Mountain Biking
Number of visits