Crank It Up
Set Some Treads on Utah's Mountain Bike Trails
June 1, 2008
The daily grind takes on a whole new meaning atop a couple of fat tires. For free-wheeling weekend warriors, hundreds of miles of diverse, challenging and simply breath taking — yes, that’s a figurative and literal reference — mountain biking trails crisscross the state. Longtime tread-setters Heinrich Deters, director of Park City-based Young Riders, Utah’s International Mountain Biking Association (IMBA) representative Ryan Miller and Rim Cyclery’s Kelby Groff helped uncover the state’s best rides.
Whether pedaling from Salt Lake or Park City, the Wasatch Crest Trail takes the scenic (and potentially epic) ride prize. Sometimes known as the Ridge Ride, the high alpine trail rises to nearly 10,000 feet. The rider can choose from Park City or Millcreek access (Upper Millcreek trails are open to mountain bikers on even days only) with most riders parking on Guardsman’s Pass. “Mo’ Fo’” or “Puke” hill and “The Razor Back,” a shale outcropping above Desolation Lake, will test a rider’s mettle. The good news is that what goes up also comes down with ridge-top views into Big and Little Cottonwood Canyon, Park City and Mill Creek Canyon. For the epic adventure, Deters recommends starting on Park City’s Spiro Trail or shuttling a car up the Guard Road.
For the Après-bike Crowd
If the post-ride reward ranks up there with the ride itself, Park City’s Mid Mountain and Lost Prospector trails are worth considering. Mid Mountain can be accessed from various points throughout Park City, perhaps the easiest of which is lift-served at Deer Valley Resort. Parts of the approximately 20-mile trail can be challenging, but there’s usually an escape route (i.e. a trail out) when a cocktail beckons. While Mid Mountain parallels the Crest trail through the three Park City resorts, Lost Prospector is a gentle loop with few uphill climbs and views of Park City; a good starting point for this moderate loop is the Rail Trail or the Aerie.
Moab has successfully billed itself as the state’s mountain biking capital ever since cycling started its off-road rebellion; the crown jewel is, of course, the famous Slickrock Trail. According to Groff, whose family opened Moab’s first cycle shop in 1983, this “natural skate park” of a trail is his favorite. Lots of short steep ups and downs along petrified sand dunes mean a tough workout. “It’s not an easy ride. It’s like riding old cobblestone streets in Europe,” warns Deters, who advises everyone to test their skills on the practice loop.
Groff’s “must-rides” also include Amasa Back, which he says locals return to again and again and Sovereign Trail, a single track cross-country ride. For a more moderate excursion, he recommends Gemini Bridges and Klondike Bluffs, which aren’t technical, but involve a fair amount of stamina.
The best times to hit the desert are spring and fall (but avoid Moab during the Easter Jeep Safari, given the crowds). Climate certainly plays a role in the level of difficulty of any ride. As with any mountain bike adventure, water, snacks, sunscreen, a helmet and tire-repair equipment (and know-how) are essential.
Off the Beaten Path
Considering Slickrock? Head to Hurricane. Yes, Hurricane. According to Deters, Gooseberry Mesa, just outside of Zion National Park, is phenomenal. “It’s like a little terrain park. It’s not fast. It’s challenging. It’s a real playground,” he raves.
Lookout Peak Big Mountain Loop is a lesser known, intermediate to advanced ride worthy of a trek to the Mountain Dell area, says Miller. “You can go out and you will not see a single person on it,” he says. Better be sure to pack that spare tube.