Oh No – Mother Nature Played Favorites!


Throughout Washington County in southwestern Utah, She created three separate ecosystems that collide within two different major physiographic provinces. You’ll find valleys, mesas, plateaus, mountains, faults and ridges – all in an area where mountain bikers can ride slick rock, single track, desert trails and endless roads within minutes of a vibrant metropolitan area.

Dixie Mountain Bike Trails Association (DMBTA) has partnered with the area BLM on a trail building blitz. The partnership has added 23 miles of high quality single track to the 250 miles that already exist in Washington County.

The riding runs the full spectrum — from steep, technical slick rock to fast, flowing single track, and most recently, beginner–level routes that anyone can enjoy. The riding is divided into seven main trail systems, but it’s easier to think of them as three distinct areas: the Zion corridor, from Hurricane to Springdale; Quail Creek and Red Cliffs, between Hurricane and Washington City; and all of the downtown St. George trails.

The Gooseberry Mesa National Recreation Trail is widely considered one of (if not the best) mountain bike systems in Utah. Designated in 1999, it has long been an international destination and trail data reveals visits from 53 different countries. The terrain is slick rock, with white dots marking the highly technical routes and loops that meander across the mesa. Constructed in 2013, the 5.1 mile Goosebumps trail hugs the toe of the slope at the base of Gooseberry Mesa. Riders flow through the “bumps” as they cross the multiple drainages coming off the mesa. Goosebumps is one of the rare trails that can be enjoyed by experts and beginners alike.

The Hurricane Cliffs trail system was designed with moderate terrain that is conducive to fun and flowing single track. Two trails were added to the Hurricane Cliffs system early 2015, near the upper end of the popular JEM trail. During trail construction, a dead cow was discovered at the base of a cliff with an ancient cowbell still tied firmly around its neck.

With tongue planted firmly in cheek and a nod to the classic Will Ferrell Saturday Night Live routine, the “More Cowbell” and “Dead Ringer” trails were named. More Cowbell forms a lazy three mile loop on a flat mesa with less than 100 vertical feet of climbing – making it a perfect beginner-level ride. The north end of the trail follows the edge of the mesa with multiple overlooks offering spectacular views of the Pine Valley Mountains to the north. While More Cowbell is a great addition to the Hurricane Cliffs system and a much needed beginner-level ride, the most ambitious trail has to be Dead Ringer.

Leaving from the JEM Trailhead, the 7.6 mile route makes a gradual descent, winding in and out of drainages and following the contours across steep slopes — really steep slopes. Although Dead Ringer is not particularly difficult, think twice about riding this if you suffer from vertigo or are uncomfortable riding narrow single track. You don’t want to go off trail here. Once off the steep slopes, the trail opens up fast and twisty with a half dozen optional jumps built in.

Closer to the St. George metropolitan area, the Santa Clara River Reserve (SCRR) provides high quality single track just minutes from downtown. A joint project between the cities and the BLM, the SCRR was created to set aside open space on public lands with a focus on developing recreational trails. The project is considered a huge success, with 22 miles of trails that are popular with hikers, trail runners, and mountain bikers. Because of the steep terrain and plentiful switchbacks, the trails are best suited for intermediate and advanced riders. SCRR is but minutes from metro St. George.

For beginner level riding near town, the 20-year-old Bear Claw Poppy trail is the best choice. The Bear Claw Poppy Reserve sits just south of the SCRR and is home to some of St. George’s oldest mountain bike trails, originally known as the Green Valley Loop. This trail is a series of rollers and drops into a bit wider, smooth single track. Traversing a mix of state and public lands, the lower two miles above Navajo Drive in Bloomington are like riding a classic roller coaster. Fast, quick and a lot of fun!

For more information, contact the St. George Area Tourism Office at 800-869-6635 or info@visitstgeorge.com.

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