When a non-resident thinks of Utah, they’re likely to think of the famous Salt Lake, the sweeping canyons, the Mormon-heavy history of the state, and not much else. Not many people associate mountain biking, hiking, or other outdoor physical activities aside from strolling along the canyon on a staged, guided tour. Fortunately, you don’t need to move across the country to get your mountain biking fix. Here are some of the best trails for mountain biking located right in beautiful Utah.
It sounds like a vacation, but it’s a good intermediate trail if you’ve got some experience but aren’t quite ready to take on some of the more dangerous trails that Utah has to offer. Located in Moab’s Horsetheif area, Getaway Trail features slickrock, fun, smooth descents, and beautiful views over the valley. This intermediate trail is good practice for those looking to improve, as well as a fun but safe challenge for those who just started out.
Located about 20 miles north of Moab in the Klondike Bluffs area, Dino Flow is a good choice for beginning or intermediate cyclists who need an introduction to climbing. However, it does have something for everyone: Dino Flow features branch points for more advanced riders to take some challenging detours and circle back to the main path eventually. While you’re riding, it’s also a fun activity to try and solve the debate as to its pronunciation. Is it deeno or die-no? Who knows?
Often just called the Crest, this one is a good choice if you’re looking for a long-distance ride. Running through Park City and Little Cottonwood Canyon, the Crest eventually descends into Millcreek Canyon. The Crest is unique in that’s not a loop or circle like most trails; once you’re out there, you need to pay for a shuttle back. However, most cyclists believe the trek is worth it. The terrain isn’t too difficult, but it’s tiring; bring snacks and plenty of water. You’ll see views of the forest, the sprawling valley, and some wildlife.
Flying Dog Trail
Located in Park City, this one has a fun name and a reputation to back it up. It’s beginner-friendly and doesn’t take too hard a toll on your endurance. With fast descents through wooded area, this an extremely popular choice in the fall, as the foliage will make you stop in your tracks to just take in all the colors. And at the top of the mountain, there’s rumored to be not a flying dog but a brush pigeon named Sebastian. He’s known to swoop down on riders’ heads to try and say hello. Good thing you’ve got a helmet.
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A Southwest-Utah favorite, Jem Trail is perfect for beginners, with mostly flat terrain. That said, it’s interesting enough that even more advanced riders find themselves returning to Jem to get a look at the stellar canyon terrain, a stark contrast to the woods and parks of other famous trails. Jem Trail also offers you a gorgeous view alongside the beautiful Virgin River.
If you’re not sure what kind of terrain you like best, Prospector Trail is the place to go. With flat vistas, desert slickrock, classic single-track rock, and even some sand, Prospector Trail remains a fan favorite because it has something for riders of all skill levels. You can stick to the smooth parts if you’re more comfortable, but if you want a challenge, feel free to take advantage of the more technical sections and steeper descents.
Jazz Chrome Molly
Again, an exciting name for an exciting trail. Jazz Chrome Molly welcomes beginners with its smooth, fast single-track, while featuring some optional jumps and sharper descents for the more advanced. This is a shorter trail that riders of all skill sets can enjoy – not to mention
the beautiful scenery and wildlife!
It sounds spiky and painful, but it’s not, we promise. Offering you 15 miles of advanced rocky terrain at an elevation of over 8,000 feet, Porcupine Rim is simply a must-ride for advanced cyclists. There’s a challenging, exciting climb at the beginning, which rewards you with a spectacular view of Castle Valley once you make it to the rim. The descent is extremely technical, so we advise the faint of heart to stick to more beginner-friendly trails, while the more experienced riders will arm themselves with water, snacks, and knee pads. Even the best riders have to walk their bikes through some of these sections. Don’t believe us? There are bus tours to get tourists up this mountain. It’s definitely not for beginners. In fact, completing Porcupine Rim is a common goal that many cyclists set for themselves when they’re first starting out.
Another advanced trail for the most experienced bikers out there, Gooseberry Mesa offers you 30 miles of single-track and slickrock. Some brave cyclists choose to camp overnight in order to complete the trail. The challenging, technical nature of the trail just makes the sweeping scenery that much more beautiful. Think you can handle it? One of the ascents leads to a hill that the locals call “Crybaby Hill.” With beautiful rock formations and views, this well-marked trail will teach you a thing or two about biking, even if you think you already know all there is to know. We wish you luck.
Baby Steps Trail
This aptly-named trail is perfect for beginners looking to gain a confidence boost or even intermediate or advanced bikers who want a more relaxing ride. Stationed on an old volcano, Baby Steps is a mostly wooded trail with a maximum elevation of about 4,500 feet, a nice change from the canyon and quarry structures that are so common in Utah. Baby Steps offers a series of junctions and branch points to other nearby trail systems so you can be sure your experience is unique, even though it’s quite a popular, well-marked and well-maintained trail. There’s a bit of climbing and some slight descents, but nothing too technical. The single-track trail leads you along creekbeds, up to a fire tower, and more, all while amongst the beautiful Utah wildlife.
The Whole Enchilada
This is a breathtaking trail that gives you several choices, including Porcupine Rim, Hazard Country, and Burro Pass. Your climb to Burro Pass starts at 10 000 feet. It is then another 1 400-foot climb to get to Burro Pass itself. It is beautiful, scenic countryside and, once you start going downhill, it speeds past you at a terrific rate of knots. You will be moving fast through some of the most beautiful areas on the planet but prepare to have it whipping past you. This section of the trail is very fast, very slippery and very steep all the way until the Upper Porcupine Rim. Be warned, that section is not ideal for beginners and better suited to intermediate riders.
You get to slow down a little when moving down Porcupine Rim and end up right in front of the Colorado River. (So, do go in spring so that you can enjoy the countryside and a nice swim without the heat and humidity of summer spoiling things for you.) The trail itself is 26 miles long, so it can be done quite quickly. Schedule in at least a day so that you can really explore and get to stop to take a lot of pictures.
It is very fitting to have Captain Ahab feature here because, like his endless search for the white whale, mountain bikers are on an endless quest for the perfect ride. This could very well be it. At 8 miles, its short without a hint of sweetness and will test you to the max. You will need to do some climbing to get to the actual point, but it is well worth the extra effort.
The entire trail consists of some singletrack dirt trails some drops and some slick rock climbs. This is not for you if you are a beginner. It has earned a double-black diamond rating for an excellent reason. You can ride the whole way down but be aware that there are some moments where your heart is going to lurch in your throat. If you want an exciting ride, try this out.
If you have been in the game for a while, you probably already know about this trail. It is very well-known, not so much because it is very difficult, but more because it is unlike anything else around it. The rock has a very different feel, and when you are there, you have the feeling that you are completely alone in the world. The trail is more of an advanced one but not terribly technical in nature. It only 12 miles long but do prepare yourself for a real work out. Do set out early if the weather promises to be warm because it is really unpleasant here when it is hot. If you must visit it in summer, plan to visit in the early morning. The afternoon and evening will be too hot.
This 16-mile trail is more of an intermediate one when it comes to difficulty, but the views are out of this world. You start off exploring forest-covered canyons for around a few miles before the real work begins. The trail is full of ups and downs, with some pretty unique scenery, like the red cliffs. The switchbacks pose the most technical challenge along the way. Give yourself plenty of time to traverse it. It is not far, but there are a lot of great photo ops along the way, and the air is pretty thin up there.
We realize that we said that we were going to focus on more difficult trails so putting this beginner trail in here might seem a little strange. But when we saw the name, we had to try it – and you will too. It is 11 miles long and so is pretty quick – if you want to try the hardest part of this route, choose to go right when you get to the first set of ridges. The drops are not terrifying but will provide a bit of a thrill, and there is a section for BMXs as well. The pace is fast and fun. It’s a great way to get your kids their first taste of what mountain biking is all about without worrying about them killing themselves.
Image source: Sacredrides