57h best of article: Best Mountain Biking Trails In Moab

Best Mountain Biking Trails In Moab

What isn’t there to ride in Moab? There’s alpine terrain, mesas, slickrock, boulders and it’s all sandwiched between two stunning national parks: Arches and Canyonlands. Moab’s extensive terrain, combined with its rich mountain bike and dirt bike history ensure it’s always atop any MTBer’s tick list. Even riders who’ve been there keep finding reasons to return and ride its extensive singletrack offerings.

While Moab’s mountain biking history largely stems from repurposed dirt bike trails, like Slickrock, the community has striven to create and maintain more and more new trails for every level of rider. It’s not just a destination for advanced and pro level riders anymore. There’s a concerted effort being made to make its mountain-bike-on-Mars terrain accessible for everyone.

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There’s plenty of trails accessible right from town, but if you’re looking for some harder to reach objectives, like The Whole Enchilada, there are several shuttle services available (see the list below), most of which will pick you up from one of Moab’s choice bike shops. Oh, yeah, the bike shops, a word on them: they all cater to every level of rider with rentals, repairs and advice. Some of them offer tours and a couple even offer showers (Poison Spider Bicycles and Moab Cyclery) if you need to cool off and clean up after a day of desert riding.

Regardless of your bike shop needs, do yourself and your group a favor and make sure your bike is tuned before you hit the trails. Desert terrain is more punishing than other terrain, and no one wants to go home early because they didn’t want to pay for a tune-up.

For lodging, there are the usual suspects with regards to hotels and Airbnb, and Moab is camp(er) friendly too. The Sand Flats Recreation Area, three miles out of town, has about 120 spots (no running water though) that can be reserved, so don’t show up on a Friday night during the season and expect to get lucky with a place to camp. Plan in advance.

Before you get your car gassed up and bikes loaded on top, remember that it is desert terrain, and it can get very, very hot depending on the season you choose to ride. Lots of water is a must, always bring more than you think you need. Plus snacks. While some areas can be ridden year round, keep in mind that the Burro Pass and La Sal Mountain Loop legs of The Whole Enchilada don’t open until July! If you find yourself there in summer, ride your trails in the early morning, even later evening rides can get hot, as the terrain holds a ton of heat.


Shuttle Services

Here are some of the shuttle services around. These guys will not only get you where you want to go, but they also know the terrain like the backs of their hands.


Bike Shops

The bike shops in Moab are welcoming and, most importantly, have a quick turnaround. Chances are your mechanics who’re tuning your bike also created and built some of the amazing tracks in the area.


Guiding Services

With over 200 trails to choose from and maybe only 57hours worth of time to ride, you can always hire a guiding service while to get a jump on what and where you’d like to ride. With a guiding service, you can mitigate your risks and not have to think about logistics. Get the most out of your mountain biking vacation!

Moab area map
Utah

The Whole Enchilada

The Whole Enchilada is just that: an enormous, challenging 34.1 mile haul of a very tasty ride where the max grade reaches 37%! If you choose to ride the route as it was originally intended – as a loop – add another 30 miles to your itinerary. But, for mere mortals, there’s shuttle services available that’ll bring you to the first leg of your journey, Burro Pass, at a lofty 10,500’ in the La Sal Mountains.

Yes, there’s 8,000’ of downhill to be gained, but first you have to make an ascent of about 500’ in technical alpine terrain where the grade gets plenty steep in some areas. After that leg (Burro Pass doesn’t open until July 1st), it’s mostly all downhill – bone rattling, bike-breaking downhill through even more technical and exposed areas until you wind up at the Colorado River.

The other sections of the ride, Hazzard Country, Kokopelli Leg, Upper Porcupine, Lower Porcupine, and finally Porcupine Rim all offer their own merits and can be taken on individually if you don’t have the stomach for The Whole Enchilada. The views and terrain throughout are countless reminders why many consider The Whole Enchilada to be the finest and favored track in the US and the crown jewel in an otherwise stunning assortment of rides in the Moab area.

Moab 2017: Best o...

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The Whole Enchilada - good to know

Difficulty

Advanced to expert

Terrain

Everything. It is after all, The Whole Enchilada

Distance (miles)

34.1

Trailhead elevation

11,126'

Elevation gain / loss

+1,283' / -7,794'

Average grade / max grade

5% / 37%

Captain Ahab

Captain Ahab was built as a labor of love, by technical mountain bikers for technical mountain bikers and it shows. As newer route, only about five years old now, Captain Ahab demands all of your attention. While it is singletrack, keep in mind that it’s definitely not a downhill route, though there is some good speed to be gained on the lower portion of the trail. But getting to that portion of the ride takes some time and plenty of care.

Very soon after you commence Captain Ahab you’ll find yourself confronted with some good climbing, roughly 200’ over a half a mile. The turns are as constant as the ups and downs and flat spots are few and far between. Captain Ahab does also have a bypass a little over three miles in that will take you back to HyMasa, sparing you some of the more technical sections higher up the route.

Lastly, a word on the name: no, it’s not borne of some trail designer’s maniacal pursuit of the impossible. At the midpoint of your ride, on the bottom half of the route, you’ll pass by Whale Rock, so enjoy your pursuit of finishing one of the most popular and technical rides in the country. This one is on everyone’s bucket list for many good reasons.

Mountain Biking Captain Ahab in Moab

Captain Ahab - good to know

Difficulty

Expert

Terrain

Slickrock, ledges, dirt and the odd exposed ridge

Distance (miles)

4.2

Trailhead elevation

4,689’

Elevation gain / loss

+1000’ / -1,600’

Average / max grade

6% / 23%

Utah

Slickrock

The rock is not slick. Let’s just get that out of the way. Not slick for your tires, at least. When the area was settled way back when, horses and horseshoes had a tracking on the sandstone, thus the name. The trail itself has been around since 1969, first as a dirt bike trail, and now both mountain bikes and dirt bikes are welcome.

While this trail is not the most difficult trail in Moab, it is just as renowned in the mountain biking community as some of its more technical peers like Captain Ahab or The Whole Enchilada. You see, your bike tires and the slickrock get on very well together – tires grip the sandstone so thoroughly you’ll feel like you can ride up a wall. The majority of the ride is physically demanding: the ups and downs are plentiful and the route is well marked with white swatches (yellow swatches when things can get dangerous).

Also, this is a route best left for spring or fall – during the summer the temperatures soar and it’s only best to make this ride early in the morning or in the evening. Regardless, though, plan on bringing a little extra water for the ride to adjust to the weather conditions.

If you don’t feel like spending 3 to 4 hours on the whole lollipop, there’s a 2.2 “practice loop” before the main event – the difficulty is the same, but the loop is simply shorter. Lastly, keep in mind that with its fame there are crowds, so plan your day accordingly.

MTB MOAB - Slick ...

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Slickrock - good to know

Difficulty

Intermediate to advanced

Terrain

Slickrock, lots and lots of slickrock

Distance (miles)

10.7

Trailhead elevation

4623’

Elevation gain / loss

+819 / -819

Average / max grade

3% / 16%

Mag 7

Strange but true, the number of trails that comprise Mag 7, or Magnificent 7, are way more than seven. Some say 9, others 10. Regardless, this is an amazing technical and difficult point to point ride for those mountain bikers looking for a thrilling experience. Many people who take on Mag 7 utilize one of the many shuttle services in Moab to get to the trailhead. If you choose not to, add on another +20 miles to an already difficult objective.

The tracks to keep in mind when riding this route are Bull Run, Arth’s Corner, Little Canyon, Golden Spike, Poison Spider and Portal. See? Seven. There’s plenty of slickrock, ledges and jumps to go around and enough 4×4 connecting roads for everyone. Depending on the day you ride, plan on running into jeeps, especially on Gold Bar.

For the trail’s final section, Portal, use extreme caution and ride with care: it’s claimed the lives of several mountain bikers. This portion of the trail has changed a little to mitigate some of the danger and there’s plenty of appropriate signage at its diciest parts. The fun parts of Portal are pretty thrilling too, you’ll get a 1,000’ foot drop over the course of a mile with some gnarly exposure on a 1,300’ cliff. Bring lots of water and maybe a full-face helmet for this one. Remember, there’s no shame in walking if you’re unfamiliar with the route.

Mag 7 With Locals | Moab MTB

Mag 7 - good to know

Difficulty

Advanced to expert

Distance (miles)

22.2

Trailhead elevation

6,012’

Trailhead elevation

6,012’

Elevation gain / loss

+1,804’ / -3,978

Average / max grade

5% / 61%

Lazy/EZ Loop

While Moab is known mostly for the hard, technical stuff – the exposure, the big sandstone ups and downs at Slickrock, the enormity of The Whole Enchilada, there’s plenty there for mountain bikers who don’t want to go big immediately, you know, those people who need a good warm up ride, beginners and the rest of us. The Lazy/EZ Loop is the perfect ride to get ready for all of the rest that Moab can throw at you.

This is a counterclockwise loop that begins on the EZ singletrack which later joins the Lazy trail, and it’s an ideal ride to get used to desert singletrack. There’s plenty of sections that have good flow over dirt track with decent banked turns. The climbs are short and sweet and the loop is a perfect appetizer for other menu options in Moab.

LAZY EZ & EASY EZ Mountain Bike Trails

Lazy/EZ Loop - good to know

Difficulty

Easy to intermediate

Distance (miles)

3.7

Trailhead elevation

4,631’

Trailhead elevation

4,631’

Elevation gain / loss

+187’ / -187'

Average / max grade

2% / 11%

About the author

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We are a dedicated team of adventure lovers and outdoor professionals who who love to go on adventures and share them with you!

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