57h best of article: Best Mountain Biking Destinations in Utah
Best Mountain Biking Destinations in Utah
Boasting over 800 trails spanning 3,472 miles – and still growing – Utah is a major player in the local and international mountain biking community. Did you know Park City is also the world’s first International Mountain Bicycling Association’s (IMBA) Gold level cycling destination? It doesn’t matter whether you choose to stay in the Salt Lake or Park City area, or look farther afield to Moab, St. George and Hurricane for your next trail, each area has equally enticing and compelling reasons to visit and ride. Oh, yeah, most trails in the southern part of the state are rideable year round.
Moab offers plenty of technical routes for the more experienced rider and its copious red rock and sandstone makes it feel like you’re riding on Mars. St. George and Hurricane are also putting themselves on the map. The Gooseberry Mesa trail network in southwestern Utah is a major draw because of its temperate weather in colder months. It’s the perfect location to enjoy some late fall and winter mountain biking. The MTB community in Utah is strong and welcoming, so grab your bike and enjoy all the trails the state has to offer.
Sure, you’ve heard about Utah’s snow, but Moab makes a strong case assuming the title of the greatest mountain biking on earth. Moab’s terrain, the number of tracks, its climate and rock-solid community are only four of the many reasons that every mountain biker puts the city on his or her bucket list.
There are over 900 miles of trails, with beginner and intermediate trails making up the majority of tracks – all tucked into and around this desert gem of a town. The community here plays a strong role in Moab’s prominence on the circuit – it actively maintains and builds forgiving and not so forgiving routes. In the sport’s infancy, before mountain bikes were a thing, Slickrock Trail was featured on the cover of the very first issue of Mountain Bike and the town and its connection to the sport have never looked back.
While all levels of riders can’t get enough out of Moab’s sandstone and the feeling like you’re riding on another planet, it’s the technical, difficult rated tracks that make Moab stand out from other top-rated destinations in the country. Think of it this way: 1 mile of technical in the desert is like 3 miles elsewhere. So keep that in mind when you’re riding a “short” ten-mile track.
The terrain in Moab crushes bikes and bones alike, and the desert climate mustn’t be underestimated. Always bring more water than you need, extra tubes, tools and a map. Make sure your bike is tuned, ‘cause you don’t wanna be that person in your group who goes home early due to the fact you thought you could wing it without a tuneup.
Even avid bikers who need a day off will find plenty to do: Moab is situated between Arches National Park to the north and Canyonlands National Park to the southwest, so there’s plenty to explore when your body needs a break. If you’re not into hiking, there’s rock climbing, skydiving, motorcycle riding and skiing. Yup, there’s skiing in the La Sal mountains if you want to combine your seasons. Moab itself has decent food and good beer and serious but friendly shops that can take care of rental and repair needs – some of the shops even have a shower…
So get your bike tuned up, pack in some extra water and find out where the showers are and get yourself and your bike to Moab. Looking for something else? When you’re there head to one of the local bike shops for more specific route info or hire a guide and get your mountain biking vacation started.
With over 200 trails to choose from and maybe only 57hours worth of time to ride, you can always hire a guiding service 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 and check out these local services!
This trail spans over 34 miles and has almost 8,000’ of descent, making it a very tasty ride indeed. Time of year permitting, the route starts in the La Sal mountains and makes its way to the Colorado River. Some will tell you that the Whole Enchilada has supplanted the classic Slickrock Trail as Moab’s signature ride, but that’s for you to decide.
Located in the Amassa Back Area via HyMasa, Captain Ahab was thought up with TLC by a mechanic at Poison Spider Bicycles in Moab. The trail is technical and demanding, with just enough downhill at the end to forget all the rocky and rugged ups and downs to make you consider another lap.
Slickrock is the track that launched a thousand tracks. Or something like that. A perennial favorite, Slickrock is what put Moab on the mountain biking map. It’s red sandstone gets along really, really well with mountain bike tires, which may or may not inspire you to try riding vertically up a wall. Trust us, you’ll want to try. It’s also 10.5 miles of physically and technically difficult terrain. Bring water. Lots and lots of water.
The best mountain...
View all images
“What goes up, must come down” is the best description of mountain biking in and around Park City, the largest mountain resort in the US. With uphill-only and downhill-only tracks, cross-country, enduro, freeride, downhill, lift-served and fat bike trails, you’ll be able to put your skills and courage to the test. Choose one trail or connect with others for a whole day of loop riding in Park City’s beautiful nature.
As we already mentioned, Park City was the first mountain biking destination to receive the gold-level IMBA Ride Center and is currently one of only six in the entire world that can brag about this level of recognition. Also, when you realize how many trail options there are for all skill levels of rider, you’ll understand why Park City and its mountain biking trails are on so many mountain bikers’ bucket lists.
Park City’s mountains offer more than 400 miles of public trails(over 300 miles of singletrack!) so it’s up to you to plan your perfect biking vacation. The regular mountain biking season in Park City starts in late May. If you’re looking for lift serviced bike parks, Park City has plenty and they start operating in June. On the other hand, if you’re looking to do Wasatch Crest or other high-altitude trails, we suggest you don’t go before mid-July, as there’s still a risk you’ll encounter some snow before the real summer starts. Let’s not forget that Utah is the state “with the greatest snow on Earth” and there’s always plenty to go around.
After a day spent on the trails, there’s more than 100 bars and restaurants, excellent accommodation options, art galleries, and mini-amusement parks, making Park City an ideal place for a whole family mountain biking vacation. You can rest your legs while doing some fly-fishing, or go for a swim, rent a boat, jet ski, or paddle board at the nearby Jordanelle Reservoir.
Since Park City Mountain Resort is the largest resort in the US, finding accommodations won’t be a problem. From luxury hotels, to budget-friendly condos, huts and townhouses, PCMR has them all. If you don’t want to stay at the resort, you can choose Park City instead, as there are plenty of lodging options there as well. Getting to Park City won’t be a problem either, as it is located a short 35-minute drive from Salt Lake International Airport.
Climb up the uphill-only Armstrong, then make your descent at the Mid Mountain Trail for the 30 miles of pure fun, or try the challenging Wasatch Crest enduro trail. Ready, set, go!
If there is one Park City mountain biking must-ride, it’s the Wasatch Crest trail. It is not for the faint of heart, as it’s 12.5 miles long trail with uphill and downhill sections that will test your physical fitness and it requires moderate to advanced technical ability in certain areas.
Armstrong Trail is a recent addition to the Park City trail network, and it’s an uphill only trail, 4 miles long, making it a great option for accessing Mid-Mountain & Spiro. The trail features a gentle grade to the top and although it’s not technical, the ride still requires a fair amount of physical fitness.
The Mid Mountain Trail feature is a 21.9 mile long singletrack with lots of climbing, descending and riding through forests. The trail is located at 8,000 feet above sea level, so don’t forget to give yourself some time to acclimate before you start the ride.
RIDING on the EDG...
View all images
Hurricane and St. George
Located in the southwestern corner of Utah, far removed from bigger draws like Moab and SLC, are a cluster of small, blink-and-you-miss it towns that have some beautiful trails on offer. Most passersby, usually on their way to Zion or Vegas, can easily miss the area. Over the past several years, Hurricane and its neighbor, St. George – they’re only 18 miles apart – have firmly established themselves as world class mountain biking destinations in their own right with their gorgeous, trail-linked systems. The Hurricane Rim Loop, near Hurricane, is an IMBA Epic ride.
A little newer to the mountain biking scene, Hurricane has approached its trails and their identities differently than their peers. For example, a lot of trails in the Moab area are former roads and had their trails adapted along the way. Around Hurricane, most of the trails are all purpose built with tons of connections to ensure a full day of riding, rather than driving from trail to trail, the way it can be elsewhere. Regardless, the views of Zion and the Kolob and Canaan Mountains from Gooseberry Mesa are astounding, and there’s plenty of slickrock to be ridden here as well.
So, go on, go a little further afield, you’ll be rewarded. We promise.
Because this area is not on everyone’s radar, hiring a guiding service is always a good idea.
This one is a 13 mile classic. It was built over twenty years ago and its creators and the mountain biking community work hard to maintain it. Respect. The trail has plenty of slickrock, tight singletrack and views for days – Zion National Park anyone? Plan on at least four hours for taking this one on and bring plenty of water, as there’s none to be had on the mesa.
Little Creek Mesa – West Loop
Finding the trailhead for this gem is almost as challenging as some of its terrain. But it’s definitely worth it when you do. The open slickrock and singletrack rewards all takers with stunning views of Zion National Park. This one is best left for experienced riders due to its technical terrain, but don’t let that deter you from riding all nine of its awesome slickrock miles.
Hurricane Rim Loop
This one’s another big one, just over 24 miles and it’s a gem! This ride combines three different trail systems – the Hurricane Rim Trail, Goulds Rim and JEM Trail – and was lately featured as an IMBA Epic ride. It’s one more reason mountain biking enthusiasts are going out of their way to visit Hurricane.
THE GOOSE IS LOOS...
View all images
About the author
We are a dedicated team of adventure lovers and outdoor professionals who who love to go on adventures and share them with you!
NYC outdoor inspiration delivered weekly in your inbox