If Moab is the celebrity of the Utah mountain biking world, the trails around Hurricane and St. George in the state’s southwest corner are sleeper candidates threatening to steal the show.
The Red Bull Rampage mountain bike event draws fat tire fans to Virgin, right up the road, but you don’t have to be a pro freerider to get in on some of the area’s best action. With everything from rolling flow trails to natural bike park-style runs and plenty of Instagram-worthy campsites to boot, southwest Utah should be on every mountain biker’s vacation to-do list.
Ride the natural bike park at Gooseberry Mesa
The Slickrock Trail doesn’t hold the trademark on sandstone bowls and steep, curvy, naturally carved trails. If you love park-style terrain, Gooseberry Mesa is the place to put your rubber down. Gooseberry towers over the Virgin River valley just a few miles east of Hurricane and St. George, and you can see all the way to the massive walls of Zion National Park from the sheer rims of the mesa. A network of trails weaves together a variety of options, including double black diamond technical spots perfect for sessioning with friends.
Go for the flow
Just below the sheer cliffs of Gooseberry Mesa, the JEM Trail peals down some of the most laugh-out-loud fun flow sections around. And if you like riding up as much as down, you can link it with the Hurricane Rim and Goulds Rim trails for the IMBA Epic Hurricane Rim Loop, clocking in at 20+ miles of gorgeous views and big grins. Just remember to pronounce it “Her-uh-kin” when you’re talking to the locals.
Or get both in one ride
On the west side of St. George, opposite of Gooseberry Mesa, the Zen Trail is only six miles long, but is packed with technical fun. If Gooseberry has you longing for more, hit up a short second session at Zen. The climb will wear you out, but the descent will leave you satisfied.
Savor the free and cheap camping
Nothing makes a mountain biking trip more satisfying than cracking a beer on the tailgate when you’re still covered in sweat and dirt and catching your breath. Even better if your tailgate is already parked at your campsite. Between the dispersed camping on BLM land at Gooseberry Mesa, the Red Cliffs campsite northeast of Hurricane and the more developed campgrounds—read: warm showers—at Snow Canyon State Park, there’s sure to be a site you can stake out close to your favorite trail.
Fuel up in town
If you need to fill your belly after a long ride, hit up Lupita’s in Hurricane for Mexican. Especially if it’s $1 taco Tuesday or $1 enchilada Thursdays. If pre-ride espresso and cinnamon rolls sounds good, try River Rock Roasting Co. in La Verkin—just take the time to enjoy it on their scenic back patio. And if you want to know what a breakfast sandwich tastes like when it’s made with pure love, make the gorgeous drive along the Virgin River into Springdale to meet Scott and Heidi, owners of Deep Creek Coffee. Their “bro-rito” and fresh scones will take good care of you.