By mid February, where we come from, the winter can seem endless. The days are a mix of grey skies and falling snow or sunny and cloudless with chilly winds and melting ice creating foot swallowing puddles along city sidewalks. The mounds of snow that have lined the streets for months have lost their sparkle and shine and are now mottled gray and black, riddled with dirt and stones. The warmth of summer still seems months away as we continue to pull on toques and mitts each morning and weekends are spent waxing up the skis (again!) for the local trails.
Around this time many friends and family jump on planes heading to far off beach resorts and exotic locales. We prefer somewhere a little quieter, a little closer, a place to recharge our souls and give our bikes a little exercise; Southwest Utah, USA.
This was our 4th time in the area. Having explored nearby Zion and Bryce parks before (definitely worth it) this time was dedicated solely to mountain biking the nearby trails. This beautiful area surrounding the towns of St. George and Hurricane lies at the edge of the Colorado Plateau, at the intersection of the Mojave and Navajo deserts and split by one of the largest continental fault lines in the world. This creates an amazing contrast of soaring red mountains, deep narrow canyons, flat-topped mesas and long valleys of old lava flows. It also has some amazing single track! Below, some of the pictures and details of our rides of the week.
Bearclaw Poppy & Stucki Springs
The Bearclaw Poppy and Stucki Springs trails lie on the west side of St. George, easily accessible through residential roads. These two trails combine to make one long, flowy, beginner to intermediate track. Not much technical here, just fast single lines, fun quick up and downs and a few steep hills, along with views of the desert. Great trail to start out on. Approximate distance: 20-25 miles for the full loop.
Prospector Trail and Church Rocks loop
We loved this day ride! The trail is north of Washington city starting near the Red Cliffs recreation area. Prospector is 6 miles one way of twisty, generally flat singletrack- so you can generate some serious speed! Bordered by constant views of the Red Cliffs this is a beautiful ride. At the far end of the trail is the Church Rocks loop. This adds a definite intermediate element to the loop adding in slickrock and ledges. Approximate total distance: 11 miles
Gould’s Rim, Jem, Hurricane Rim Loop
Gould’s Rim trail, JEM trail and Hurricane Rim trail make up this loop east of Hurricane. Both Gould’s and Hurricane skirt the edge of deep canyons so this adds to the technicality of the route. Bumping over rocks and ledges can be unnerving when the edge of the trail completely drops off to one side; though it does make for some great views of Gould’s Canyon and the Virgin river. JEM trail, the mid section of this loop, comes as a welcome relief as its trail zips through the flat desert between these canyons. The biggest challenges of this loop is the length and the exposure to the sun. It starts tough and ends tough which makes for a tiring day. There isn’t much shade or water to be found, we brought 3 litres each for this ride-and it was February! Approximate total distance: 21.5 mile loop
This easy trail starts at the Anasazi trailhead in the Santa Clara preserve just west of St. George. The actual singletrack is called Tempi’po’op, a fun route that skirts along the cliff with views of the preserve and the Santa Clara river below. This area is only beginning to develop trails and will probably see lots of changes in the near future. Meanwhile it’s a great warm up for more challenging trails nearby.
Approximate distance: 6.6 miles total in and out
We pedaled a short distance east along the highway after the Anasazi trail to try out this loop. The access to the trailhead is up a steep grind of a gravel road. We ran into some locals at the top who raved about the trail (not the first time we had heard this) so apparently the climb is worth it. The first part of the loop is a blast; nice flowy singletrack, moderate climbing, short technical sections of ledges and slickrock. Unfortunately the sun was setting and by this time we had had two flat tires (watch out for all the cactus thorns!) so we had to leave the second half of the loop for another trip. We are quite sure though it would be just as fun.
Snow Canyon State Park
Midway through our trip in Southern Utah we woke up to a slightly collapsed tent and a thick wet blanket of snow covering the ground. A day of hiking was declared as well as a celebration of a birthday.
Snow Canyon has numberous trails of varying intensity, trails that take you to high up viewpoints and others that wind through washes with the soaring walls of the red mountains on either side.
A week of biking, camping, hiking and soaking in the sun. A much-needed break from the long northern winters…now if only all this snow would melt back home!
Resources: –Accommodation: Snow Canyon State Park
- camping for tents and trailers
- 16$ for a tent site
- showers, full washrooms, pump water
- Favourite tent sites: 22 & 26, reservations recommended
- Red Rock Cycle, St. George
- Map: Trail Map St. George & Springdale: available at bike shops
- Website: www.utahmountainbiking.com : great resource with trail descriptions and GPS coordinates