A Quick and Dirty Guide to Brian Head Area Mountain Biking
Utah is known for its iconic mountain biking destinations. But while it may not get the attention of Moab or Park City, Brian Head Resort should be near the top of the list for any rider. Located in the southwest part of the state, Brian Head is about a three-and-half-hour drive down I-15 from Salt Lake City, about a three-hour drive from Las Vegas and 80 minutes from St. George. While it has established a reputation as a well-loved (and crowd-free) ski destination with more than 360 inches of snow each year, Brian Head has also poured its energy into establishing one of the state’s best mountain bike parks once the white stuff has melted.
The Brian Head bike park was built in collaboration with Momentum Trail Concepts, and the enormous network of neighboring backcountry trails offer a mouthwatering spectrum of options for mountain bikers of any ability. You’ll be amazed to find more than 100 miles of downhill singletrack, as well as access to an additional 100 miles of cross-country trails. It’s become a destination in a state filled with incredible rides because of its mix of gravity-fed flow trails, technical singletrack and access to hundreds of miles of scenic backcountry. And unlike many of those other popular spots throughout the state, you mostly won’t find big crowds.
Whether you’re visiting the area for Brian Head’s seemingly endless bike options or making it part of a multi-stop Southern Utah adventure (Cedar Breaks National Monument is just five miles away), it’s a must-see for bikers of all abilities. Here’s what you need to know to get started.
At an elevation of 9,800 feet, Brian Head is the highest town in Utah. That elevation might be a concern for some (definitely stay proactively hydrated), but perhaps not as much once you hear the area referred to as “Downhill of the Gods,” as it was by Outdoor Action Magazine. It’s home to the state’s largest bike park and has some of its best downhill riding, featuring 5,000-foot descents.
Of course, that also means you’ll want a ride to the top. Most mountain bikers start with the Giant Steps Express detachable high-speed quad chairlift, which will carry you to the top of Navajo Peak and all of Brian Head’s trail offerings. Lift access is available either through daily lift passes or a pass for the mountain bike season.
There are also multiple shuttle operators in Brian Head available to riders, including Brian Head Shuttle and Georg’s. Popular shuttle-accessible trails include Bunker Creek, Paradise Canyon and Dark Hollow. While the long, switchback trails (many with freestyle elements) get most of the attention, Brian Head does have something for everyone. Some of the top bets for each level of rider include:
Beginners: Everyone has a first day, and Brian Head is an excellent place for those just getting into mountain biking. The Color Flow trail is specifically designed with beginners in mind and mixes easy flow and singletrack sections. With manageable beginner-level speed, lapping Color Flow will build both confidence and stoke. Regardless of your ability level, check out the free guided mountain bike tours, which depart from the top of the Giant Steps Express lift at 10 am, 12 pm and 2 pm daily.
Intermediate: Brian Head has many intermediate trails, including multiple jump flow runs. Consider Little Glitter and Tank’s Track for a variety of features like berms, jumps, rock ladders and hips. Many of the intermediate trails link up for seemingly endless run combinations.
Advanced: Timberline is one of the country’s classic lift-accessed downhill laps. Continually tweaked and perfected by the Brian Head Park crew, this serious trail is perfect for those looking for flow, speed and unique features.
Expert: The Wildflower Trail is the most extreme option in the Brian Head Bike Park and the site of downhill races. Technical chutes, drops and an overall technical feel make this trail a destination for even the most hardcore downhill riders.
Riding in the Backcountry
Brian Head’s lift-accessed options also connect with hundreds of miles of wild backcountry singletrack. The 2017 Brian Head Fire damaged many area trails, and the United States Forest Service is continually rebuilding and updating the trail network. Check with the resort or one of the local bike shops for the most up-to-date conditions.
Speaking of bike shops, Brian Head offers a full-service bike shop at the base of the Giant Steps Express that offers bike rentals and full protection (helmet, knee/shin guards, elbow guards and gloves). There are basic and performance rental options to suit individual riders’ needs, and discount lift tickets are available with rentals. A three-hour mountain bike lesson is affordable at $30 for three hours. Other bike shops in the region include Brian Head Sports and Georg’s, where you can find additional rental and service options.
Off The Hill
There are a variety of food options at Brian Head. The Giant Steps Lodge offers quality food and drinks just feet from the chairlift for those lunchtime cravings. For dinner, the town of Brian Head doesn’t disappoint. The classic Last Chair Saloon is a great spot for a burger and beer after a long day on the trail. Pizano’s Pizza offers slices or custom whole pies, and Sook Jai Thai is the place to go for family-style curries and noodle dishes.
If you’re staying the night, lodging choices are plentiful at Brian Head. Alpine Lodging and Georg’s offer privately-owned condos, and the Cedar Breaks Lodge is within a few hundred yards of the lift. Parowan and Cedar City are both a short drive away and offer more overnight, dining and cultural options — as well as passionate locals who can point you to an array of additional trail systems that dot the region.
The mountain biking season generally starts in June and runs through the early fall. Even if you’ve never thought of yourself as a downhill mountain biker, this destination is worth the trip. The incredible views, well-maintained and creative trails and endless options will keep you entertained for days.
Brian Head, Utah
Come as you are. Leave it as it is.
Plan to explore Utah responsibly