Gooseberry Mesa

When people think of mountain biking in Southern Utah, their minds often turn to Moab-area trails like Slickrock. But to the southwest, outside the little town of Hurricane, and not far from Zion National Park,  Gooseberry Mesa offers some of the most exceptional slickrock riding around. Here, you’ll find fewer crowds, wide-open, undulating terrain and, the scenery is hard to beat. Not only are there the trademark colorful desert rocks, but you’ll see cottontails, squirrels, deer, and lizards. In the spring, cacti bloom bright, and if you pay attention, you’ll find dinosaur footprints (they were the original off-roaders) and fossilized wood.

The trail system was created by the local Harris brothers decades ago, and maintaining it and improving it has been an effort of the collective local biking tribe. Today, there are nine trails and a total of just under 18 miles to ride. The trail network is easy to connect together to tailor your ride to your experience and stamina level.

The nearest lodging and bike shops are in Springdale or Hurricane, though there is primitive camping near the trailhead. All the trails here require technical skills to negotiate the slickrock steps and drops, though most obstacles can be easily avoided by walking.

Pack tons of water, lots of excellent food to refuel on, and of course your bike and repair kit, and shove off to make your mark on this famed trail-covered mesa. Be careful of the dirt roads anytime after a storm — they get impassably muddy even if you have a high-clearance 4x4.

A great place for beginners or slickrock newbies to test their mettle is the Practice Trail, a short singletrack loop that lets riders get a feel for the terrain without venturing too far from the parking lot. Once you’re warmed up and ready for action, the South Rim and Hidden Canyon loop is a superb next step at a moderately technical 7.7 miles.

Once you’ve worked up to it, you’ll want to try The Big Loop, a 15.3-mile adventure that takes hours to complete in spite of its seemingly reasonable distance. This loop incorporates much of the trail network and can be ridden in either direction or modified if need be.

And for the technical crux, wrap up with the White Trail, which logs just a few miles, but is the most technically taxing of the entire trail network. The climbs and descents are larger than the other trails, and you’ll find yourself frequently on the edge of a gorgeous precipice. The good news is, the views here can’t be beat, so they’re worth working up a sweat over.

Most people report riding Gooseberry feels more like playing. (Just a bit more tiring.) So work a few days into your trip to dedicate to this amazing place if biking’s your big thing. You’ll never forget or regret it.

To get to the trailhead at Gooseberry Mesa, follow the signs from Highway 59. You will end up turning north off the highway onto an unpaved road, which you will follow for about a half-an-hour. Don’t worry, as long as you follow the signs, you’ll find the White Trailhead and a place to park.

GPS Coordinates: 37.08491, -113.10299