When most people think of mountain biking in Utah, what comes to mind are the classic red slickrock trails of Moab. But while there is undeniably some fantastic mountain biking to be had in Moab (I’m looking at you Porcupine Ridge), there are tons of other epic mountain bike destinations in Utah. Enter Hurricane – pronounced ‘Her-ah-kun’ by the locals. (Don’t ask me where the name or pronunciation came from).
I’d actually never even heard of this little town before until I met my friend Adam this past May while visiting my brother and sister-in-law just north of Bishop, CA. We met, of course, on a ride (via a mutual friend) and after a few fun jaunts together down Lower Rock Creek and some high speed downhill at Mammoth Mountain, I was initiated into his little circle of mountain biking friends – his girlfriend Jessi, Cal, Marsha, Lane, Lindsay, his sister Deanna, Rick, Amanda, Rachel… Hallelujah! Mountain biking is not really a sport to be done solo (depending on your style of biking, it can be pretty high stakes), so it’s alway nice to make new mountain biking friends that can call 911 in case of a crash. Just kidding. Kind of.
Anyway, every year Adam and co drive out to Hurricane for a week of mountain biking fun over the Thanksgiving holiday. This year, he invited me along and of course I said yes! I was a bit nervous at first because I’d never done a big destination mountain bike trip like this before and I was still pretty new to the close-knit group of friends that do all sorts of adventures together. But holy moly, I’m so glad that I went. It was a blast! The riding was epic, the people were amazing, the weather couldn’t have been better, and I definitely level-upped in the skills department. Goat lunges, reasonable jumps, and moderate drops are all easy peasy now. All around, it was an amazing week and I can’t wait for our next adventure: Sedona, 2018! Before I break the week down into what we did each day, here are some highlights (and lowlights, because everything can’t be all berms and kickers):
- Winning $35 at the slot machines in Vegas, haha!
- Two downhill runs in Cedar City: a C Trail link-up and Blowhard. Both awesome rides!
- Gooseberry Mesa and Guacamole. Aside from the downhill in Cedar City, these were my favorite networks of trails
- The crew. So many good, inspiring, fun, and generous people. I can’t wait to go on more trips with these guys
- Roasting marshmallows stuffed with peanut butter cups over the campfire
- Gaining skills and confidence. I definitely feel like I leveled up over the course of the week both in technical skills and in fitness. I just gotta keep it going 😉
- Changing camp spots every night. I was the only one in a tent and it got a bit tiring to take it down every morning and set it back up every night. Sleeping in a car is definitely the way to go for mountain bike trips.
- Thanksgiving dinner at the Black Bear Diner. Huge portions, but definitely not the best Thanksgiving meal I’ve ever had.
- Feeling sticky and gross for most of the trip. I took one shower over the course of the week and then relied on baby wipes to keep myself looking (and feeling) at least a little bit presentable
- Final day crash – my right handle bar caught a tree and I landed on my left shoulder, which is still a bit sore. I also busted up my right pinkie finger. Good thing it was the last day!
Adams sister, Deanna, graciously offered to shuttle me to, from, and around Hurricane since I don’t have a car of my own (yet!). She picked me and my bike up at my brothers house just south of Mammoth Lakes, where I’ve been shamelessly hiding out in between ship contracts. Then we drove 2 1/2 hours to her aunt and uncles place in Las Vegas for a quick overnight stop before continuing on to Hurricane. I’d actually never been to Sin City before, so I was excited to see and experience a bit of the hubbub. Almost immediately upon arriving, we were whisked away to the Aliante Casino + Hotel + Spa where Deanna’s aunt insisted we have a go at the slot machines before digging into a buffet dinner of crab legs and prime rib. I was a bit disappointed to find out that you don’t actually pull a lever to spin the slot machines, but my disappointment quickly faded as the coins started piling up. I ended up winning $35 dollars, which doesn’t sound like a lot, but for a first time casino-goer it was pretty exciting! Poor Deanna only won 10 cents, lol. Then, after a messy and mediocre dinner of crab legs, we made our way downtown to drive the strip. Despite never having ever seen it in person, the strip unequivocally lived up to my expectations – ungodly amounts of lights, many of them flashing, extravagance everywhere, live shows on the streets, and a general sense of excitement, drunkenness, and splurge permeating the entire 4.2 mile strip. For some crazy, odd reason, though, this non-clubber, non-partier, definite introvert, loved it. I’m excited to go back and really dive in to the scene!
After a semi-early start and a stop at Trader Joes for groceries, we said goodbye to Vegas continued on our way to Hurricane. Several others in our group were already there – Cal, Marsha, Lane and Lindsay – and we met up with them in the afternoon for an easy loop around the Jem Trails. It was a good warm-up for the week, but I’m not sure I would ride these trails again. They’re pretty flat and don’t have much in the way of a challenge. The surrounding views are great, though!
On our second day in Hurricane, we met up with two more members of our group – Adam and Jessi – at Wire Mesa, thus making our group a party of eight. This network was a bit of a step up from the Jem trails we had done the day before, but truthfully not much of a challenge. Still, we had a blast cranking along the winding trails, scouting alternative routes, and taking in the stunning vistas of the surrounding red rock mesas and cliff faces. After we finished the 7.5 mile loop (clockwise), Adam, Jessi and I decided to hit up another section of nearby trails: Show Me The Money to More Money and then back up the Grafton Mesa Road. These were super fun! And definitely a lot more technical than our first couple of rides with some tricky rock features, narrow squeezes, and a lot more vertical descent. My kind of riding.
This was a big day. We did the Guacamole network in full: Margarita to Salt on the Rim, back on Margarita to the Guacamole Loop to the Holy Guacamole Loop and back to the parking area via Margarita and Salt on the Rim again. Phew! We were tired puppies after this one, but it was totally worth it! What a great network of trails with tons of diversity both in terrain and technicality. The only bummer was that Adam got his shin good on a pedal strike. He probably should have gotten stitches, but…
Gooseberry Mesa! My favorite trail of the lot (so far). Lots of riding on big rock slabs, goat lunges up onto small boulders and ledges, amazing 360° views especially at Gooseberry Point, and huge cliffs to try not to fall off of. Our route was the Secret Trail to South Rim to Gooseberry Point, then the White Trail briefly to the North Rim to Bowls and Ledges and finally to Practice. By the time we got to the last two trails, though, we were pretty tired and didn’t really get to take advantage of their natural playground potential – fun rollovers, little drops, wall rides, etc… I could definitely have spent another full day exploring these trails. Next time!
After four big days of riding, we were all due for a rest day. But since we were car camping and Hurricane isn’t known for its city life, there weren’t many downtime activities to be had. So Deanna and I went to explore Zion National Park – not exactly a rest day activity, but fun nonetheless! We ended up having to bike into the park, though, because it was the day before Thanksgiving and apparently everyone wanted to explore Zion. The shuttles weren’t running and the parking areas within the park were full by early morning, leaving many people stranded at the gates. Good thing we had the bikes. Deanna had chosen to do the hike up Angel’s Landing, which proved to be a lot harder and a whole lot scarier than either of us anticipated. I am NOT a heights person, so I chickened out at the last part, but Deanna made it all the way up. Give me speed over heights any day.
This was by far my least favorite day of the trip. Our group (now down to 7, we lost Lane and Lindsay, but gained Rachel) shifted gears over to the trails outside of St. George, about 20 minutes west of Hurricane. The riding there is a lot different and, in my opinion, not nearly as good as the mesas above Hurricane – there’s more dirt, less rock, more sustained climbing, less shade… We (or I, maybe it was just me) suffered up and down the steep switchbacks of Suicidal Tendencies then some of us called it quits while a few others continued on to do Barrel Roll. I honestly would skip this one next time and stay around Hurricane.
After riding the mostly flat (in terms of elevation gain/loss) trails around Hurricane for a few days, we (plus Rick and Amanda now!) ventured up north a bit to check out the downhill trails near Cedar City. Now, I love all forms of mountain biking, but zooming along well-built downhill track is probably my favorite of all. The first shuttle we did was to link up the C Trail to Highlands to Green Hollow to Lava Flow, which got better and better as we descended. The top half was mainly tight switchbacks with loose gravel (not much fun…) but the bottom half was filled with swoopy turns through a pretty forest, fun little jumps, a rock wall ride, and some mini rock gardens to bounce down. We were all smiles and fist bumps at the end. But our second downhill shuttle of the day was my favorite: Blowhard, a 7 mile downhill track that starts at 10,600ft and drops over 3,300ft through all sorts of terrain with some great views of red rock cliffs and bizarre looking hoodoos. It’s not the smoothest trail I’ve ever been on, but I like a challenge! The top was definitely the steepest (with a few snow patches to slip and slide through) and then came some tricky switchbacks, rutted and rooty single track, lots of rock gardens, and a few features to practice jumps. My forearms and thighs were definitely burning after this one! It was also the first time Adam and co have ridden the area, and they said they will most definitely make it part of their annual pilgrimage.
Our last day! We definitely finished with a bang at Little Creek Mesa back in Hurricane. The trails are pretty similar to Gooseberry (lots of fun rock riding, little punchy ups, flowy singletrack through trees and shrubs…), but not as well marked as the other networks. We got turned around a few times, making the ride feel so much longer than it should have been. By the end I was feeling pretty fatigued and when I’m fatigued on a bike I tend to get sloppy… At one point, my handlebars caught a wandering tree branch and sent me flying a few feet down the trail. I landed on my left shoulder which is still quite sore and my right pinkie got banged up good. Nothing serious, though, thankfully! I think I found that seven days of good riding is about my limit 😉
And that wraps up our week of mountain biking in Southern Utah! As I mentioned several times above, it really was a fantastic trip and I can’t wait for more adventures to come with these guys 🙂