Biking Utah's Backyard
Called a mountain biker's heaven by avid bikers, Utah has some of the best mountain biking trails
Ahh, Utah. This is the place…for mountain biking. Referred to as “mountain biker’s heaven” by avid bikers, Utah has some of the best mountain biking trails in the world, ranging in skill level from beginner to, well, insane. With hundreds of trails to choose from throughout the state, picking a path can be confusing, especially depending on your skill level.
“One rider’s great adventure could be another rider’s nightmare,” says Dr. Bruce Argyle, an emergency physician who has reviewed over 200 bike trails for utahmountainbiking.com, a website considered to be Utah’s number one source of biking information. “But there are some trails that everybody talks about, and anyone who calls him-or herself a mountain biker needs to ride them.”
Below are some of the hottest, must-ride trails in Utah:
1. Mill Creek Pipeline Trail.
This popular trail for beginners is located in the lower half of Salt Lake City’s Mill Creek Canyon. For the most part, the trail is easy cruising with not much elevation change, although beginners should watch out for narrow trails, other bikers, and high winds. While the trail does not require too many technical skills, it does offer a beautiful view of the Salt Lake Valley throughout the ride.
2. Wasatch Crest.
Considered to be Salt Lake City’s most famous trail, the Wasatch Crest trail is best known for its grueling two mile ascent (also known as “Puke Hill”) into high elevation and the fun downhill cruise that follows. Starting at the top of Big Cottonwood Canyon, this trail runs down into Mill Creek Canyon, where most bikers have a shuttle car waiting. Almost entirely throughout the ride, there are fantastic views of the Cottonwood canyons, which make the trail a beautiful and well-traveled one. Bikers should have intermediate technical skills to make the ascent.
3. Mueller Park.
Located above Bountiful in Mill Creek Canyon, this trail is a popular, lower-altitude alpine ride. Beginners can ride the trail to “Big Rock”, a large rock seven miles along the way that marks the halfway point of the trail. After “Big Rock”, riders should have intermediate skills as the trail becomes steeper and more cluttered with roots and rocks. On the downhill ascent, the trail is smooth and wide, which makes for a fun ride. Mueller Park is a beautiful trail but is known for being crowded on the weekends due to its popularity
4. Ridge Trail 157.
This trail is a favorite of Utah Valley bikers. Running from the Pole Line Pass of American Fork Canyon’s North Fork to the Alpine Loop summit in South Fork, this trail provides spectacular views from the ridge of Mount Timpanogos. The trail is 11 miles long and involves some stiff climbing, including sections where you will need to “hike your bike”. While the lower portions of the trail require intermediate skill, the higher portions of the trail are covered in snow until June or July and require great aerobic and technical ability.
5. Midmountain Trail.
Also called the “8,000 Foot Trail”, in reference to its altitude level, this long, climbing trail rocks up and down from above the Park City Mountain Resort to the Canyons Resort. The 22-mile loop has rocky sections and a moderate climb, making it aerobically taxing. However, the aspen trees and occasional meadows along the trail and the beautiful views make this a Park City trail favorite. “Even with a hundred miles of great singletrack on the mountains above Park City, this is the trail that gets the attention, “ says Dr. Argyle. If you go, be sure to pack plenty of water and calories to keep up your endurance.
6. Gooseberry Mesa.
This is a world- class, singletrack, slickrock trail just west of Zion’s National Park. Advanced riders love this trail, because it is so technical. Intermediate riders love it, because the technical aspects are not too advanced. Beginners love this trail, because there is a practice loop that features easy slickrock. All riders love it, because there are no hill climbs and the paths through slickrock are marked with paint. This is a fun and varied trail that winds through knolls and has constantly changing rock surfaces that keep you guessing. It is definitely a favorite among off-road bikers in Utah.
The Slickrock trail is the world’s most famous bike trail. Located near Moab, Utah, this trail is a 10.6-mile loop that winds through Navajo sandstone, which is sometimes smooth and sometimes rough. There is a 2-mile practice loop for beginners, however the actual trail is rated high technical difficulty and aerobic requirement, which only advanced riders can handle. The route is strenuous with moderate long climbs. For those who want to rock the slickrock, make sure to pack plenty of water and prepare yourself for the beautiful view of the Colorado River.
8. White Rim.
The White Rim trail in Moab is a multi-day adventure. “It is a two or three day trip in which you must make a reservation and take a support vehicle with you to keep supplies in,” says Terry West, manager of the “Yo Dude” Bike Peddler shop in American Fork “There is no litter on the trail. You camp in the bottom of the most beautiful canyons I have ever been in.” The trail is a 103-mile loop on a jeep road through Canyonlands National Park. Technically, the trail is easy, but the length of the trail and about three stiff climbs requires endurance. In order to ride this trail, you must obtain a permit from the National Park Service and make your camping reservations well in advance, as waiting times for some campsites can be up to a year. Biking off the trail and pets are not allowed in this national park. On the trail, several magnificent arches are visible. Since the trail is quite long and the park gets incredibly hot, it is recommended that riders take the trail in at least two days. This beautiful trail is a Utah classic.
9. Porcupine Rim.
Porcupine Rim is the most famous Moab trail next to Slickrock. This is a 15.6-mile trail for advanced riders, as the trail begins with a three-mile climb up rocky ledges and ends with a three-mile track on the edges of cliffs. The most popular aspect of this trail is the long, technical downhill trail that varies from cruising to jumping ledges. Even the most advanced riders finish this expert trail with bike parts missing, although the downhill rush is well worth it.
10. Thunder Mountain.
This versatile slickrock trail located near Bryce canyon is suitable for any level biker. There is a scenic loop, a fast downhill, and a serious climb. Most riders take the downhill trail with the use of a shuttle vehicle, although some take the 15-mile loop to enjoy the scenery. This trail is suitable for intermediate bikers with a few advanced climbing areas. The varying terrain, beautiful scenery, sloping hills, and interesting orange soil on the path make Thunder Mountain one of the best biking trails in Southern Utah.
Before you tackle any of these trails, it is important to prepare yourself. Check out your bike for any possible repairs needed. Bring along water and food to keep your energy up, and don’t forget your helmet!
Amy Ellis has served as Associate Editor of Utah Health Magazine, and is a freelance writer with a degree from Brigham Young University.
Utah Biking Resource - Utah.com
A Utah bike trip will color your thinking forever, whether it's a wide open desert ride with spectacular red rock vistas or a lush green mountain trail lined with yellow wild flowers. Utah developed a world class reputation from Moab's famous Slickrock trail and is fast becoming known for wonderfully diverse alpine mountain biking, including lift-served access at some ski resorts. And you don't have to be a shin-scarred off-road radical to enjoy Utah on wheels. All you need is a love for beautiful scenery and invigorating outdoor activity.