Gooseberry Mesa in Southern Utah: Enjoying Nature in a Yurt and on a Mountain Bike

Gooseberry Mesa sits at 5,200′ elevation to the north of Zion National Park, a jewel of Southern Utah. The panoramic views of the desert mesas are internationally famous, though the crowds are relegated to the National Park and left behind from the perch of the bicycle. Solitude is a few pedal strokes away.

Getting In Sync with Mesa Time

Finding catharsis and restoration at the Gooseberry Mesa Yurts in Southern Utah

I fueled up with fresh roasted coffee and a ‘frou-frou’ quiche at River Rock Roasting Company in La Verkin, UT before driving up to my yurt rental on Gooseberry Mesa in southwestern Utah. I had been before and was very much looking forward to getting on “mesa time.” The day was easy-going with nothing to do but unload my car into the yurt, and then head out on a ride to shake out the legs.

It was not more than two hours after chilling out a little bit on the yurt deck and admiring the view of Zion National Park from afar when I set out on a “secret” trail. It follows the mesa rim away from Gooseberry proper, or where most people ride the trails that are on the official map. Kenny, owner of Gooseberry Mesa Yurts, filled me in on the trail a few years back by pointing it out to me.

This time around I had little trouble finding it, as it was directly across from the one antenna tower on the other side of the dirt double track. The trail cut in and right away I knew I was on the correct path. I appreciated the flowering cacti that greeted me at the outset and then some more for the next six to seven miles or so. It was a perfect day; temperatures were in the upper 60s and the sky was partly cloudy with wondrous clouds floating about, sometimes nearly reaching what felt like an almost overcast day.

Gooseberry Mesa sits at 5,200' elevation to the north of Zion National Park, a jewel of Southern Utah. The panoramic views of the desert mesas are internationally famous, though the crowds are relgated to the National Park and left behind from the perch of the bicycle. Solitude is a few pedal strokes away.

A few rock tech sections kept me honest, as they say, but it was the forever vistas that had me squeezing my brakes more than anything else. I stood and took it all in, snapping photos like a tourist. I even pulled out my phone and sent one to my parents, siblings, nieces and nephew back in Pennsylvania, sharing a message of “America the Beautiful” with them.

I knew that the trail would begin to descend off the mesa. Nevertheless, I kept going, knowing also that I had nowhere to be the rest of the day, with only beer to drink and food to cook on my agenda. What’s more, given the time of year and latitude, I knew there would be sunlight in the sky until near 9:00 PM local time. Pedal on, I told myself.

So I did.

The trail took me closer and closer to Zion, the giant walls getting bigger. At this point, I had not seen another person for the hour-plus that I had been pedaling, unlike over in Zion where there were likely thousands of people. I was grateful and thankful to be where I was, experiencing the majesty of the red rock wilderness sans crowds of humans.

The trail started to descend more and more. I remembered Kenny’s words from years ago: “you do not want to go all the way down.”

I turned around and went back the way I came, getting to experience a new trail. The views in front of the bars were different, as were the turns. The right became lefts, and the lefts became rights. The ups and downs became downs and ups. Power moves were drops, and drops were now power moves.

Mushroom Rock along the Gooseberry Mesa trail networks, an area of pure mountain bike bliss and recognized as one of the top mountain biking spots in the country. The technical trails feature twisting singletrack and rolling slickrock. The terrain is managable for a variety of skills, but experience with navigating in the wilderness is strongly recommended.

Mushroom rock said ‘Hello’ again and I thought to myself to take its picture, so I did. The flowering cacti that I passed earlier also wanted their photo taken, so I did that, too. More stopping at the vistas happened, and then I encountered a solo female rider.

“How far does this go?”

“You can keep going another 20 minutes or so. You do not want to descend all the way down.”

“How long have you been out?”

“About an hour or so. I’ve been cruising along and taking photos.”

She seemed set on going fast. Cool. I wished her well and offered a “have fun” as she pedaled in the direction that I had already gone.

It was not more than forty minutes later when I was back at the yurt, relaxing with a cold beer in hand and munching on potato chips. I pulled out my binoculars and did a little bird watching. I thought about taking a cold shower by using the solar shower with water that did not heat up much due to the cloudy sky. Instead, I stayed parked in the chair and finished my beer, opting to use a few wilderness wipes to clean up whenever I got out of the chair.

Breezes blew. Light waned. Evening occurred. Night came. Mesa time.

A yurt is a portable, round structure that has been used for thousands of years by nomadic tribes originating in Central Asia. Today, yurts built in the United States are made using hi-tech materials and are not intended to be moved often. The Gooseberry Mesa Yurts are available for short term stays and are built to withstand the harsh weather of the desert landscape.

You can read more from James Murren’s travels on his website, jamesmurren.com.

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