MTB St. George, UT
Southwestern Utah, in the vicinity of Zion National Park, has some outstanding mountain biking offerings. St. George is a great spot to spend a long weekend of riding desert single track, or to mix in when visiting Zion. A quick highlight of a few trails will get you started:
Zen Trail Loop
To begin, ride it counter clockwise. I have ridden it clockwise, too, and think it rides “better” when going the “other way.” From the parking area, the climb up to the edge will get your heart rate up from the get-go. Enjoy the view looking down on the Bear Claw Poppy trail system, but also be sure to turn around and look back at the spectacular view of the Pine Valley Mountains rising above St. George.
Continue your way across the precipice, enjoying the few ups and downs before descending some more, which then will turn into additional cross-country riding as the trail meanders back to the parking area. Zen has some super fun tech riding, with rocks and drops to navigate. Bonus: cleaning the steep “stairs” with the tight turn on the second half of the ride as it spills into the desert wash.
Bear Claw Poppy
A cruiser of a ride, Bear Claw is a great way to add on miles, or can be a good start for a beginner-to-moderate rider. Staying on the desert floor, it is mostly a pedal, pedal, pedal kind of ride, but you get a completely different perspective of the desert mesas from down there. There are plenty of cut offs if you need to bail out and shorten your ride.
After you cross back through the gate/fence, instead of taking the gravel/stone/dirt road down to the parking lot, pick up the single track to the left, taking a fun “bonus” trail back to your vehicle, if you are looking for a bit of a rompin’ good time.
Santa Clara Trail system
A few miles up the road from St. George is Santa Clara. There, you can find a network of trails that give you a spectacular array of views, from a mesmerizing red rock wall to the mountains to rocky desert folds, like a ball of crinkled up tan-brown paper.
Jump on Precipice to warm up and then when it connects into Sidewinder, take it. Enjoy the gradual ascent up to Suicidal Tendencies (ST), where the technical riding begins. I was not able to clean that super tight switchback, choosing to get off and walk it, the possibility of a long fall being eliminated by doing so. Up and up it went from the wash, reaching a much-welcomed smattering of juniper trees on the descent after reaching the top.
Going down the lollipop loop, clockwise, was a hoot, and when it connected back into the stick of ST, I knew there would be more fun coming up, but also that I had to climb back up and out of the wash, which turned out to be easier than anticipated.
Back on Sidewinder, it rode like a flow trail, fast and needing some brake-age in the turns. At the junction with Precipice and Barrel Roll, I chose Barrel and rode it back to the parking lot, adding more cross-country descending to close out the morning’s ride.
I got only a small tasting of St. George’s mountain biking opportunities. When in town, or if passing through, any of the three rides mentioned here could be two hours, give or take, depending or your ability, of good time southwestern Utah MTBing.
FOOD – Painted Pony: Upscale, the Painted Pony is the place to go if you want to enjoy local renditions of classic American fare. There is a small bar, which does not require reservations. Otherwise, you will likely need to make a reservation to get a table.
FOOD – Cliffside Restaurant: Go here for the view, especially at sunset. Oh, and the food and drink are great, too!
FOOD – George’s Corner: Locals joint. Need another reason to go?!
FOOD – La Cocina Mexican Street Food: Mexican food is always good after a ride. This place won’t disappoint.
DRINK – Silver Reef Brewing Company: Sometime in spring 2020, Silver Reef will open a pub/restaurant and beer garden. They also distill spirits. When it all comes together, it’ll be a great spot for post-ride grub and cheer. In the meantime, look for their beer on tap around town and in cans at stores. Their Red Ale is delicious.
DRINK – Zion Brewery Station: Now open in downtown St. George, they have the beer you maybe drank over in Springdale, outside of Zion’s gate.
RECREATION – Red Rock Bicycle Company: This shop has all you need, for mountain bikers and road cyclists. No need to say more.
RECREATION – Greater Zion: A great website for the entire region and has lots of good info.
You can read more from James Murren’s travels on his website, jamesmurren.com.