cycling utah March 2000

Trail of the Month

St. George's Green Valley trail not for squeemish

By Gregg Bromka.

Every city should have a ride like this. It's close to town, (so close you can pedal right from town), it's a killer little workout, and it's a helluva good time. Ride Green Valley to get your fat-tire fix during lunch hour or to wind down after work.

Or head out anytime you want to rekindle the days of old when you raced through neighborhood sand lots on your purple Sting-Ray decked out with monkey bars up front and sissy bar in back. Green Valley is one big BMX course filled with thrills and potential spills.

The names of three white-knuckle sections say it all: Three Fingers of Death, Acid Drops and Clavicle Hill. The route then culminates on the lively and upbeat Roller Coaster. If you miscalculate or push your limits beyond the envelope's edge, you can easily ruin the rest of your bike season. On the other hand, if you are successful in proving your handling prowess (or just your lack of fear), you will be ennobled a mountain bike "guru"; But fear not, each sick sounding stunt is not mandatory; there are cheater routes to the side for those who are unnerved.

The route is not solely about cashing in on your nine lives. There are charming views of Zion National Park, Pine Valley Mountains, and Snow Canyon State Park from the route's highpoint.

Notes on the trail

From Tonaquint Park, pedal along Dixie Drive 1.6 miles, turn left on paved Canyon View Drive, pump up the hill past Green Valley Spa and Resort, and take a quick break where pavement ends atop a low knoll.

Look west into the small valley that rests at the base of a deep sandstone gash in the earth called the Gap. Your route follows the right/north side of the Gap up a doubletrack that starts with a Superman S turn and then parallels the canyon's rim. Ignore tracks spurring left to the rim's edge; these are access points to the Gap's craggy handholds used by technical rock climbers.

The rough doubletrack splits about half way up the Gap (less than .5 mile); both forks meet on the northwest side of the treeless knoll ahead. The right route is less technical and less steep; the left route is not. But stay left because it affords views you won't want to miss. Zion National Park molds the eastern skyline with its sandstone temples and towers. The Pine Valley Mountains to the northeast interrupt Dixie's pervasive deserts with an alpine anomaly.

Due north, Snow Canyon State Park is a multi-tiered rampart of deep orange and snow-white sandstones. Beneath your tires, the Gap's shadowy depths open to a broad calico-striped basin that seems devoid of life. Most importantly, you can see your route ahead where it drops abruptly from the bluff to the desert's clutch.

Descend off the knoll on a highly technical track, pass through a fence, and ease your way off Three Fingers of Death-a trio of rib-like mounds of clay that plunge to the dry wash feeding the Gap. Pucker-factor increases dramatically from left to right, so "choose wisely grasshopper"; and hang your butt way off the back.

Head up the sandy wash (right) for less than .5 mile and exit the wash to the left on a rolling ATV trail. As you round Red Bluff, you rise to the brink of Acid Drops-a hallucinating series of cascading rollovers that resemble the successive rapids of the Colorado River in Cataract Canyon. Like on the Colorado, where a turbulent hole lies leeward and out of sight of each white-capped wave, the ill will that awaits your front tire remains a mystery until you roll over each Drop to the point of no return. Butt off the back, chest to the saddle, death grip on the bars, and you should emerge unscathed. Feeling uneasy about taking the plunge? Then follow the cheater route to the left.

A few rollers later, the trail disappears over Clavicle Hill. No explanation is needed, other than it rates high on the "Oh sh*t!"; meter. Even intrepid white-water rafters scout the most menacing rapids. You should do the same here, else stuff your wheel in the sucker hole that hides from view beneath the lip. This is also a good place to survey the remainder of the route, too. You'll want to follow the rolling singletrack left/southeast along the interface of Bloomington Hill's red terraced slopes and the white clay mounds that sprawl from its base. Do not venture south or west, or you'll enter a maze of trails that would baffle a G.P.S. receiver.

With bones and bike intact, hopefully, kick in the afterburners and launch yourself down the Roller Coaster. This 2 mile section of BMX-style whoop-te-doos and banked turns will have leave you as giddy as a kid in a candy shop. It's important that you stay on track and do not wander about because the route crosses habitat of the endangered Bear Poppy. This is the only area in the world where the desert flower blooms annually during the spring. Step over the wire fence and exit to paved Navajo Drive in the ritzy Bloomington subdivision.

The dirt riding is through; it's time to pound the pavement and recap the tricks you mastered and the one's you choked on. At the intersection of Navajo and Geronimo, stop at Petroglyph Park to view an impressive display of Indian rock art on a huge, cleaved boulder.

Turn left/north on Bloomington Drive West (becomes Bloomington Drive North), left on Tonaquint Drive, left on Dixie Drive, and return to Tonaquint Park in .4 mile.

Note: The route may be altered or closed in the future at the end of Canyon View Drive because of proposed residential developments. Contact Red Rock Bicycles (435-674-3185) or Bicycles Unlimited (435-673-4492) for updates and obey all signs restricting travel.

Just the facts:

Distance: 11-mile loop

Tread: 5.3 miles of paved roads, 2.3 miles of rock and sand doubletracks, and 3.3 miles of dirt ATV trail and singletracks.

Physical Difficulty: Moderate. The climb up the Gap will have

you huffing and puffing, but the rest undulates over micro-hills and

countless whoop-te-doos.

Technical Difficulty: Moderate to "redline." The doubletrack up the Gap is dirt and broken pavement rock. The last 2 miles rolls over low whoop-te-doos that can pitch an inattentive rider. Warning: Three sections of rollover drop offs midroute are highly technical. Look before you Leap!

Elevation Change: Navajo Drive in Bloomington is the low point at 2,560 feet. The climb up the Gap rises at a near 10-percent grade for .5 mile to a max elevation of 3,010 feet. The rest is rolling or downhill. Elevation gain is about 700 feet.

Trailhead Access: Make your way through St. George to the intersection of Bluff Street and Main (Exit 6 off I-15). Cross Bluff and proceed on Hilton Drive for 1 mile, veer left on Tonaquint Drive, and pass through Southgate Golf Course. Turn right on Dixie Drive .3 miles past the golf course and drive .4 mile to Tonaquint Park.

Excerpted from Mountain Biking Utah (revised 2nd edition, 1999)

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