By Lukas Brinkerhoff
It still has that new trail smell.
If you are anything like me, there are few things that bring you more pleasure than planting a set of knobbies on new single track. I’ve always envisioned cycling as being synonymous with adventure, but when you’ve already ridden every trail in your area things can become stagnant. Sure there’s always the riding trips to new locations, but a new trail with virgin dirt, that’s something special.
Suicidal Tendencies (ST) is just that. The St. George BLM Field Office officially opened the trail for use just this past month. Locals, being encouraged by the trail crew, have been putting knobby to dirt for some time on this trail, but it is now finished and ready to be explored. Not only does it have that new trail smell, but the corners are still a little soft and there are a few moves that will probably leave you flabbergasted on how to maneuver around them.
The trail is an extension of the trail network in the Santa Clara River Reserve. Adding an extra 5.2 miles to the existing 17, the reserve is quickly becoming the most developed network in the St. George area. Suicidal Tendencies splits off the top of Sidewinder. Sidewinder is a pre-existing trail that climbs up the mesa and then does a little cherry stem loop at the top. ST drops right off of the rim from the loop on top of Sidewinder.
And when I say drop, I mean drop. The trail crew spent a considerable amount of time building a way off of this mesa. As it sits, there is some amazing rock work that creates a steep ramp as the path to descend the rock band that surrounds the Sidewinder mesa. Much like the trail’s namesake band, the corners are tight, the ride is a bit scary with plenty of exposure and it will most likely leave you scratching your head.
After the drop off of the mesa, the trail switchbacks in the tightest curves in St. George, winding back and forth across the mesa. At places the trail is so stacked on top of itself that you don’t feel like you are going anywhere. The tread winds its way through tight rock gates requiring the rider to pay careful attention to their pedals. Imagine a driver’s ed obstacle course on an angled slant and where the cones are rocks that could possible throw you to an undesirable end.
ST will guide you down off the mesa but you are then required to follow up the other side of the draw. This climb up has to be one of the most amazingly built climbs I have ever ridden. Starting at the bottom looking up, you feel like you will be hurting soon. Instead you quickly find that you are gaining elevation but the grade reversals and switchbacks seem to reverse gravity and push you up the trail. I have to admit that I would rather climb this section than descend it, and descending it is awesome.
Once you have been dragged up the mesa you will be forced to put it in some sweat and tears. The trail continues upward around the nose of the cliff band. At this point you will see the tombstone that appears to be protecting you from dropping off the abyss, then you round the corner and the protection disappears. I had to ride this section up a couple of times before I could control the instinct to put a foot down as I suddenly found my wheel pointing toward air.
After the tombstone, the trail mellows out and you slowly meander up the rest of the mesa. You are nearing 4000 feet and the vegetation starts to change. When the trail tops out you will be in the midst of Junipers and have a breathtaking view of Red Mountain, Pine Valley Mountain and Santa Clara. I highly recommend taking a few moments to enjoy the scenery, smell some Juniper and remember that riding isn’t just about pedaling, it’s about adventure, about the experience.
Then saddle up and enjoy the descent as it weaves its way down the other side of the mesa rewarding you for the grind that you put in on the way up.
The trail junctures back up and you follow the same route off the mesa. Be careful maneuvering your way back around the tombstone, the rock juts out oddly forcing you to lean into the cliff and away from where you really want to be. With that said, the move is most definitely easier going down as the rocks feel like they are protecting you.
As I mentioned, the ride off the mesa is enjoyable. Go ahead and hoot and holler as you roll over the off camber rocks and around the obstacles that will keep you on your toes.
The climb out of the draw is tough. You have already pedaled a good chunk of climbing and the tight corners and steep grades will leave you wondering if this was a good idea. Unless you are some kind of climbing mutant, you will probably have to walk a few sections. Especially in the corners where the trail gets narrow and steep. These will most likely get easier as the tread gets ridden in over time, but for now be prepared for a little hike-a-bike.
Once you are done, Suicidal Tendencies will drop you right back on Sidewinder meaning that you have a good descent ahead of you. Don’t feel bad if you didn’t clear every section of trail, part of the appeal of new trails is the puzzle of figuring them out. If you clear everything the first time out, you have no reason to return. Plus you can listen to Suicidal Failure and feel like you have an inside line on an alternative meaning of the song.
Nuts and Bolts:
To get there: Head North on Bluff Street in St. George. Turn left on Sunset BLVD and follow it into Santa Clara. Just before the Jacob Hamblin Home turn left onto Gates Lane. Follow the pavement around the bend and then take the first left up the dirt road. From here follow the Santa Clara River Reserve signs to the trail head.
From the trail head: Head up Precipice to Sidewinder. At the top of Sidewinder, the trail will do a small loop. Off of the South side of this loop look for single track dropping off the mesa. This is your start.
Difficulty: This is an intermediate level trail with plenty of exposure to make the moves seem more difficult than they are.