Mountain Biking in Moab

Kathleen Berglund on the Sovereign Trail. Photo: Lukas Brinkerhoff

By Lukas Brinkerhoff

This past week I entered my third decade of existence within this fleshy container. A decade I hope to fill with memories of riding and living, much like I have the past two. In line with said conquest, I ventured to a place some of you may have heard of Moab, not the one in the bible, but the one in Eastern Utah.

Seeing that I am now much older and more honest, I must make a confession. I’ve been a long time Moab-hater. Although I’ve lived within striking distance for most of my fleshy existence, my first trip to the land of mecca was only three years ago and was at the wish of my then girlfriend, now wife. That first year I found what I expected to find, Jeep trails where I was forced to fight traffic to ride my mountain bike and lots of red rocks.

Being the Moab cynic that I was, I found nothing super appealing about that trip. That is to say, other than the fact that I got to spend five days with my girlfriend riding bikes. What I have found over the past few years, however, is that Moab is what you expect it to be. I used to expect it to be inferior to my “home” trails and found it to be such. Over the past few years, again at the behest of my wife, I’ve made several of these “pilgrimages” and each time things seemed to be moving in the favor of Moab.

This past week when celebration was in order, it was I, not her that suggested we make a road trip to the land of many red rocks. Keeping with the theme of honesty that we have established, this was for two reasons. First, I knew that Cycling Utah would be interested in a story and second I actually wanted to go. That’s right, I have grown to enjoy our journeys to Moab.

With those intentions, we packed up the Mooseknuckler-mobile and headed east. We had invited two friends, Danny and Kim Christensen to celebrate the occasion with us. So with gear packed, bikes on rack and hopes high we headed to Moab without actually planning anything. That’s how I roll. I mean, if you have to plan it, it’s probably not worth doing, right?

We showed up in the land of many red rocks Thursday afternoon, after driving through snow, sleet, wind and rain. We set up camp just off of Kane Creek road in the Moonflower campground amidst drops of rain. We had hoped to ride Thursday, but the circumstances handed to us pushed is towards getting things ready for tomorrow with hopes that we would awake to better weather. Which we did.

Friday we awoke to beautiful weather. No wind and 70 degree temps. The way that I saw it, we had two options. Ride something that was hard and long, or start out fairly easy. Seeing that Kim was a Moab newbie, we opted for the latter. We headed out to the Sovereign Trail System, starting on the Willow Springs Road, we did a version that was Danny’s favorite and that I personally enjoyed as well. We rode up the Jeep road to the singletrack and then followed the dots up to the point where we ran into signs that said, “Stop, don’t go up this.” At this point we rode the other direction and looped down to where the stop signs were located. This gave us a great little cherry stem loop that delved our Moab newbie into the scene without death but with plenty of riding.

Danny and Kim Christensen riding up Amasa Back. Photo: Lukas Brinkerhoff.

Of course, this small gem of a trail was not enough to calm our need for riding so we headed out to Bartlett Wash, a trail I had not ridden, but Danny assured me was worth the trip. Bartlett Wash is a huge slab of sandstone, that once you are on top of opens to a playground. The sign says free-form riding. So that is what we did. Of course, we avoided riding on vegetation and soil as suggested by the same sign. The mesa is full of small (2-5 foot drops) and lots of steep roller opportunities. Speaking of the latter, once you are in the free-form area, head out to the farthest point on the mesa and you will find a deep chute that is rideable. The slickrock is anything but slick, meaning that you can roll down things that are steep but still control your speed quite nicely. The chute is awesome due to its steepness and length. It’s a must-do for all aspiring freeriders.

After playing around for an hour or so, it was time to head back. We picked up Kim, who had opted to wait for us fools under a tree, and headed back to the vehicle. Enjoying the ride back down the sandstone slab. Once back to the car it was obvious that only two things were imperative at this point, beer and sustenance.

With that in mind, we headed to La Hacienda, a small Mexican food restaurant just off the main drag in Moab. They have cold beer and a full liquor menu, but most importantly, they have good Mexican food. And there is no better way to end a day of riding than by eating Mexican food. I am personally partial to Negra Modelos out of the bottle and beans, rice and cheese burritos. I don’t eat flesh so that is pretty much a perfect combination. Did I say I recommend this place?

After said refueling of the tanks, we headed back to camp where we stood around the campfire sharing glory stories and finding blood where we had no idea any had been drawn. Everyone in our group was stoked to be enjoying the what/where/how of Moab.

Day three we awoke to beautiful weather. The temps were higher than they had been the day before, but there was a bit of a cloud cover in the sky. We partook of breakfast and then kind of hung around camp. Unfortunately, the longer we hung, the fiercer the wind became. We marked it up to the canyon warming and the airflow rising and headed out to ride one of the classic Moab trails, Amasa Back.

Danny Christensen rolling in on Bartlett Wash. Photo: Lukas Brinkerhoff

Again, unfortunately for us, the wind was more of an entire Utah thing than a canyon warming thing and we found ourselves climbing up the Jeep road with a head wind that could have killed Colonel Potter’s horse. By the time we reached the junction for Amasa Back and Pothole Arch, we were marching into full on 50 mph headwind gusts. At least that is my estimate. The wind was blowing hard enough to make me worry about falling off cliffs. Being the Mooseknucklers that we are, we chose to continue and had a nice tailwind out to Pothole Arch which happens to be a small window of an arch that is kind of fun to take pictures of. Once out at the point, the river wraps around the mesa upon which you stand and it is a bit trippy to see the same river on both sides of the mesa.

Seeing that we had a killer tailwind out to the arch also meant that we had a destroying headwind back to the junction. We had hoped to ride Rock Stacker back down to Jackson to complete our loop. Standing at said junction, the wind was blowing so hard that the idea of riding anything with exposure was questionable, but we were a questionable bunch and headed down the trail anyway. Danny and I both rode the drop in and then walked back up and attempted to help our ladies down the uber steep switchbacks that dropped us onto the Rock Stacker. We were then magically out of the wind and enjoyed our ride on the edge of a cliff dropping back to the Colorado River following paint on the sandstone back to the parking lot.

With our head wind and technical riding abilities, we rocked out a grand total of 12 miles in exactly one minute under five hours. With my estimates, if we could subtract the headwind we could also subtract two hours from our total time.

After a ride of such magnitude and seeing that it was my Befday, we headed to the one place that is an absolute must when in Moab, the Moab Brewery. We enjoyed a huge Margarita and locally brewed beer. The food at the brewery is worth the trip and you are guaranteed a smile and chuckle if you ask for Keystone Light on tap.

While we were riding in the wind, up a Jeep road, I had a bit of an epiphany. Moab is more about an experience than anything else. Seeing red rock in all directions and feeling the expanse and depth of the cliffs that surround the area are all part of what Moab is. It is also part of what has continued to draw me back to the land of many red rocks. There are trails for everyone and there are plenty of side activities to enjoy.

Definitely a good place to enjoy a “Befday.”

Recommended Rides

Amasa Back

This is a classic Moab trail that uses Jeep roads to access more mountain bike worthy trails. My favorite route is up Amasa Back onto Pothole Arch. Backtrack on Pothole to the signed junction for Rock Stacker and follow this technical, exposed trail back to Jackson’s trail. This will take you back to the trailhead.

Slickrock

Another classic Moab trail that utilizes the amazing slabs of sandstone to provide you with plenty of riding opportunities.

Sovereign Trail

This is singletrack mountain bike style. It is a great trail and an excellent introduction to the land of many red rocks.

Porcupine Rim

Porcupine Rim is an excellent trail that provides classic Moab Jeep roads with great singletrack exposure. To really get a good ride in, attempt the Whole Enchilada that ends with this trail.

Recommended Eats

La Hacienda

Excellent Mexican food and cold beer, what more could you ask for? La Hacienda is just off the main drag at 574 North Main Street.

The Moab Brewery

In my opinion, some of the best food in town and great locally brewed beer. Good food and good beer! The Moab Brewery is at 686 South Main Street.

Eddie McStiff’s

Another great brewery with good food and great beer found at 57 South Main Street.

 

 

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