Biking off-road within Zion National Park is strictly forbidden, but that's okay. Stroll through this divine gallery of rock towers, weeping alcoves, and sunlight-eluding canyons, then pedal your mountain bike outside the park's boundary to Gooseberry Mesa. Located seven miles south of Rockville, which is three miles west of Springdale and the park's entrance, this ride offers an opportunity for you to pedal free from RV-clogged roads and tourist-saturated trails to points where solitude rings with deafening silence.
The main dirt road that leads out the center of Gooseberry Mesa is a fine novice to intermediate ride -- 10 miles out-and-back and flat as a pancake. But recently, a new trail system has been developed that incorporates technical slickrock and bonafide singletrack. Although the slickrock sections are not the free-flowing, catch-a-wave expanses of the famed Slickrock Bike Trail in Moab, the rock on Gooseberry is every bit as challenging and requires adept skills to clean the hundreds of audacious stunts. Between the rock expanses, though, are short, tasty sections of dreamy singletrack weaving through juniper, pinyon, ponderosa, and manzanita. This is real singletrack -- soft, loamy, and carpeted with pine needles -- not the runaway bike ramps-cum-sand traps of the Moab variety. Thus, Gooseberry is the best of mountain biking. While you are focused on the task of navigating the trail's paint-on-rock markers and cleaning its many obstacles, the encompassing scenery is constantly vying for your attention. Colossal sandstone monuments and shadow-filled gorges can be seen framing Zion Canyon from numerous locations. Temples of the Virgin rise as sacred shrines and the Kolob Canyons blaze in the setting sun. The route's terminus, Gooseberry Point, overlooks the Virgin River's scenic complexity. There are fault-bound mesas separated by deep valleys and vermillion escarpments carved into fanciful convolutions and cockscomb-like ridges. The distant Pine Valley Mountains Wilderness interrupts the arid motif with a swollen alpine acclivity.
Gooseberry Mesa can be accessed from Zion National Park by taking Bridge Road south from Rockville (three miles west of the park) or by taking UT 57 southeast of Hurricane.
By Gregg Bromka, author of The Mountain Biker's Guide to Utah.
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