Let It Ride: These Utah Mountain Bike Trails Are Sure Bets
Dec 16, 2021
By: Melinda Rhodes
You’ve mastered every twist and turn on your local trails. Cleaned every creek crossing. Landed every ladder jump. It’s time to huck it somewhere different. Whether you’re in search of diamond doubletracks for those knobby 26ers or snowy singletracks better suited for plus-size rollers, a quick trip to one of these MTB destinations in Utah is exactly what an advanced rider like you needs to get out of your riding rut.
Moab | Southeastern Utah
Of course the list starts here. Devoted mountain bikers from around the world come to ride this outdoor mecca. There are lots of expert-level mountain biking trails here, but The Whole Enchilada is perhaps the most famous. Your quads will be screaming as you make some tough climbs. But you’ll soon be hollering “halle-freakin-lujah” as you descend into a sandstone canyon. Still, the terrain is tricky whether you’re going up or down. And 34 miles is a long ride no matter how comfortable your saddle is. But if you have the mettle to pedal this trail in its entirety — or even just the Porcupine Rim portion — you’ll be treated to some awesome scenery and have some super sweet rest-day brags.
Speaking of sweet, all five of the Choice Hotels in Moab serve hot breakfasts for free. Stir some brown sugar into your oatmeal or grab a pastry to complement your coffee. Either way, your tastebuds will be satisfied and you’ll be ready to whale … errr, wail … the Captain Ahab trail next.
Towards Thee I Roll →
Vernal | Northeastern Utah
No offense to Moab’s amazing MTB scene, but it ain’t the only place to find slickrock. Located just north of Red Fleet State Park, Red Fleet Loop is an undulating singletrack with tight turns, pulchritudinous panoramas and sections of slickrock. Parts of the trail are flowy and playful (Lookin’ at you, Jazz Chrome Molly!), while others are technical and challenging (Cursing your rocky climbs, J-Boy!). The 7.5-mile loop is perfect for those who want a spicy ride, but maybe not an entire serving of a certain tortilla-filled, sauce-covered cuisine. Ya know?
After your ride, head to Comfort Inn & Suites Vernal or Quality Inn Vernal. Soak your old bones in the hot tub and do a few laps in the pool before retiring to your room for the night. In the morning, check out even older bones at Dinosaur National Monument’s Quarry Exhibit Hall. Be sure to ask the rangers what kind of dinosaurs love mountain biking. (Velo-ciraptor.) Or skip the bad jokes and make your way down to Fantasy Canyon for a short hike through unique formations that can only be described as otherworldly.
Take Me To Your Leader →
Salt Lake City | Northern Utah
Go from town to trail in mere minutes when you stay at Comfort Inn Downtown or Quality Inn Downtown and rent a bike from Canyon Sports, which is practically next door. There are plenty of restaurants nearby as well, perfect for pre-ride carb loading. Then make your way to the Bonneville Shoreline Trail — specifically, the section dubbed The Bobsled. Like the winter sport it’s named after, this black-diamond mountain bike trail offers a swift descent on a narrow, twisting track with banked turns. It begs you to go faster. Feel the rhythm. Feel the rhyme. Jump a rusted-out car … it’s Bobsled time! (Really, mon. The trail includes a number of big features, including jumps over junkers.)
Wasatch Crest Trail also offers some of the best mountain biking in Utah. Part of the Great Western Trail, the SLC section of (mostly) singletrack is accessible from Millcreek Canyon and Big Cottonwood Canyon. You’ll wish your head could swivel like a great horned owl because there are vertiginous views in every direction from the ridgeline. But it’s probably best to stay focused on the trail while your wheels are in motion on this adrenaline-filled ride.
Singletrack Mind →
Cedar City and Hurricane | Southern Utah
So many choices. First, decide which one of the five Choice Hotels in Cedar City you want to stay at. Then take your pick of several lift-serviced, lightning-fast, downhill-only courses at Brian Head Mountain Resort. Build your confidence on some of the intermediate and advanced trails before attempting Wild Flower. Don’t let the pretty name fool you. Described as “the gnarliest DH racecourse in the Utah Gravity Series” you’re definitely gonna wanna pack some body armor and a full-face helmet for this double-diamond. Gravity checks are common and even expert riders have been seen walking Wild Flower’s rock gardens from time to time.
If you think lift-serviced riding is considered cheating, there are also hundreds of miles of backcountry MTB trails in this neck of the national forest. The 33-mile Virgin River Rim Trail is accessible from Cascade Falls, Navajo Lake, Strawberry Point or Wood’s Ranch. Whether you ride some or all of it, you’ll get glimpses of Zion National Park. But Gooseberry Mesa, located south of Cedar City in the Hurricane area, is the closest you’re going to get to mountain biking in Zion, Utah. This must-ride trail combines serpentine single track with technical slickrock and offers birds-eye views of the most popular park in our six-sided state.
Red Rock Me Like a Hurricane →
Ogden and Huntsville | Northern Utah
You don’t have to compete in the Xterra USA Championship to ride the same loop as elite athletes do each summer. Start at Snowbasin Mountain Resort and head toward Sardine Peak. A series of switchbacks on the way down the 13-mile loop will test your corner confidence and have you squealing louder than brakes with misaligned calipers.
Most of the multi-use trails surrounding Snowbasin are open year-round. You can ski at the resort one day and the next day ride a fat-tire bike nearby. The Ice Box Canyon Loop is especially beautiful in winter (and fall). It can be accessed via the Wheeler Creek trailhead in Ogden Canyon or from the Art Nord trailhead in Huntsville. But there isn’t a high-rise hotel to be found in Huntsville. So if you wanna stay and play in this area, look for vacation rentals or get a room at one of the Choice Hotels in the Ogden vicinity. Rumor has it that Ogden’s Historic 25th Street area is one of the most haunted in America. Some may find it spooky, but O-Town is really a ….
Spoke-tacular City →
Green River and The Swell | Central Utah
Though central Utah might not be the first place you think of for mountain biking, the area is an epicenter for epic adventures — hikeable slot canyons, likeable pictographs and bikeable rim trails. Not to mention the fishable, raftable Green River. For those who’d rather come back to a comfortable bed and a hot shower than pitch a tent in the middle of nowhere, Comfort Inn Green River is your kinda place. It’s located about 45 minutes from The Swell, home of Utah’s “Little Grand Canyon.”
The Wedge Overlook and Good Water Rim Trail are best biked in the Goldilocks seasons (spring or fall). Summer tends to be too hot and winter tends to be too wet. But the weather in spring or fall is juuuust right. Follow the canyon edge, twisting and turning through the sagebrush and slickrock. Though not as technical as other rides on the list, the dramatic vistas of the canyon and river more than make up for it.
A Swelluva Place →
Choice Hotels is one of the oldest hotel chains in the country and has several properties located near the best mountain bike trails in Utah. Start planning your MTB getaway today!.