When we talk about St. George, most folks immediately think of the two big draws which both happen to be in the Hurricane area, about 30 minutes north east of town: Gooseberry Mesa and Little Creek Mesa. Additionally, the JEM trail system is up there, as is Guacamole and Grafton Mesa, so it’s no wonder the area west of St. George often gets overlooked.
That said, the two main trail systems west of town are some of our favorites in the area, and provide a great mix of riding compared to the slickrock mesas of Hurricane. In Santa Clara (just a few miles west of St. George, essentially a suburb) you’ll find two main rides that we love, described below with some pictures and video to show you the goods.
Barrel Roll – Sidewinder – Suicidal Tendencies
Don’t worry, the ride isn’t as bad as the name makes it sound. The climbs are fairly mellow with some technical spots mixed in, but there’s nothing that will get your heart racing unless you’re really hammering. The combination of trails are a stacked-loop system that get progressively more difficult as you climb up the anticlines, with Suicidal Tendencies and sections of Sidewinder being the most difficult.
The crux of the ride is the “valley” of Suicidal Tendencies, which can be seen in the video that BKXC put out called “The Scariest Switchback”:
With a few tight switchbacks, some large boulders to maneuver around, and some steeper rock rollers, it’s definitely the toughest section on the ride. But it’s also the most fun, and remember- POV video does a great job of making cliff edges seem closer than they are in real life!
Once you complete the Suicidal Tendencies loop, you’ll head back down and then turn north (left) onto Sidewinder, which is a well-built trail that offers shorter climbs and tough descents. It’s one of our favorite loops in the area because the views are incredible, and the riding is super fast and fun!
Overall, you’ll get a 14-15 mile ride with about 2,000 feet of climbing, which is unusual in the St. George area since most of the riding is very flat with only quick ups and downs. If you really hammer, you can finish the ride in under two hours- but we like to take our time, enjoy the scenery, and finish the ride over the course of a beautiful afternoon. There are enough spots to “session” if you want as well, which only improves your technical skills! Oh, and don’t forget- there’s a sweet 1.5 mile downhill back to the bottom of the fire road at the end… hopefully your friends don’t mind driving the car down!
The Zen Trail
Sitting about five miles south of the Santa Clara loops, the Zen Trail is a true masterpiece: if you want to up your high-speed technical riding skills, this is the trail for you. The trail itself is only a 6-mile loop, but you can easily combine it with the Barrel Trail for a 13-14 mile ride that takes about 2.5 hours.
Beginning with a fairly stiff climb on the north side of the Zen anticline, the trail definitely makes you put in the time to enjoy the fruits of your labor. Expect a 30-35 minute climb to the top, with one small downhill mixed in to give you a sense of what you’re going to get from the top.
Once you top out on the Zen Trail, you’ll get a few miles of very technical riding that will see what you’re made of: steep rollers, chunky terrain, fast chunder, and tight switchbacks that keep your speed in check. All the while, you’ll be riding above St. George with views into Snow Canyon State Park and Zion Nat’l Park, so make sure you keep your eyes on the trail!
There are a few spots that are tough to ride the first time you see them- so take a few minutes to find the line and session if you want to! Once you near the bottom, look for a small cairn on the side of the trail where you’ll take a hard left, and traverse across the bottom rocky section for another mile or so of fun rocky singletrack and slickrock. The Zen Trail keeps you on your toes the whole time!