Guest Blog: The Five Most Challenging Trails in the Southwest

As a region, the Southwest nails it when it comes to mountain biking. If one area is snowed out for a few months, you can still find incredible trails within a few hours of you. If you’re tired of roasting in the desert sun in July, you can always find cooler weather and great rides up in Lake Tahoe. Here are the most challenging trails in the region, from California to Colorado.



Porcupine Rim (Moab, UT)



Porcupine Rim has been Moab’s golden egg for decades. The excitement you get shuttling to the top for the first time matches the excitement you get when you shuttle it for the tenth time. Some of it is slow, steep, and chunky, while other parts are fast, open, and still chunky. Some of the hardest technical parts of the trail are towards the bottom.

Once you’ve been on the bike for four hours and want nothing more than a beer and some chili cheese fries, you start to hit the most extreme section that Porcupine Rim has to offer.  You have to pull out some grit to get through tight notches and steep drops on your way through this trail.



Hangover Trail (Sedona, AZ)



Hangover Trail is kind of like riding on the edge of a cliff. On Mars. With a lot of pointy objects that want to knock your handlebars and cranks, and threaten to throw you off the side.

It starts with a little bit of flow and some very short and punchy climbs. At the crest of these punchy parts, there’s often big rocks that make them even more challenging, but if challenging is your game, then give Hangover a try.




Portal (Moab, UT)


There’s a sign at the top of Portal trail in Moab. It says, “DISMOUNT NOW. Not suitable for biking. 200 FOOT CLIFF. Three riders have died here.” Listen to the sign. This is a good trail for very advanced and confident riders. Not riders that aren’t confident enough, and not riders that are overly confident, (we all have that friend).

With that disclaimer, there are some incredible views and tight, challenging trails sections to be had here, so like a bottle of 190 proof alcohol, enjoy responsibly.



Free Lunch (Grand Junction, CO)



Hungry for some rocks? Free Lunch is a downhill-only, double black trail out in the Lunch Loops network in Grand Junction, Co. Start with a filter feature, then send it into the next mile of technical fun.

There are big drops, smaller drops, and really anything you can imagine to jump off of .Go back up for another lap, or check out one of many other trails in the Lunch Loops area. Each Lunch Loops trail has it’s own unique characteristics.  While you’re in the area, don’t forget to visit Fruita to experience legendary trails like Zippity Do Da and Horsethief Loop, as well as the 18 Roads Campground.



Zen Trail (St. George, UT)


The St. George area is blowing up as another mountain bike destination.  Keep this one in mind as a winter destination for some nice, cool desert temperatures if your local trails get snowed out.


Zen Trail mixes up some flow and rocks, and man made features with a swath of open views. Tight rock pinches and channels make it challenge in some spots. At six miles and a thousand feet of elevation change though, it makes for a quick loop, without breaking your legs off with a lot of climbing.


When in doubt, cover your eyes, and move your index finger around all of the destinations listed here. Stop on one, pack up, and go. You won’t regret riding in any of these places in the Southwest, especially if you take your bike out on one of these seven trails. Enjoy.




Author Bio:

Mountain Bike Vacations was developed by a team of mountain bike enthusiasts to share their insights on how others can make the most of their mountain bike adventures, and they’ve got some great information if you’re planning a trip to any of these locations. For more, you can follow them on Facebook and Instagram.


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AUTHOR: Steve Mokan

Steve is the owner (and founder) of Chasing Epic Mountain Bike Adventures, and contributes regularly to our blog. He's passionate about providing customers with incredible mountain bike vacations, and he loves photography and travel when he's not working. Truthfully, he loves those things when he is working too.