Although St. George is one of the best riding spots in the desert southwest, it’s a relative unknown when compared to its nearby brethren of Sedona and Moab. That said, the riding in the St. George area has incredible diversity, as does the landscape surrounding the town. If you count Hurricane, which sits only 10-15 minutes north, you have enough trail options to fill up a week or more.
From the mesa riding of Gooseberry and Little Creek to the anticline trails of Santa Clara and Green Valley, St. George offers something for all riding level. Hell, even the best riders in the world are challenged by the world-class terrain here with the Redbull Rampage! But I digress, since I nor anyone I know will never think of riding any of that stuff! We’ll stick to the top rides for us mere mortals, ones you’re sure to hit on one of our St. George trips in the Spring or Fall.
Barrel and Zen Trails
Sitting just a few minutes west of St. George sits an amazing set of anticlines that stick out like sore thumbs, and offer some of the most fun and technical riding in the area. By itself, the 6-mile Zen Trail is one of our favorites. But combine it with an extended climb and another rip-roarin’ descent down the Barrel Trail? You’ve got a surefire smile on your face for 15 miles, and plenty of stories to tell as you enjoy a beer later that night.
Starting off at the main Zen TH, the ride includes some easy traversing in the northerly direction, to the main climb to the top of the Barrel Trail. Most folks choose to climb a combination of fire road and singletrack, which can get “grunty” at times and is one of the toughest climbs in the area. However, it’s all relative as the trail climbs less than 700 feet overall. Trust us, it’s worth it! As you head down Barrel, stay on your toes because there are quite a few techy spots that can get you in trouble if you’re not paying attention. It’s a combination of super fast singletrack and technical rocky areas, with a couple of “play areas” near the bottom that offer gap jumps and table tops. Yeah, we chose the ride-arounds on those!
After you hit the bottom of Barrel, you’ll head south to the main climb of the Zen Trail. It’s a pretty mellow spin up to the top; the bottom half is fairly smooth and easy, while the top half starts to get technical and gives you a taste of what to expect on the descent. The terrain changes from low-lying rocks to gigantic house-sized boulders and shelfy rock that is truly a blast to ride. The Zen Trail is one of our favorite trails anywhere, we only wish it were twice as long! Get ready for an amazing ~3 mile descent that will throw everything at you, so get ready!
Gooseberry Mesa is one of those rides that’s on every mountain biker’s bucket list… and it absolutely deserves to be. The terrain on Gooseberry Mesa will blow you away; we promise you’ll never ride anything like it, anywhere else in the world. Sitting just outside of Hurricane, Gooseberry is at the base of Zion National Park and offers amazing views of the Park as well as the other mesas in the area.
Now for the riding… to be honest, it’s hard to explain. You’ll never work so hard to climb 700 vertical feet over 15 miles in your life. The total vertical gain is minimal, if non-existent, but instead of a cardio workout, Gooseberry offers a full-body workout that will leave you beaten and bruised by the end of the day. The riding is mostly on slickrock and offers quick ups and downs, combined with some technical obstacles you’ll struggle with- but we promise you’ll love the challenge. We’ve had plenty of clients come from California and the East Coast to ride Gooseberry, and after just a mile or two, it’s like they’ve ridden this stuff for years. But trust us, there will be some bumps and bruises!
The riding on Gooseberry is mostly a combination of very quick ups and downs, lefts and rights, and drops and grunty climbs. There’s never a long stretch of climbing or descending, but that’s OK- because there’s a fun challenge around every corner. The area itself is a photographer’s dream, as it’s one of the most aesthetic trails in the country. And of course, it’s one of the staples on every Chasing Epic trip to St. George.
Little Creek Mesa… and JEM
Our guide, Monte, explains it the best: “If Gooseberry Mesa is the roller coaster, Little Creek Mesa is the entire amusement park.” Thanks Monte, that about sums up our thoughts on Little Creek too. Little Creek sits just south of Gooseberry, and is much larger in scale. To us, Little Creek seems like someone took Gooseberry Mesa and stretched it out- instead of the quick ups and downs of the Goose, Little Creek has long stretches of slickrock with ledges, valleys, and challenges you’ll want to try time and again.
Additionally, Little Creek Mesa offers a mix of diverse terrain as well, with stretches of packed sand and dirt and even some riding through vegetation and low-lying trees. There’s more “flow” than Gooseberry, but everyone has their favorites! If you surveyed all of our Chasing Epic clients, I’m willing to bet it’s an even split 50/50 between Gooseberry and Little Creek if asked their favorite between the two.
To top off every day at Little Creek, we like to run a JEM shuttle on the way back to town. We’ll get dropped off at the main (south) JEM trailhead, which means we have seven miles of almost all downhill to the Virgin River, where an ice cold beer is waiting. The trail is totally different than the slickrock of Little Creek, offering mostly smooth, fast singletrack similar to the stuff you find in Fruita. It’s a great combination for a long day of riding!