As I was bouncing over the rocky surface of a narrow path, covered in a red dust, I had to try to divide my attention between keeping my bike straight and minding the beautiful surroundings that I was passing by. Whilst mountain biking in Utah at the Dead Horse Point State Park, I saw the stunning lookout points that oversee the red colored canyons. On a bright day you can even see the white topped Rocky Mountains. I drove through the singletracks that are surrounded by green desert vegetation like small cactuses and plants that seem to have adapted to the drought and the burning sun. This is amazing!
Before my visit to Moab in Utah, I had never seen a view like this, except in old Western movies. Now that I was mountain biking in Utah, it turns out, I never REALLY mountain biked, until I came here.
Since I am still quite new to the US, I decided it was time to discover some new territory. So I used the 4th of July weekend for a long getaway to Moab. As this would be an outdoor weekend, I wanted to do something else, besides the usual hiking activities, so my mountainbike came along on the trip. I heard great stories about mountain biking in Utah, so I wanted to try that of course.
The adventure starts with a road trip through the Rocky Mountains
Moab lies about 350 miles/570 kilometers west of Denver. The drive from Denver to Moab is already quite impressive as it leads you through different stunning sceneries.
The moment we left Denver behind us to go mountain biking in Utah, the scenery around us changed. The green pine trees that popped up around the road, appear to climb up against the rough surface of the Rocky Mountains foothills. It immediately created an outdoor feeling while the dirt and high-rises of the city disappear behind us. The route to Moab is pretty straight forward (literally). Even if you don’t live in Denver an you want to do a road trip in the US. I think Denver would make a great starting point for a journey to the west coast. Since you come across many highlights along the way, like the national parks in Utah, the Grand Canyon and even Las Vegas.
A bit further along the road, the scenery is completed by the Colorado river, that joins us alongside the highway, for quite a big stretch of the route. As there is still snow melting in the mountains this time of the year, the river was flowing wild through the valley. A green and super lush vegetation decorates the shores of the river.
Then the landscape changes…
As you approach Grand Junction, close to the ‘border’ of Utah, you start to see immediate shifts in the landscape. Apart from around the river, the landscape turns more dusty and high, square shaped rock formations, rise up around you. We’re getting close now.
Along the way, we see plenty of outdoor lovers on the road. Pick-up trucks with tents, cars with bikes attached to them and Gigantic RV’s… HUGE RV’s… I never saw anything like that in Europe. Besides the fact that you cannot buy them, they would probably not even fit the roads over there ;-).
It is clear that adventure & outdoor life is awaits us in Utah. Everybody seems to know it as they also came prepared.
Mountain biking in Utah; the trails of Dead Horse State Park
We chose the State Park over the National Park to go mountain biking, as it had some clearly marked designated bike trails. Opposed to the National Parks, that are more suited for hiking.
First, let me assure you this: The mountain bike trails within the Dead Horse State park, are be a dream to for every mountain bike lover. Without exaggeration, this has been one of the best bike rides I ever took. Just have a look at some of my photos, they hardly needed any editing as the surroundings are beautiful enough on their own.
The first tip I can give you for mountain biking in Utah, is that we started our ride later in the afternoon around 4pm. This had two big benefits;
1.) We were alone on the trails so we could take our time without having to worry about slowing down or passing others.
2.) It was far less hot then anywhere between 11am and 3pm. During the day temperatures can rise up to 40 degrees celsius.
The first trip included the following trails:
Intrepid, Great Pyramid, Big Chief and Raven Roll.
Duration: app. 1,5 hrs.
Level: moderate, no steep climbs or tricky bends, but good fitness is required
The Intrepid trail starts from the visitor center and heads east. It starts a little bit bumpy, but it is quite manageable. As soon as you drive towards the Great Pyramid trail you will come to understand why I strongly recommend this as one of the best mountain biking experiences. The meandering trail leads you towards the Colorado River overlook and the Pyramid Canyon overlook. The trail itself is not very steep, but you will need some leg power to paddle yourself over small rock formations and through sandy paths. Some parts require some technique, but this mostly means that you have to try and balance your bike when descending from small rocks.
The route continues over the Big Chief trail that leads you to the final cherry on the cake. The Big Chief Overlook, a spectacular far sight with canyons, red rock formations and in the back the Rocky Mountains.
From there we took the fairly easy Raven Roll trail back to the vistor center.
The second trip included the following trails:
Intreprid, Prickly Pair, Twisted Tree and Whiptail
Duration: app. 2 hrs.
Level: Advanced, some tricky highly technical parts and steep rock climbs. All can be done on foot if it is too technical.
You start from the same point as the previous trip, but for this route you head west. As soon as you are on the Prickly pair you notice that this trail requires more leg power and technique in order to be able to do the small rock climbs and balance yourself while descending. This trail is fun because it requires quite some endurance and technique. The views are also spectacular, but there are less grand overviews in comparison to the first trails I would say.
The two trips together cover about 90% of the available trails within the state park. We only skipped the northern part, that can be included in any of the two trips.
While you are there, don’t forget the Dead Horse Point Overlook
Despite the fact that there is no mountain bike trail leading towards the overlook. The lookout is only a short drive away in southern direction.
After the hard labor on the bike, we relaxed and enjoyed the stunning view from the overlook. About an hour before sunset the red, almost pink, color of the rocks was highlighted even more by the sun that slowly started to set. The Colorado river was highlighted by the sun that softly touched the the bright green vegetation surrounding it. As you can see on the picture, it made for an unforgettable mesmerizing scenery.
After two active days (because we did more than just mountain biking) it was the perfect ending to our trip.