Rad Rides, Eats & More - The Vital MTB Guide To Southwest Utah
Earlier this year, five members of the Vital MTB test crew met in the Utah desert with the crazy goal of putting 22 trail and all-mountain bikes through the wringer to see what they were made of. You've seen the Test Session reviews, and now we want to take you behind the scenes for a quick look at the testing grounds and a budding mountain bike destination.
Located in the Southwest corner of Utah, the small town of Hurricane is a pretty rad place to visit. If you're willing to drive a little, there is a ton to ride, especially when you mix in the nearby Saint George area trails. In fact, by the time you get there, there will probably be more trails because the locals enjoy building and the trail networks are expanding every day. Heck, even the Sheriff builds and rides (edit that - he shreds!). Let this serve as a loose guide to get you rolling. Oh yeah, when you get into town, remember that it's pronounced "Hur-kan" and you'll already have a little local knowledge under your belt.
Where To Ride
In no particular order, here are a handful of rides that are well worth a spin:
Grafton Mesa - Perhaps our favorite trail in the area, Grafton Mesa offers up enough gnar for just about anyone. Up top, there's some rolling singletrack that twists between sagebrush and over some tricky rock piles. About halfway down the trail gets really exciting, mixing some high speed rock hopping interspersed with a handful of optional drops and jumps. Diving into the valley below, the rock bashing kicks up quite a few notches. As you reach the bottom of the valley, speeds increase big time and lead way to some fun optional lines on the immediate sides of the trail. When you get to the bottom, keep an eye out for a few big hits you've likely seen in the movies. Route finding can be a little difficult in the middle section, so it's best to tag along with a local if you can. Shuttle it, ride up, or make the jaunt from nearby Gooseberry Mesa. Watch it here.
JEM Trail - JEM is one of those classic trails that everyone should ride at least once. It's low on tech but high on fun, especially if you're on a smaller bike. Think winding trail through the desert that lets you really put some power down. Holding on through the dusty turns is a blast, as is manualing the rollers found all over the trail. Can be shuttled, done as an out and back, or hooked up with other trails for a big ol' loop. Watch it here.
Hurricane Rim - Accessible from JEM or as an out and back, this trail offers great views of the Hurricane Canal and the small nearby town of La Verkin. It's one of the closest rides to town. We'd rate this one mid way through the tech scale, with a good number of volcano-like rock sections and a few punchy climbs that'll test your handling skills on the way towards town.
Nephi's Twist - If you missed your invite to Rampage, this one will allow you to get your fill of desert ridge riding. It's littered with jumps, drops, steep rollers, and a few knife-edged ridge lines that will likely make you pucker. This trail is way up on the gnarly scale thanks to quite a few high-consequence maneuvers, so definitely ride with a buddy. Finding the trail can be a little tricky with no official signage, so swing by the shop or ask a local. You'll likely want to shuttle it. Once at the bottom, head to the right and you just might see a few more big moves from the movies. Watch it here.
Guacamole - This is a very unique ride in the sense that we haven't ridden much like it outside of the Hurricane area. The network of trails consists of a never-ending series of steep ups, downs, and g-outs across some undulating Slickrock-esque terrain. Following a local will likely expose some trailsy moves just to the side of the dots that really make the ride fun.
Gooseberry Mesa - Much like Guacamole but probably ten times more famous, Gooseberry Mesa is pretty much one huge natural skatepark. Connect the dots as you cruise along the rock, and really pump the transitions to make it flow well. There are some fun singletrack bits along the canyon rims on either side that allow you to pick up the speed some. If you're looking to camp, this is one of the best areas to do it. Know that you'll need a vehicle with some decent ground clearance as the dirt access road can be a bit bumpy.
Zen Trail - Located near Saint George, Zen offers some incredible views and riding. As you weave your way up, over, and through giant boulders, you really do get the sense that you're in a massive Zen garden. High-speeds, technical rock moves, a few sizable hits and large g-outs await you on the short but sweet descent. We'd rate this one pretty techy as well, and it's one of the most varied trails we found in the area.
Barrel Ride - Those looking to log some hang time will appreciate this one the most. Located just a short pedal from Zen Trail, Barrel Ride has about a dozen or so jumps, drops, and gaps mixed in with some wide open singletrack. Let 'er rip!
Barrel Roll / Sidewinder - For another fun cruiser near Saint George, check out this area. Relatively smooth for most of the ride, this combo is a hoot to rally down with dozens of turns and a few good rocky sections mixed in. Several options branch off the trails, so look at a map before heading out.
Little Creek - While we didn't get to ride this trail due to some snow at higher elevations, the local crew talked it up big time, so we know it's worth a look.
Rhythm and Blues - Think giant spaghetti bowl. Seriously. This trail weaves up, over, and around the foothills just outside of town. Even though it's a short loop, dozens of short, punchy climbs meshed with equally fast mini descents and tight turns will get your heart beating in no time. It's like a little roller coaster at speed, but watch out for the handful of tricky rock sections or they'll catch you off guard.
Where To Shop, Get Trail Beta & Demo Rides
Need to score a tube, get your brakes bled, grab an espresso, find out how the trails are doing or get directions? Hit up Over The Edge Sports. They also have an impressive demo fleet if you're looking to ride something new or don't have your steed with you. Quentin, Jordan, Clayton, and Deaj will set you up! Ask about their shop rides for a good time on two wheels.
Where To Eat
There isn't much in the way of amazing grub in the Hurricane area, but if you know where to go you'll find some gems. Here are a few of our favorites:
Main Street Cafe - If you're jonesing for breakfast or lunch, this one is hard to beat. Friendly, quick service, delicious food, and perhaps the "best burger" in Southwestern Utah. Be sure to give a high five to the owners - they ride bikes, too.
River Rock Roasting Company - Located just a short drive from Hurricane in nearby La Verkin, this is the go-to place if you're on the hunt for fresh coffee. Aunt Becky's cinnamon rolls are amazing, as is the view from their porch.
Triple TJ's Cafe - Open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, Triple TJ's is one of a few places you'll find the locals on any given day. Try out the ribs. You'll love 'em.
Read The In-Depth Bike Reviews From Our 2013 Test Sessions
2013 Intense Tracer 27.5
2013 Rocky Mountain Altitude 790 MSL
2013 Kona Process
2013 Niner RIP 9 RDO
2013 Airborne HobGoblin
2013 Norco Range Killer B
2013 Giant Trance X 29 0
2013 Commencal Meta SX 1
2013 BMC Trailfox TF02 Trailcrew
2013 Felt Virtue 1
2013 Specialized Stumpjumper Expert Carbon EVO
2013 Pivot Mach 5.7
2013 Scott Genius 720
2013 Mondraker Foxy XR
2013 Santa Cruz Tallboy LTc
2013 Diamondback Sortie 3 29
2013 GT Force LE
2013 Yeti SB66 Carbon Race
2013 Knolly Chilcotin
2013 Ibis Mojo SL-R
2013 Trek Fuel EX 9.8
2013 Cannondale Jekyll MX
Cheers to all who made our 2013 Test Sessions a success, and thanks to the town of Hurricane and Saint George for playing host to our hijinx. You guys have some rad stuff going on and we'll be back!
Got anything to add? Leave your Hurricane and Saint George must ride trails, shops, camping spots, restaurants and tips in the comments.