Pilgrimage to mountain biking mecca: Moab, Utah

May 5, 2004
Outside Magazine
Week of May 2-9, 1996
Pilgrimage to mountain biking mecca: Moab, Utah
City dwellers' salvation: Canoeing in New Hampshire
Adventure hikes at the Grand Canyon
East Coast beach vacations
Rafting Colorado's Animas River
Planning your next family-style ski vacation

Pilgrimage to mountain biking mecca: Moab, Utah
Question: Help! After too many wet and gray Seattle days, I'm looking for a sun-filled mountain bike adventure. Any suggestions for a four-day mountain bike camping trip in Utah, Arizona, or New Mexico? Thanks.

Katharine Petersen
Seattle, WA
[email protected]

The challenging Porcupine Rim Trail is
one of a gazillion great day rides
in the Moab area

Adventure Adviser: If I had to name a place that was about as far from Seattle in climate and terrain as possible, I'd probably pick Moab, Utah, with its brilliant (bordering on unrelenting) sunshine, baking temperatures, and stark redrock canyons (read: no temperate rainforests around here, thank you very much).

Lucky for you, it just so happens to be America's mountain biking mecca and a place you'll be hard-pressed to leave after only four days. Still, now's the time to head down there before summer arrives in all its scorching glory--in about three weeks. There are practically a billion (slight exaggeration) great day rides to choose from, many of which are bikeable right from booming downtown Moab.

If you're looking for a multiday trip, however, your best bet is the White Rim Trail, a challenging, 105-mile round-trip loop along the sandstone rim overlooking the Green and Colorado rivers. This time of year, it might be wise to sign on with one of Rim Mountain Bike Tours' van-supported group trips, since scant water supply, warm temperatures, and intense aridity can make riding it solo a major feat. Call 801-259-5223 for trip information.

If you opt for the unsupported route, know that primitive campsites along the trail now require reservations, so call ahead to check availability. Leave your car at the Island in the Sky Ranger Station, sign in, and pedal north on paved Utah 313 about seven miles to the west turnoff to Horsethief Trail and Mineral Bottom/Mineral Canyon. From there, you'll enjoy a hair-raising 12-mile descent to Horsethief Bottom, where you'll see a sign pointing left to the White Rim Trail--the loop that will have you pedaling through sometimes-deep sand, past scrub cactus and yucca, through Potato Basin, Holeman Spring Basin, and Buck Canyon, and back to Island in the Sky. Since water potholes can be extremely scarce, it's a good idea to check in with rangers for water-finding tips, as well as detailed maps and weather updates before you go.

If you're looking for day trips, consider the 11.4-mile out-and-back Poison Spider Mesa trail, a technically difficult spin that starts from the Dinosaur Tracks sign on Utah 279, about ten miles southwest of town, or the 13.7-mile Gemini Bridges loop. For more details, pick up a copy of Latitude 40's Moab West and Moab East maps (303-258-7909), or call the Moab ranger station at 801-259-7164.

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