Four Corners mountain biking

May 5, 2004
Outside Magazine
Week of June 13-19, 1996
Grand Teton guides
Preparing for Manitoba
Fat-tire rides in Crested Butte
Hiking in Illinois
Paddle trips with kids
Four Corners mountain biking

Four Corners mountain biking
Question: We plan on meeting up with a friend in Houston in mid-July. Either just before or just after we meet up with him, we're looking to make a side trip to go mountain biking (intermediate or advanced level). One possibility is to fly nonstop to Dallas and bike around the Dallas-Fort Worth area. Another option that has me curious is the northeast area of Arizona, northwest New Mexico, southeast Utah, or southwest Colorado. We're looking for three to four days of great biking.

Rick Binning
North Vancouver, B.C., Canada
[email protected]

The Porcupine Rim Trail is
a classic Moab challenge

Adventure Adviser: Unless you're partial to stinking hot weather, blistering sunshine, and less than mediocre mountain biking, stay as far away from Dallas and Fort Worth as humanly possible.

The reason you're probably curious about the Four Corners region, as this area's been dubbed, is because it's home to some of the best fat-tire riding in the country.

One primo example is the Valley of the Gods loop, a 26.7-mile, moderately challenging spin along Cedar Mesa in southeastern Utah that makes a great addition to a biking stint in Moab, just up the road. While the temperatures will still be a major stumbling block, at least you'll be distracted by the spectacular rock formations--not to mention great riding--along the way.

Start at the junction of Utah 261 and 316 and ride west on 261 toward Cedar Mesa until the highway starts climbing. At this point, hang a right along a narrow, winding dirt road toward Valley of the Gods. Keep pedaling to the saddle separating Castle Butte from Cedar Mesa, past Rooster and Setting Hen Buttes, to the view--at mile 19--of Valley of the Gods and Monument Valley. Continue on to Mexican Hat Junction and the intersection with Utah 261, where you'll turn right to pedal back to your car.

Up north in Moab, self-proclaimed mountain bike mecca, there are about a gazillion rides to choose from. Almost. A good bet there is the Porcupine Rim Trail, a challenging 21-mile loop that'll have you grinding from 3,970 to 6,810 feet, including a four-mile climb to Porcupine Rim (great views of Arches National Park and Castle Rock from here) and down a screaming, rocky descent to the Colorado River. From there, it's a well-deserved road-spin back to town.

Across the border in Colorado, you can't go wrong with the 23-mile Hermosa Creek Trail, that starts just north of Durango near Purgatory Ski Resort. From U.S. 550 at the ski area, take unpaved 578 to the trailhead in Purgatory Campground. Once you're on your bike, you'll pass Corral Draw and its stellar fishing holes to a stream crossing. Take the west trail along the creek, up some hairy switchbacks to a right hook along the South Fork of the Hermosa Trail. Brave a steep climb and a hairy descent to Dutch Creek Bridge and up again for the longest climb of the ride, to an uphill left-hand fork that'll bring you to FR 576. From here, it's an easy pedal to U.S. 550 in Hermosa. If you've left a second car here, you can call it a day. If not, prepare yourself for a good--or not so good--20 miles or so of road riding north to your car at Purgatory Campground.

For other suggested rides in the general vicinity, pick up a copy of the 1996 Mountain Bikers Almanac (Grant Wolf, Inc.; $19.95).

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