Mountain Biking Gooseberry Mesa | Bucket List Riding

The mountain biking at Gooseberry Mesa (Trailforks Link) is unlike anything else in the world. The landscape is completely unique, even among the already diverse Utah riding styles we have in the mountains and the deserts. But how could a mesa, with only 100 feet of elevation gain from trailhead to point, have nearly 700 feet of climbing on the average ride? Well the answer to that is short, steep, and out-of-the-saddle punchy climbs that highlight the entire trail system, that’s how. And though that might sound like most riders’ nightmare, I’m here to explain why the slickrock trails at Gooseberry Mesa is a must-ride for every mountain biker’s bucket list.

First off, where is this hidden mountain biking Mecca? Well if you’ve ever heard of Zion National Park, then you know the area in Southern Utah for starters. Gooseberry is a Mesa in Apple Valley, UT, which is A 30 minute drive from Hurricane, UT. Where you pull off the main road, and drive 6 miles up a bumpy dirt road. But once you’re there, it’s everything you could ask for in a weekend mountain bike getaway. On the top of the Gooseberry Mesa there are dozens of free, Public Land camping outside and within the trail system! Not to mention, there’s even a Yurt you can rent! But camping aside, we go here to ride, and the riding won’t disappoint.

The riding here is a mixture of blue and black trails, and I would not recommend taking beginner riders here. And starting from the main trailhead, the trails circumnavigate the mesa, as well as sprawl out like an intricate spider web from end to end. To give you an idea of what to expect, a normal loop ride of mine would be to head out on the South Rim Trail, where the single track immediately transported to the surface of the moon. The trail, marked only by colored paint stripes on the slickrock, crosses over giant, slickrock craters that can be best described as what Neil Armstrong must have observed on his moon landing. Immediately after that, you get challenged with consecutive ledges that climb only 10 feet, but require a fair bit of skill, power, and above all else, traction, to clean this feature. And after a bit of single track climbing, through the piñon pines and desert sage brush, you are rewarded with a chunk, rocky, and winding singletrack descent! And this is all within the first mile, and probably will take you a 20+ minutes.

I cannot stress this enough, please prepare for a long day on the bike when riding Gooseberry, even if the trail statistics say 10 mile and 500’ vert, this will easily take 3-5 hours because of how difficult the riding is and how hard maintaining speed can be. I’m sure if you ride solo, it’ll go faster, but Gooseberry is some of the best riding with a group, because every feature becomes a group challenge to see which one of your friends bails or cleans it! Admittedly, I’m sure this is the real reason riding here takes so long.

To continue with an average ride, the South Rim Trail forks at the intersection with Hidden Canyon, where the trail skirts along the edge of the mesa. For 2 miles, you try to climb technical features with only a 1,000ft of air to your side. Talk about high risk! But after navigating this section, you reach the penultimate feature at the point of the mesa, a panoramic view of the stunning desert landscape! The distinct orange and red rocks of Zion National Park to the east and Snow Canyon State Park to the west. But at this point, you’re only halfway. And there is so much more fun to be had, especially if you take the North Rim Trail back down to the trailhead. Where the South Rim Trail is pure technical, challenging riding, the North Rim Trail is all desert flowing singletrack along the mesa rim, with huge drop-offs to the left! The trail flows over rock gardens, gravel sections, and tunneling through the tree canopy. Plus, the endless views of Zion make the whole trip worth it! Finish off the loop on the fun section of Bowls and Ledges to challenge you some more before hitting back to the trailhead, and then back to camp, all via you bike!

All in all, this typical ride will be about 11 miles with 700 vertical feet of climbing. I want to stress again that this is expert terrain and will take you 3-5 hours to complete, but will result in memories that will last a lifetime. Other variations on this mesa, and can’t miss trails, are Hidden Canyon, Gander, and the real challenging (no-flow to be found) Secret Trail. And one last tip on for your visit, I would recommend riding the 7 mile Blue Trail loop on Wire Mesa as a bonus! It’s an amazing trail, for all skill levels, with ride arounds for the expert features, and even better views of Zion than on Gooseberry Mesa! To wrap up, truly my favorite part about Gooseberry is the ability to camp so close or within the trail system. You can go out for a morning ride, go back to camp for lunch, then head out again for an evening ride or two, then come back to a campfire with all your friends! Doesn’t get much better than that.

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