Moab is too awesome of a trip to read about it in one article. This is the continuation to Days 1 & 2.
Day 3: Captain Ahab
We took it easy in the morning and did some non-mountain bike related activities like visiting Arches National Park. Anytime you are this close to a National Park, make it a point to see what the big deal is. A little hike and sight-seeing was a nice break from two days of tough trails. Of course we didn’t stay long because we realized there are no mountain bike trails in Arches National Park. If I wanted to hike all over the place I would have bought those fancy pants that zip in half to magically become shorts (I secretly do want those).
One can assume anytime you gain elevation in Moab you’ll end up on a cliff with crazy views in all directions.
After our morning excursion we met up with some more friends to check out the somewhat new Captain Ahab trail. The trail starts by climbing up the HyMasa trail which is a well-built 3-mile climb with a nice consistent grade. After the previous two days of riding I was in full Beard Pace mode, riding within my limit to get to the top but not trying to break any speed records. I just wanted to conserve energy for the Captain Ahab downhill. Once at the top the views were pretty incredible. One can assume anytime you gain elevation in Moab you’ll end up on a cliff with crazy views in all directions.
Epic views from HyMasa climb
Once on Captain Ahab, the technical level increased and it started to get interesting. In reading reviews of this trail it sounded like an all out downhill huckfest but that wasn’t exactly the case. There was some more up and down at the start then I was expecting. As I went down the trail you could see spots where a little jump or alternate line could allow for some fun gaps and transitions. Going down the trail for the first time didn’t allow for a lot of that without pushing back up so I just enjoyed the ride and the technical challenges of each section, trying to get through it without having to stop. The ability to read a trail at speed without having to stop to scope lines is a fun challenge that I really enjoy, that is until you case a gap or get plugged up in the rocks and go over the bars. Those are kind of party stoppers. Luckily that didn’t happen today and our whole crew got down Captain Ahab unscathed. The final third of the trail starts to go back down considerably and it gets really fun. There is more exposure and at least one sign that says caution but I didn’t want to look to see what I should be cautious about. That is usually a safe assumption on 90% of Moab trails. What’s the point of riding on a mesa if you can’t ride as close as possible to the edge of that mesa as a constant reminder of “Hey! I’m on an epicly huge mesa!”
Overall this was a great trail, it’s close to town and short enough that you could do this trail in the morning and another trail in the afternoon, or hit up one of the National Parks like we did.
Day 4: Horsethief Trail
Did you know Fruita, CO is full of awesome trails? Did you also know that Fruita is only about an hour and a half from Moab, UT? This means a day trip to Fruita is easily doable, so we did it.
We headed out with a plan to explore some of the Kokopelli loops. It’s a pretty big network of trails where if you want to ride all of them you’ll have a big day ahead of you. Here is the MTB Project link on the Kokopelli area. We wanted to ride the Horsethief Bench loop for sure so off we went and quickly realized we were on the Rustler loop. No big deal it was fun and a great warm up. It had rained the night before so the dirt was at hero status. No sliding or drifting, just lean it over and dig in, a rare feeling for a Southern California rider.
The Intense Tracer 275c is the perfect rig for Moab. Strong climber, incredibly confident descender.
After we finished off the Rustler loop we started the climb up the shelf along Mary’s loop on the way to Horsethief bench. Mary’s loop was nice and meandering along the edge of the mesa again, because that’s how mesa trails work.
As you ride along Mary’s loop, overlooking the familiar Colorado River, you’ll come to a fence that signifies the drop in to Horsethief. This drop-in is only about 200 yards but is jam packed with rocks and large ledges. Most of our group got halfway down without too much trouble but the second half was a high risk proposition as it involved either a 4-foot drop to flat with no run out or you could thread the needle and hope you didn’t get hung up and go over the bars into a boulder field. During our up and down we didn’t see anyone make or even really attempt to ride down it. Consider yourself training for mountain bike cyclocross and haul your bike up and down so you can keep your clavicles in place.
Getting ready to drop into Horsethief.
The Horsethief trail is great. A lot more smooth rolling dirt singletrack with sections of rock to keep you honest. After three days of riding in Moab the smooth dirt was a really nice change of pace. There are a couple spots on the loop that may catch you off guard, and you are likely better off walking, but they are short and the rest is definitely rideable. You’ll ride up ledges, along the edge of the cliff working down closer to the river, back up through grasslands and right below the edge of Mary’s loop on the shelf above.
After we completed the 3.8-mile loop we were at a crossroad; do a shorter loop and head back on Wranglers loop, or keep going on Mary’s loop and check out Moore Fun? Since Moore Fun was rated as the most technically demanding trail in the area we figured it was worth checking out. As we started to climb up the west end of the trail it was clear this was very technical. There are times when you have a heart attack and heat stroke at the same time, and there are times when you just push your bike up the trail. I chose the second option and broke down into full Beard Pace. The spike in the elevation matched the spike in my heart rate. It didn’t help that we were climbing this rock covered sufferfest around noon in the full heat of the day with zero shade. You would think a large beard would work like the cooling fins of a Shimano XT Trail brake pad, but that was not the case.
Top of Moore’s Fun
We eventually got to the top, some of our group rode the majority of this climb others in our group did not (*cough* “me” *cough*). It was at the top that I laid under the measly shade of a 4-foot tall Pinyon-Juniper tree. It was appropriate that I was feeling half-baked while biking in Colorado.
Sometimes you just have to sit back, relax, and take it all in (or be so exhausted you have no other option).
Of course there was another amazing 360 degree view at the top. Delirium was setting in and the energy bar I had was not doing enough to stop it. Time to head down. The downhill was fun and a bit more gradual than the climb. There was some loose shaly rock, dirt and solid rock sections with tight squeezes and exposure at times. If I wasn’t so worked I would have enjoyed it more, but it had added extra miles and climbing that I wasn’t mentally prepared for. In hindsight, I would do the Moore’s Fun trail again but in the opposite direction as you have a better shot of climbing up the east side and trying to descend the steeper west side for a good challenge.
To help break up the drive back we drove to Cedar City, UT to spend the night. It was about 4 hours from Fruita and a nice halfway point. The second benefit is that we could get one more Utah trail in before throwing in the towel.
Day 5: Zen Trail
I know we didn’t get to explore all that these locations have to offer but that’s the beauty of trips, there is always more to explore.
St. George is the first town you get to when driving from Southern California to Utah, coincidentally it’s also the last town you go through before leaving the magical state of Utah. St. George is surrounded by deep red rocks around town and tall snow-covered mountains farther out. It’s nearby amazing places like Zion National Park and Virgin Utah a.k.a. home of the Redbull Rampage. St. George has plenty of riding options in and around it, but that’s another article for another time.
We were headed to one trail in particular that is not to far from the freeway, the Zen Trail. It was easily accessible, it’s not too long and allows for some more of the fun rocky riding on the edge of mesas. This wasn’t the first time for us on this trail, and it’s always worth the stop.
The trailhead is down a dirt road from the end of the paved section, once you start heading down you’ll likely see other cars down there in front of the big crack in the mesa they call “The Gap”. The trail starts off with a pretty decent climb up the left side of The Gap that continues consistently until you reach the high point at the edge of the mesa. We were riding around noon again which I don’t recommend for this trail as there is minimal shelter from the sun. If you can climb the whole thing then kudos to you because there are a couple spots that I can’t seem to get very consistently. Once at the top get in your celebratory pictures and edge of the mesa panorama, then get ready for a non-stop downhill experience.
If you’ve ever ridden Gooseberry Mesa, the Zen trail is very similar if Gooseberry was tilted to about a 20% slope. When you get down to the slickrock sections, keep an eye out for rock cairns off to your left. It’s easy to miss them when you are having fun coming down but you don’t want to miss out on the last section of singletrack. There is a steep chute with a sharp right hander that can catch you off guard. Even when looking for the first left turn on the rocks I didn’t see the one after the short technical descent and still missed the last bit of singletrack back to the “parking lot”. There really isn’t a parking lot, it’s just a dirt lot.
Me & my Intense Tracer 275c love this place.
Well, there you have it. This is just one example of our trip to explore the mountain bike mecca that is Moab with some Fruita and St. George thrown in for good measure. I know we didn’t get to explore all that these locations have to offer but that’s the beauty of trips, there is always more to explore. That means I’ll need to plan another trip in the future to go see what I missed and maybe hit up some of my favorites again. This is what I call a good problem to have. Now if I could only convince my work I could do my job remotely from a camper van?!