Trip Report: February Mountain Bike Mission to Southern Utah
Utah really is a magical place. Sometimes I hate it, but most of the time I am pretty stoked. I have to hand it to them; the Mormons picked a dialed spot. The state’s varied terrain, moderate climate, beauty, and people (especially the people) make Utah a truly unique place. When you get down to the nitty-gritty, there is a reason why people come to Utah for a winter and then never leave. Once you break out past the ski resorts and see what Utah truly has to offer, you get pretty pumped on being stoked all the time.
I am what you call a “weekend warrior.” Sadly, I jumped the gun and got all professional after college with a silly real job that includes things like “water cooler gossip”, little to no sunlight, horrible office team building activities, and a work structure that keeps me staring blindly at screens from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Actually my job is pretty rad but it really makes me appreciate my weekends. When I heard that our office would be closed on President’s Day, my extremely large and smart brain immediately started thinking about how to get out of Park City.
As cool as Park City is during the winter (and it is pretty cool), the town tends to be a bit of a cluster-fuck come holiday times. President’s Day is the perfect example: The town’s population swells, the lift lines are horrendous, and I yell at transplanted cab drivers for speeding through Old Town in a drunken rage starting well into the night. President’s Day weekend is the opportune time to hit I-15 with mountain bikes and head south to soak in some southern Utah sun.
We had it all planned out. At 5 a.m. on Saturday we would start driving with our mountain bikes on board. The Adventure Mazda would be our getaway car and we would get breakfast burritos at Beto’s in Heber. Once the essentials were out of the way, our sites would be set on Virgin and St. George, UT. This trip is easy; driving here only takes about five hours and we were on the trails by noon the same day.
One of the true beauties of Southern Utah, besides being snow free year round, is that there is BLM land everywhere, which means you can camp just about anywhere. We found a new zone, a sweet camping site on North Creek that is right off of Kolob Terrace Road. This camping site also happens to be right across the street from the original Redbull Rampage zone. Find it and stay there, this camping site was a lot of fun.
After setting up Tent City my buddy Adam and I drove on to find the Grafton Messa Trail. I had never ridden it and it sounded like a lot of fun. This trail is fucking terrifying. I like to think that I’m a good mountain biker, I’ve taught youth camps and given private lessons to add to my credibility. But Park City’s endless ribbons of smooth single-track don’t always build on one’s technical skills. So to be on Grafton Messa and pushing it on big rocky lines on the edges of cliffs that fall/disappear into an endless abyss was pretty exhilarating. All said and done, the Grafton Messa Trail is super fun and a must for those of you who like rocky, fast descents. I recommend a bigger bike with lots of travel, at least six inches.
Next up we hit the old Redbull Rampage zone. Hike-a-biking around this area is really fun and eye opening. And I got a sweet feeling after recognizing lines built by pros like Wade Simmons and Cedric Gracia that I had only seen ridden in videos. Adam and I stuck to the mellower lines that our prissy carbon trail bikes could handle. We aptly called them “children’s lines.” They were less terrifying but still provided us with an accomplished feeling. We hit some jumps, skidded some steep pitches, and generally had an awesome time that left us with big ear-to-ear grins. Getting into Utah’s red dirt and having freedom to ride whatever you want is very empowering as a mountain biker.
We rode some of the trails in St. George and got really lost. They have a serious lack of signage. The Barrel Trail is and will forever have a special place in my heart: Berms, jumps, drops, technical rock stuff conducive of Southern Utah, and an all around good time. The Barrel Trail is a must if you’re in the St. George area.
But by far, the most fun trail we rode was Nephi’s Twist. When the Mormons came to Utah, they brought the angel Nephi who just happened to like mountain biking and he cut his own “twist” into the red dirt of Utah. This trail makes you go really fast on some very exposed spines and steep pitches. We lapped Nephi’s Twist multiple times, the trail has a convenient up-trail that makes riding it multiple times really quick and easy.
In the End
While I do think we could have planned our trip out better and hit some other really fun trails, I left feeling content. Not only had I put my tires in the dirt, but also I had taken part in what makes Utah such a cool state to live in. I went mountain biking in February and in less than half a days drive I would be back to some of the best skiing in the world. Virgin Utah is in the shadow of Zion National Park, another sweet spot that is worth checking out if you can. While I don’t think that I could never live in Southern Utah, a trip to the desert every couple of months should be mandatory for residents of this state. The people are nice, the air is clean, you don’t get very good cell service, and there is a calming aura emanating from all the red rocks. Good times were had and I can’t wait to go back!
I always have to thank Adventure’s First Stop for keeping us stocked with beetle-kill firewood, Hurricane beer (it’s like sparkling water with a low alcohol percentage), marshmallows, and a place to poop in the morning.
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