St. George Mountain Biking
- Posted On
- Jul 10, 2019
- Southern Utah
By Alyssa Erikson
The smell of moist soil soaked in snowmelt and the white landscape slowly disappears as we drive south on I-15 towards St. George, Utah. I watch the outside temperature, broadcasting on my dashboard, slowly rise, and once the rock turns from grey to orange, I finally risk rolling down my window. My hand oscillates up and down, riding the vehicular thermals like a raptor riding the warmer air from down south.
Similar to many creatures, we are part of a seasonal migration. Exchanging cold for warm, boots for Chaco’s, and skis for bikes. St. George has long been a local oasis from long, cold winters; and for good reason. Boasting an average temperature hovering around 70 degrees, the southern Utah border plays host to a myriad of National Parks, State Parks, slot canyons, adventurous hikes, scenic camping, and world-class mountain biking trails.
Iconic mountain biking trails are what bring us to the region. Our kids, ages 7, 9, and 11 years old have graduated from neighborhood streets and city bike paths. Our son specifically, is stoked to hit the single track, ride over sandstone, and drop off some rocks.
There are 300 miles of trails in and around St. George and the neighboring towns of Hurricane and Virgin. Some trails form intricate webs near town, others are long wide-open traverses of desert plateaus. At times the trails play hide-and-seek among the deep mountain shadows as they slide in and out of the canyons.
When perusing the trails online at Trail Forks, I recognize a handful of iconic black and intermediate rides such as the Zen Trail and Gooseberry Mesa. However, this trip has a different focus: mountain biking with my kids. I was hoping to find trails with small obstacles, decent flowy sections, and easy accessibility.
FOR THE KIDS… and the kid at heart
The Bearclaw Poppy Trail
Imagine a playground of trails for humans ages four to ninety-four. The Bearclaw Poppy Trail, located on the south end of St. George in Bloomington, is the perfect place to start with your kids and I promise, you will have fun as well! With miles of trails rated green through black, there is something for everyone.
The Bearclaw Poppy Trail is usually done as a loop. 2.5 miles of mild uphill is followed by 2 miles of flowy trails, jumps, and drops all the way back to the parking lot. For younger kids, you can shorten the loop by taking the Bearclaw Poppy shortcut or simply allowing them to test their skills on the spider web of trails on the bottom half of the area.
Note: Pay special attention to uphill and downhill only designated trails in the area.
DESERT SINGLE TRACK WITH A SIDE OF SOLITUDE
The JEM Trail
If you are looking to explore the greater Hurricane area, and you want to escape the crowds a bit, then head out to the JEM Trail off HWY 59, southeast of the town of Hurricane.
More Cowbell is a short green trail (3-mile loop) perfect for families and beginners. With minimal elevation gain and easy obstacles, this trail rides along the edge of a butte, with 360 degree views the entire way. Don’t forget to let your kids ring the cowbell at the end of the loop!
Note: This trail follows along the edge of a steep bluff or cliff. Please watch your children closely. Sections are easily walkable if needed.
Looking for the next step up?
Starting from the upper JEM trailhead, the JEM trail descends to the valley below and consists of smooth, easy single track as it winds through the wide-open landscape.
The JEM trail has a few difficult and steep downhill sections in the first mile or two. We helped our kids walk their bikes down these sections. However, after that, the seven miles of trail is golden! If you are uncomfortable or uncertain about riding adjacent to cliffs or steep drop-offs, skip the gorge at the end and instead take a right on the dirt road and follow it to your rendezvous.
If you have enough adults (or an adult who doesn’t mind the extra miles to retrieve the car), this trail is a great place to shuttle and it is easy on the lungs and heart. Study a map ahead of time to get an idea of where to meet your ride.
PUSHING TIN TRAIL VIA DESERT CANYON TRAIL PARKING
South of St. George, out near the airport, is a relatively new trail system accessed by the Desert Canyon Trail Parking. The Pushing Tin Trail meanders up and down rolling hills, eventually dives under the Southern Parkway through a drainage and then makes a loop.
A great ride for experienced beginners, the hills are short but provide a good challenge. Small obstacles are great for testing skills, while also remaining easy enough to walk around if needed.
Total mileage if you do the loop via the Connector trail from Desert Canyon is 5 miles round trip.
ALL NEW! Snake Hollow Bike Park
As of November 2018, Snake Hollow Bike Park is the newest and first year-round skills park in Utah! The park is located at 1500 North 2400 West, across from Snow Canyon High School.
There are four skills zones depending on skill and features: Rattler’s Revenge (dirt jump
zone), Snake Den (pump track and skills loop), Venom Drops (gravity skills) and
Sidewinder Slopestyle (gravity jump trails).
The park is family friendly, including a large pavilion for picnicking, restrooms, and paved trails.
St. George has a little bit of everything for all the bikers in our family. After a few days of riding, we load the back of our truck with our five dust-covered bikes, clap the tailgate shut, and smile at each other.
We’d headed south, riding the hopes of warm air and fun new adventures. We came looking for single track that appealed to both adult and child alike. We were looking for connection, adventure, and authentic time in the outdoors. We were not disappointed.
Alyssa Erickson is an all-around adventure lover and freelance writer with a passion for storytelling and inspiring others to live intentionally. Currently residing in Utah, she is a Colorado native with her B.A. in English Literature from the University of Colorado and is the founder of KidProject.org.