Heading out on a trip to Zion National Park? Don’t forget your mountain bike! While there is no mountain biking permitted inside the park’s boundaries, there are some of Utah’s best mountain biking trails just outside of the park for all ability levels. Get ready for epic mountain bike riding on high plateaus, slick rock, through sandstone canyons on the 3 best trail systems near Zion National Park.
Before you ride, make sure to get all of your mountain biking needs taken care of at Over the Edge Sports in Hurricane, UT. The shop is one of a small chain of excellent bike shops in the Southwestern US. The bike mechanics are friendly, extremely capable, and the shop has everything you would need to enjoy the following three trail systems trails that are all close by. Employees are mountain bikers themselves and will offer great beta based on their own personal experience of the area.
If you’re looking to go fast, enjoy the views, and not worry about climbing too much but still get in a nice section of technical switchbacks in, then the JEM Trail is for you. There are a variety of beginner/intermediate to advanced options, with quick little splits along the trails for the advanced mountain biker. JEM is a classic of the area, and has been thoughtfully designed with mountain bikers in mind- plenty of flow and fun bermed corners. The terrain consists mostly of desert hardpack, so you’ll be able to go fast without having to worry about too many surprises. The views as you ride the sketchy cliff-side section along the Virgin River aren’t bad either. Do the out-and-back 13 mile trail, or combine with Hurricane Rim and Gould Rim for a 20+ mile loop.
Park at SR-9 Sheep Bridge Road Trailhead (upper lot): Turn right off of State Road 9 onto Sheep Bridge Road just before you enter Virgin, Utah. Cross the Virgin River and take the first right after the cattle guard. Follow the two track to the end (this is the trailhead). You’ll ride the loop counter-clockwise, getting the most downhill in.
Park off SR-59 and Sheep Bridge Road, JEM Trailhead (lower lot): You’ll ride JEM uphill to the Dead Ringer fork, uphill on Dead Ringer, then down JEM back to the trailihead. JEM weaves back and forth across Sheep Bridge Road as it heads toward the Virgin River. Get ready to pedal more.
If you’re prepared to car camp, there are plenty of free camping spots along Sheep Bridge Road with vista views and fire rings already there for you to enjoy.
Perhaps one of the most well-known trail systems in Southern Utah for its world-class trails full of technical singletrack, rolling slickrock, and incredible views of Zion National Park. The trails are well-marked with signs at the junctions and spray paint markers on the slickrock to keep you on track. You’ll get both the challenges and rewards of riding on all the bare rock that your mountain bike can handle. With miles of singletrack that can be linked together on the mesa, there are options for beginner to advanced riders. The Practice Loop (also known as Slickrock 101) is best for beginners or a warm up, and the South to North Rim Loop is the perfect technical challenge, giving you a taste of everything Gooseberry has to offer. Have fun creating your own ride in this awesome network of trails, you really can’t go wrong.
If you have trouble with balance, navigation and hitting technical stunts, think again before taking on these backcountry-like trails. There are only two interconnected loops at 9 miles each (West Mesa Loop and North Point Loop), or the advanced option to combine the two routes for 14 miles of riding. The West Loop has more tree-lined flowy singletrack, the North Loop has more slick rock and difficult tech stunts. Don’t be afraid to get off and walk if you need. The hard work is worth the views of Gooseberry Mesa and Pine Valley Mountains in the distance.
From Hurricane (It’s hard to find the trailhead, look out for the cairns that mark the trailhead and the cairns along the trails.)
If you have trouble finding any of these trailheads, a great app to download is MTB Project to lead you directly to the trailhead. Another great resource is Utah Mountain Biking, which gives an in depth analysis of all the trails and their options. So before you head to Zion National Park for the epic hiking (Angel’s Landing, Observation Point, etc.) or scenic bike riding on the Pa’rus Trail, plan to add at least a day of mountain biking on these trails to your trip. You won’t regret it!