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If you’re an avid mountain biker, chances are you’ve heard of Gooseberry Mesa. In fact, most riders are more familiar with that name than the actual town it’s located near – Hurricane in the southwest corner of Utah.
Gooseberry has become a sort of mecca for mountain bikers seeking awesome slickrock riding, amazing views, fewer crowds than Moab, and a shoulder or winter-season mountain biking getaway.
But while the trails on Gooseberry Mesa are pretty rad, there are a few things you should know before heading out to ride there. In this post, I share my best tips on how to make the most of your Gooseberry Mesa mountain bike adventure.
About Gooseberry Mesa
Gooseberry Mesa is a network in southwestern Utah with over 30 miles of mountain bike trails, much of it on slickrock.
It’s probably the most popular riding spot in the Hurricane area, but there is actually a handful of really great trail networks surrounding Gooseberry. If you’re planning a trip to the area, be sure to check out my Complete Guide to Mountain Biking in Hurrican, Utah.
The trails on Gooseberry range from punchy slickrock riding to windy singletrack through the trees to heart-stopping pedals along tall cliffs with hundreds of feet of exposure. Needless to say, there are some places you do not want to fall.
There are also incredible views of Zion National Park and free campsites just a short pedal away from trailheads. It’s a pretty awesome place!
Tips For Mountain Bikers
1) Respect the exposure
The biggest thing to know about mountain biking on Gooseberry Mesa is that there is massive exposure. If you aren’t comfortable with heights and/or you are very new to mountain biking this might not be the place for you.
The only trail in Gooseberry Mesa that doesn’t have at least some exposure is the White Trail, which is mostly a double-track jeep trail that is used to access other trail and is shared by ATVers.
All of the other trails skirt the rim of Gooseberry Mesa and in some places, the exposure is 200ft or more.
Mountain bikers have died on Gooseberry Mesa, so if you aren’t feeling comfortable get off your bike and walk.
That being said, it is an incredible place to ride with super fun trails with amazing views!
2) Gooseberry Mesa Point is a must
Whichever trails you decide to ride, a pedal out to Gooseberry Mesa Point is a must. It’s a triangular piece of rock that overlooks Zion National Park to the northeast and Gould Wash to the west. There are 360° degree views of mountains, valleys, red rock, and rivers. It’s stunning!
Gooseberry Mesa Point is also surrounded by 200ft+ cliffs, so keep your eyes on the trail and get off your bike if you need to walk.
(Gooseberry Mesa Point is rated a double-black proline on TrailForks, but that’s because of the exposure. If you stay on the trail and walk one or two sections, you’ll be fine).
3) Download a trail app before you go
Most of the trails on Gooseberry Mesa are pretty well marked with signs and/or paint on the rocks, but since there is so much slickrock riding the trail can be elusive in some places. It’s a good idea to have TrailForks or MTB Project downloaded on your phone just in case you get off-route, especially on the slickrock trails.
The one trail in Gooseberry Mesa that doesn’t get ridden a lot and is not well marked is Secret Trail. It looks great on the map, but it’s pretty overgrown and hard to follow in some places.
4) Prepare for a leg bootcamp
If you’re not used to mountain biking in southern Utah, be prepared for some hefty leg workouts. While the terrain doesn’t look hilly or mountainous, there is a lot of elevation gain and loss via quick ups and short, steep descents.
Mountain biking on Gooseberry Mesa is especially tiring. The rolling slickrock will have you constantly punching the ups and rolling the downs. Even 6 miles – which is roughly what it is to get out to Gooseberry Mesa – will leave your legs feeling worked.
The first time I visited Gooseberry Mesa I made the mistake of wanting to ‘ride it all’. I’ve never been so sore in my life!
5) It’s not very beginner-friendly
Gooseberry Mesa is not very beginner-friendly. Because of the exposure and punchy ups and downs, riding here could be frustrating and a bit scary for those just starting out.
If you are a beginner rider, my suggestion would be to take the White Trail (a jeep doubletrack) out to Gooseberry Point and then return via North Rim (which has some exposure) to Bowls and Ledges and Practice Loop.
6) e-bikes are allowed
E-bikes (up to class 1) are allowed on all Hurricane trails including those at Gooseberry Mesa. Since there is massive exposure, though, I would caution beginner e-bikers from riding up there. It would be a great place for an experienced rider on an e-bike, though, especially if you want to lay down the miles.
7) Don’t attempt to drive in after a rain
DO NOT attempt to drive into Gooseberry Mesa after or during a heavy (or even a light rain for that matter). The red clay soil that makes up this area turns into a thick, slick, mayonnaise that sucks tires deep into the ground.
Maybe if you have a 4×4 vehicle with knobby tires you’d be ok, but I wouldn’t risk it. Let the road dry out for a day or two and then head in to ride.
(This actually goes for all of the networks around Hurricane. Most of the trailheads are accessed by long, rugged roads with the same type of soil, so if it’s raining either head to St. George or take a rest day).
If you think you’ll be fine, watch this video and don’t tell me I didn’t warn you.
Gooseberry Mesa Camping
There are a number of free campsites scattered along the access road that leads into Gooseberry Mesa. They’re all first-come-first-serve, so cross your fingers that you’ll score one.
I didn’t count how many campsites there are, but I’d say at least a dozen. Most of them have a fire pit and a few have awesome views that look out over Apple Valley below.
Please pack out all of your trash and leave the campsites cleaner than you arrived.
This TrailForks map shows several of the free dispersed campsite locations:
Gooseberry Mesa is one of my all-time favorite places to ride. The views, the slickrock, the challenging terrain, the free camping, etc… all make it a pretty epic experience. But also be prepared for serious exposure and some technically challenging riding. If all that sounds up your alley, you’ll have a blast!
Looking for more fun things to do?
Check out these popular tours in Hurricane
- A Complete Guide to Mountain Biking in Hurricane
- Trail Guide: The Hurricane Rim IMBA Epic Loop
- How to Survive Your First Mountain Bike Trip to the Desert
Have you ridden on Gooseberry Mesa? What did you think? Are there any other tips you would include? Let us know in the comments!