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Many mountain bikers are familiar with the red slickrock of Moab, but fewer are aware that just a few hours away, an equally worthy mountain bike destination lies in the southwest corner of the state.
Big views, huge slabs of slickrock, half a dozen networks to choose from, varied terrain… if this sounds like your type of mountain biking, then you’ll definitely want to check out Hurricane, Utah.
This small town, which is close to where Red Bull holds its annual Red Bull Ramage, is known for its incredible trails and arguably boasts some of the best mountain biking in the country.
I’ve ridden in the area a handful of times, and in this guide, I share all the information you need to enjoy a day (or more!) of mountain biking in Hurricane.
Why Mountain Bike in Hurricane Utah?
Hurricane (pronounced “Her-ah-kun” by the locals) is an amazing mountain bike destination in southwestern Utah. It’s still slightly under the radar, but over the last few years, Hurricane has definitely become a favorite for many riders.
One thing that makes Hurricane so special are the views out over Zion National Park. They’re jaw-dropping. The town is located just outside of Zion, so almost every trail rewards you with amazing views of flat-topped mesas and red and white towering peaks.
I also personally think that the rolling slickrock of Hurricane has more flow and variety than its red rock neighbor to the east (aka Moab). You’ll find miles and miles of rolling rock terrain that will have your legs pumping and lungs gasping air with each punchy climb. But it’s a whole lot of fun and will quickly improve your slow-speed riding skills.
There’s also something for every rider in Hurricane. Choose Gooseberry Mesa for slickrock or head over to Wire Mesa for more flow and incredible views. The Jem trails lower down are great for catching air or for beginners not quite up for the challenging rock rolls.
And if you are really eager to test your skills, the Hurricane area is where they hold the annual Red Bull Rampage, so there’s definitely pro-level terrain for those looking to get rowdy.
Important Things to Know
Rain makes the roads turn to mayonnaise
DO NOT attempt to drive into trailheads during or after a rainstorm. The clay soil is no joke and even if you’re in a high-clearance 4×4 vehicle you run the risk of getting stuck. Like really stuck. This dirt goes from tacky and dry to wet and slippery real fast.
The BLM service has done a good job over the past few years to build and better maintain the roads, but they’re still no match for wet weather. If it does rain while you’re in Hurricane, take a rest day and let things dry out for at least 24 hours.
The exposure is no joke in some places. Mountain bikers have died
In fact, a mountain biker died on Gooseberry Mesa just a few days before my last visit. He was trying to pedal out to Gooseberry Point and crashed and fell 200ft. The exposure is real and there are many places where you do not want to fall. Know your limitations – physically and mentally – and don’t try to impress others.
Gooseberry, Little Creek, and Wire Mesa have the most exposure while Guacamole and Jem are a little less scary (but not exposure-free).
(If reading this makes you nervous, know that if you get off your bike and walk sections, you’ll be totally fine).
Summer temps are brutal
The summer temps in Hurricane can easily top 100F°. I don’t recommend mountain biking in here past April or before September.
Even the shoulder months can get really warm, so be sure to check the weather and bring lots of water and hydration supplements on your rides.
Mountain Biking Guide to Hurricane
The mountain biking in Hurricane, Utah is broken up into six main networks:
- Hurricane Cliffs (also known as the Jem Trails)
- Wire Mesa
- Gooseberry Mesa
- Little Creek
- Grafton Mesa & the Money Trails
Each network is a bit of a drive from one another, so it’s best to explore one area and then move on to the next. I provide several route recommendations in the next section.
1. Hurricane Cliffs (the JEM Trails)
Hurricane Cliffs is the trail network located closest to town and is a great place to warm up the legs before getting into the more challenging terrain up in Gooseberry or Little Creek. The views out over Zion are also amazing.
Most of the trails are suited for beginner/intermediate mountain bikers, but many of them also have fun and engaging features that will entertain even the most experienced riders.
Best trails to ride:
- Jem: fun beginner-friendly trail with lots of flow
- Goosebumps: Fast, flowy beginner/intermediate trail with some optional natural features
- Cryptobiotic: Another fast, flowy beginner/intermediate trail with whoop-de-whoops
- Goulds Rim: On the other side of Hurricane Cliffs, this is a cross-country beginner/intermediate trail that overlooks Goulds Canyon for great views
Related: Looking for a big cross-country ride? Check out the Hurricane Rim IMBA Epic Loop
Hurricane Cliffs Route Recommendation
>> Mellow Jem
Route directions: Hurricane Rim North parking > Jem > Dead Ringer > Jem (or climb JEM and descend Dead Ringer)
Route notes: This loop hits two of the most popular trails in Hurricane Cliffs: JEM and Dead Ringer. The descent down Jem is fun, fast, long, and flowy and the climb up Dead Ringer is beautiful. This is a great ride to do with the family or a day 1 warm-up if you’ve never ridden in Hurricane.
Do more: If you want to make it a longer ride, climb back up Dead Ringer after descending half of Jem and hit Goosebumps to Cryptobionic for a second fun descent before connecting back into Jem.
2. Wire Mesa
Wire Mesa is a bit of a step up from Hurricane Cliffs, but still suitable for beginner/intermediate riders. It’s also one of my favorite loops in Hurricane thanks to its mixed terrain, amazing views, and relatively quick pedal.
Best trails to ride:
- Wire Mesa Loop: There’s really only one 7-mile loop at Wire Mesa. You can do the loop in either direction, but my preferred route is clockwise.
Wire Mesa Route Recommendation
>> Wire Mesa Loop
Route directions: Wire Mesa parking > Wire Mesa
Route notes: Wire Mesa is a great intro to the mountain biking on Gooseberry Mesa or Little Creek. It’s one of my favorite loops in Hurricane, so definitley plan on doing the loop!
Do more: The Money Trails and Grafton Mesa (see below) are near Wire Mesa. However, these trails are not maintained and are some of the most challenging in Hurricane.
3. Gooseberry Mesa
The shining star of Hurricane, Gooseberry Mesa is the reason why many riders head to this area. It’s got a ton of great riding with lots of slickrock and amazing views.
There is severe exposure in some places and the riding feels a bit akin to a lower leg bootcamp thanks to all the punchy ups, so don’t underestimate your miles here.
Pedaling (or walking) out to Gooseberry Point is also a must.
Best Trails to Ride:
- North Rim: This intermediate trail runs along the north rim of Gooseberry Mesa. It has exposure, but nothing like South Rim
- Bowls and Ledges: A good warm-up trail or combine it with Practice for a beginner/kid-friendly loop
- South Rim: Best ridden north to south from Gooseberry Point, this is an awesome trail for experienced riders.
- Hidden Canyon: If you’re spending a few days on Gooseberry, Hidden Canyon is a cool trail. Most of it isn’t on slickrock and it traverses through some beautiful forest with caves and rock overhangs.
Gooseberry Mesa Route Recommendation
>> Best of Gooseberry Mesa
Route directions: Gooseberry parking > Practice > Bowls and Ledges > North Rim > Yellow > Gooseberry Point > South Rim
Route notes: This is my go-to loop on Gooseberry Mesa. It starts off with some rolling slickrock on Bowls and Ledges then you warm up to the exposure on North Rim. Take a break at Gooseberry Point (definitely worth going out to!) before descending down my favorite trail of Gooseberry Mesa – South Rim – back to the car.
Make it slightly easier: The most challenging part of this route is South Rim because of the exposure and some steep, technical rock sections. To avoid the exposure and major technical sections, take White Trail to Hidden Canyon (which is pretty cool) and then link back up the South Rim to finish the ride.
Make it much easier: From Gooseberry Point, take White Rim Trail all the way back to the car. This is a doubletrack road that ATV’s also use, so be aware of oncoming traffic. Note that you’ll still have some big exposure on North Rim if you follow this route.
4. Little Creek
Little Creek is a lot like Gooseberry Mesa, but a little rougher and a lot less popular. It’s also not as well marked, so definitely have the TrailForks app downloaded to your phone.
Like Gooseberry, there are a lot of slickrock rollers, some exposure, and several cool features like a dry waterfall line (the hardest feature here) and narrow rock bridges.
This isn’t the best place for beginners, but if you’re up for a challenge, go for it.
Best Trails to Ride:
- West Loop: This is the larger of the two main loops in Little Creek and if you’re only going to do one loop, I recommend this one
- LCM Connect: This short connector trail has a cool dry waterfall/chute feature
Little Creek Route Recommendation
>> Little Creek Mountain
Route directions: Little Creek Mountain parking > West Loop > Little Creek Slickrock > North Loop > Little Creek Slickrock > LCM Connect > Little Creek Slickrock
Route notes: This big loop encompasses pretty much all the trails in Little Creek. Little Creek is a good place to explore if you’ve already ridden the other networks and/or you want to get away from the crowds. I will say this is my least favorite network in Hurricane and like Guacamole, it’s also not very well marked.
Make it shorter: If you want to cut the route shorter, simply skip the North Loop, which will cut off about 3 miles.
Guacamole is my personal favorite network out of all of the mountain biking in Hurricane. It’s located outside of La Verkin (instead of Hurricane) and offers different views and slightly different terrain including a mix of flowy singletrack and rolling slickrock.
The area was burned by a fire a few years ago, which – in my opinion – adds to its beauty and intrigue.
The outer loop of Holy Guacamole is also home to a ton of petrified wood artifacts, which are super cool!
One thing to note about mountain biking at Guacamole is that the trails are definitely not marked as well as Gooseberry or other Hurricane networks. You’ll be swiveling your head constantly to search for the next cairn and it’s easy to get off track. Be sure to bring a phone with the TrailForks app downloaded.
The road into Guacamole is also very steep at the end. Don’t attempt it after or during a rainstorm.
As for trails, there’s one big lollipop loop and one smaller loop with several add-on trails. See below for route recommendations.
Best trails to ride:
- Guacamole: This is the ‘easier’ of the two main loops in the Guacamole network. It has a lot of fun slickrock riding and great views
- Holy Guacamole: Step things up a couple of notches with the Holy Guacamole. There is more of everything here: more technical sections, more climbing, bigger views, and more opportunities to get lost (you can’t really get super lost)
- Lime With A Twist and Salt On The Rim: These are worth doing if you still have juice in your legs
Guacamole Route Recommendation
>> Best of Guacamole
Route directions: Guacamole Trailhead > Margarita > Guacamole > Lime With A Twist > Holy Guacamole > Lime With A Twist (optional) > Margarita > Salt On The Rim (optional) > Margarita
Route notes: This is a love or hate ride. I personally love it and I prefer Guacamole over Gooseberry Mesa. But that being said, it’s not an easy ride nor is it well-marked in places. You need to have TrailForks or MTB Project downloaded to your phone. But if you love a bit of challenging tech, pedaling, and amazing views, and don’t mind checking your GPS often, this loop will be right up your alley!
It’s best-ridden clockwise for better flow and don’t underestimate the miles here – there are a lot of punchy climbs and pedaling.
Lime With A Twist and Salt On the Rim are optional at the end, but fun little side routes if you still have the energy in your legs. Keep your eye out for petrified wood on the side of the trails in the outer loop!
Make it shorter & easier: If you don’t want to do the full Guacamole loop, you can opt to leave out Holy Guacamole. This will shorten your ride by about 4 miles and make it quite a bit less challenging and technical. It’s best to ride the Guacamole loop clockwise.
6. Grafton Mesa & The Money Trails
Grafton Mesa and the Money Trails make up a small and challenging network near Wire Mesa. They are unsanctioned trails built and (mostly) ridden by locals.
These trails aren’t well marked and they are pretty technical so they should only be ridden by experienced mountain bikers.
If you want to try your hand at these trails, this loop is fun and challenging. It’s hard to follow the trail in places and you have a three-mile road pedal at the end.
Best Time to Ride in Hurricane
Hurricane is a great shoulder and winter season mountain bike destination. October/November and March/April/May can be great times to visit thanks to cool temps and minimal rain. The winter months of December, January, and February can be chilly, but still rideable.
Always check the forecast before making plans, though. If there is a lot of rain coming – trust me, you do not want to ride in Hurricane. The roads turn to sludge!
There’s also the Hurricane Mountain Bike Festival that happens every spring, which sounds like a fun event!
What gear to pack
Hurricane Bike Shops, Rentals, & More
Need to rent a bike or get a repair? Hurricane has several great bike shops as well as a few tour companies with guides that will show you around.
Hurricane Bike shops & rentals
- Over The Edge Bike Shop: This is really the only bike shop you need to know about in Hurricane, Utah. These guys are super friendly and knowledgeable and will sell/rent/fix your bike without hassle. They also have showers available for $5.
Hurricane Mountain Bike tours
- Utah Mountain Bike Tours: Sign up for a half-day, full-day or multi-day tour with Utah Mountain Bike Tours. Kathi has been guiding in the Hurricane/St. George area since 2009 and has a decorated history with biking.
Looking for more fun things to do?
Check out these popular tours in Hurricane
Best Places to Eat & Drink
- Dixie Pizza Wagon – This little pizza truck is one of the most popular places to eat in Hurricane. They serve from-scratch wood-fired pizza by the side of the road and it’s amazing. However… they’ve gotten super popular, so I would recommend calling to place an order right when you get done with your ride. They’re also only open Wednesday – Saturday.
- River Rock Roasting Company – This is one of my favorite places in the Hurricane area. The River Rock Roasting Company is actually in La Verkin, but right on the way to the Guacamole trails or Zion NP. It’s a combination of a coffee shop, bakery, sandwich shop, pizzeria, and beer window. And they have a rad balcony out back that looks out over the canyon. If you’re just looking for coffee, they also have a drive-through shop on the way up to Guacamole.
- Main Street Cafe – Offering hearty breakfasts, lunches, and dinner, Main Street Cafe is a great place to fuel up. They have a great menu selection and the staff is super friendly.
Camping & Hotels
Almost all of the land around Hurricane is BLM Land and free to camp on, which is awesome! An important thing to note, though, is that after a rain the dirt turns to sticky, red goo. It’s almost impossible to get a vehicle through and if you don’t have high clearance AND 4-wheel drive don’t even try.
All of these campsites are first-come-first-serve and don’t have any facilities:
- Hurricane Cliffs Camping – There are over a dozen ‘sites’ in Hurricane Cliffs that are clearly marked as camping areas. This is the most popular place for people to set up, so it gets really busy. If there are a lot of campers, head over to the other side of Route 59 onto Gould Wash Rd. and you’ll find some sweet camping spots over there.
- Wire Mesa Camping – There are a few sites at the entrance of Wire Mesa that are tucked back into the trees. If there aren’t any sites available, there are a few fire roads that branch off of the main road that have almost unlimited options.
- Gooseberry Mesa Camping – The road into Gooseberry Mesa has campsites dotting each site. Some have amazing views out over Apple Valley. If you’re looking for a unique ‘glamping’ experience, the Gooseberry Yurts are also an option. There are four yurts for rent. They don’t have running water or electricity, but they are fully stocked with bedding, lanterns, and a cookstove.
- Guacamole Camping – There are a dozen campsites right at the trailhead of Guacamole. The road into Guacamole has gotten better over the years, however, the last 100 yards is VERY STEEP. Do not attempt after rain (or even if there’s a chance of rain in the forecast).
- Little Creek Camping – Like all of the other zones, there’s free primitive camping on the road into Little Creek.
There are a handful of hotels in the St. George/Hurricane/La Verkin area. Keep in mind that a lot of travelers to Zion National Park book hotels in the area, so make reservations ahead of time.
If you want to splurge a bit, check out The Dwellings in La Verkin. These self-contained apartments have incredible views and are located right next to the Red Rock Roasting Company.
- Trail Guide: The Hurricane Rim IMBA Epic Loop
- Tips for Mountain Biking on Gooseberry Mesa
- How to Survive Your First Mountain Bike Trip to the Desert
Have you ridden in Hurricane, Utah? What are your favorite trails and loops? Leave a comment below!