If you’re hunting for your next heart-pumping adventure, Utah’s rugged terrain and breathtaking landscapes should be at the top of your list. With an abundance of trails suitable for riders of all levels, this state is a premier destination for mountain biking enthusiasts. However, with multiple options to choose from, it can be overwhelming to pick just one.
In this article, we’ve compiled a list of Utah’s top mountain biking trails that will leave you in awe. Whether you’re looking for stunning views or challenging terrain, these trails offer something for every rider. So, grab your gear and get ready to explore some of Utah’s best MTB trails!
1. Big Cottonwood Canyon Trail
This is one of the most popular mountain biking trails in Salt Lake City, Utah, and for a good reason. The trail is well known for its challenging terrain, steep climbs, and thrilling descents. It is divided into two stretches, the East Fork Loop and the West Fork Loop, which are approximately 5 miles long with an elevation change of 1,000-2,000 feet.
The East Fork Loop of the trail begins at Red Butte Garden on 2100 East near 900 South. It winds through forested hillsides, and you’ll spend the first half of the ride climbing into Big Cottonwood Canyon on a singletrack path. As you continue climbing, the surrounding mountains’ views become more impressive. Once you reach Echo Park, you’ll take another sharp turn southbound onto Cedar Glen Trail, which connects directly back onto itself again.
On the other hand, the West Fork Loop is a stretch of trail characterized by rocky terrain, steep descents, and challenging switchbacks. The ride is a bit more technical than the East Fork Loop, but the stunning views of the canyon and surrounding mountains make it all worth it.
Overall, the Big Cottonwood Canyon Trail offers an exhilarating ride through some of the most beautiful scenery in Utah.
2. Sand Flats Recreation Area Trails
Sand Flats Recreation Area is a beautiful, unique mountain biking and hiking location outside Moab, Utah. The area is known for its stunning red sandstone cliffs, unique rock formations, and beautiful views of the surrounding mountains.
The area offers a variety of trails, ranging from beginner to advanced, so there is something for riders of all skill levels. Two popular trails here include the Slickrock Trail and the Porcupine Trail.
- Slickrock Trail
This is a challenging and technical ride that winds through the sandstone formations of the area. The trail is 12 miles long and mostly made up of Slickrock terrain—a sandstone that offers incredible traction and allows for truly amazing riding.
The trail is very technical and challenging, with steep climbs and descents, tight turns, and exposed sections that test your skills and nerves.
While the Slickrock Trail is a bucket-list ride for many mountain bikers, you should only attempt it if you have some mountain biking experience. Besides, the trail can be extremely hot during the summer, reaching over 100 degrees. So, riding early in the morning or during the cooler months is recommended.
- Porcupine Rim Trail
Another great trail is the Porcupine Rim Trail, which is more intermediate-level, with stunning views of the area. This trail offers a truly epic riding experience through one of the most stunning sceneries in the Sand Flats Recreation Area.
The trail is mostly downhill and offers a mix of technical sections, steep drops, and tight switchbacks that’ll challenge even the most experienced riders. You’ll need a full-suspension bike with at least 4-6 inches of travel to tackle this trail.
You also require proper protective gear, such as a full-face helmet and body armor. Bring plenty of water and snacks, as the trail can take 3-5 hours to complete, depending on your riding ability. Overall, this is a must-ride trail for any serious biker seeking a true mountain biking experience in Utah.
3. The White Rim Trail
The White Rim Trail entails a truly special experience that takes riders through some of the most stunning landscapes in the American Southwest. This trail loops around the Island in the Sky mesa and offers unparalleled views of the surrounding canyons and rock formations.
Along the way, be prepared to encounter a mix of terrain, including Slickrock, sand, and hardpack dirt. This adds to the fun as you wind through the rim and down into the canyons below.
There are campsites available at designated spots along the trail, but they do require reservations of up to four months. Additionally, the weather in Canyonlands can be unpredictable, with hot temperatures during the day and cold temperatures at night. So, come prepared for various conditions.
Overall, the White Rim Trail is an unforgettable experience that’ll challenge even the most experienced riders. It also offers beautiful scenery and the opportunity to immerse in the natural beauty of the American Southwest.
4. Zion National Park
Zion National Park is a breathtakingly beautiful location for mountain biking, with over 1 million acres of protected land to explore. The park offers a variety of trails, ranging from beginner-level rides to more challenging advanced trails. Also, the scenery here is truly awe-inspiring, featuring red rock cliffs, waterfalls, and stunning vistas that will take your breath away.
One of the most popular trails here is the Pa’rus Trail, a beginner-level ride offering stunning views of the Virgin River and the surrounding mountains. Another great trail is the JEM Trail, which is a bit more intermediate-level but offers equally beautiful views of the park’s unique rock formations.
The only challenge is that the park can get crowded during peak season. So, plan your visit to avoid any inconvenience. Zion National Park is also home to various wildlife, including elk and deer, so riders are always encouraged to be mindful of the wildlife and give them plenty of space while on the trails.
5. Wasatch Crest Trail
The Wasatch Crest Trail is an epic ride near Salt Lake City’s heart of the Wasatch Mountains. It is a point-to-point ride 20 miles long with beautiful views of the surrounding mountains and valleys. The terrain mixes rocky singletrack, technical sections, and flowy descents, making it challenging for intermediate to advanced riders.
One of the unique aspects of the Wasatch Crest Trail is the altitude. The trail starts at over 9,000 feet and reaches its highest point of over 10,000 feet. As such, you’ll be hiking up and down several thousand feet throughout your ride.
This can be challenging for riders who are not used to the altitude. So, you should acclimate yourself by spending a few days at a higher elevation before attempting the ride. However, you can still use the shuttle services to the trailhead or as a loop by starting and finishing at Millcreek Canyon.
Overall, the Wasatch Crest Trail is an incredible ride that offers some of the best scenery and riding in the state. You’ll enjoy views high above on cliffs and wide-open valleys below, where you can see for miles across canyons and rivers.
6. Thunder Mountain Trail
The Thunder Mountain Trail is a lesser-known gem in southern Utah and adjacent to the Bryce Canyon National Park. It is 14 miles long trail offering a mix of technical sections and fast, flowy descents that wind through the stunning red rock formations of the area.
However, the Thunder Mountain Trail is not overly technical. Intermediate riders can still horn their skills here. There are also enough challenges to keep more advanced riders engaged.
One of the unique aspects of the Thunder Mountain Trail is the scenery, with riders descending through towering hoodoos and towering rock formations that are truly breathtaking. The trail is typically ridden as a shuttle, with the services available in the nearby town of Panguitch.
Additionally, you can combine your ride with other nearby trails, such as the Cassidy Trail and the Casto Canyon Trail, to create an epic multi-day riding adventure. Overall, the Thunder Mountain Trail is a must-ride for a unique and unforgettable riding experience in southern Utah.
As mountain biking continues to grow, Utah remains at the forefront of the sport, drawing riders worldwide to its stunning landscapes and world-class trails. The trails highlighted in this article offer diverse challenges and scenery, making them appealing to riders of all levels. So grab your bike and experience the beauty and thrill of mountain biking in the country’s premier destination for mountain bikers.