Having survived the Broken Mesa Rim in the first half of day 3 of the Second Annual Spring Break Singletrack Trek, we were stoked for the rest of the day. After a quick refuel in St. George, we then passed again through Hurricane on the way to the Guacamole Trail, another one of the area’s great mesa-top rides. I had heard it was something of a poor man’s Gooseberry or Little Creek (both solid 5-star rides in our experience), so we figured even if it was only 70% as good as the others, it’d still be a solid 4 or 4.5-star ride, so we set out with high expectations.
(Note to the new traveler in the area. The final pitch up the rough dirt road to the trailhead is seriously steep with significant exposure. Both high clearance and four wheel drive are recommended. If not available, simply drive to the last right turn on the dirt road before that treacherous final pitch, find a wide spot to park in, and ride up from there. Do not attempt when wet!)
Once on top, there are plenty of pullouts in the pinions, and immediately upon unloading bikes, one can’t help but notice the view of Zion National Park: it’s a lot like the view from Gooseberry or Little Creek, but a lot closer. It may take a little scouting to find the entrance to the trail, but once on, it’s easy to follow… most of the time. There are a few side trails available, and not all intersections are marked. This is a good place to have a local or a GPS with an accurate, recent track.
The initial bit of singletrack is a perfect introduction to the area, as it bobs and weaves through the pinions with an occasional small rock obstacle. Our route took us out along the western edge of the mesa, with its huge vertical drop to the valley below. This is one of those routes where it’s so tempting just to gawk at the scenery, yet you best keep your eye on the trail if you know what’s good for you!
After a while, we veered off the mesa rim and back onto the main Guacamole loop, which lost the rim view, but regained the Zion view, and provided the most excellent variety of tight’n’twisty and wide-open-fast and buff desert singletrack interspersed with slickrock slabs, rollers, drops. and step ups. We were clicking off miles at a pretty good clip and not even knowing it, such was the joy of being in the moment on this trail.
However, time concerns did intrude as we still had the demo bike and needed to make sure we got it back to the shop before closing. It had taken us longer just to navigate the long, rough dirt road to the trailhead than we’d expected, so it’s a good thing we were making good time. The slight sense of urgency did limit our stops for photos and just soaking it all in. We had heard talk of an extra loop at the end of Guacamole, called “Holy Guacamole” and that it was well-worth the extra time and effort. Given our time concern, we decided to play it safe and forgo the Holy Guacamole, despite the cool name and high recommendation.
Remember those sometimes not-so-clear intersections I mentioned earlier? Well, we took the wrong fork at one, and ended up on Holy Guacamole anyway! In the end, We were quite glad we did. Despite the fact that we put on a total of about 5 unplanned miles, they were excellent miles! The scenery got even better, the trail even more swoopy, and the extension provided some of the best techy bits on the ride. While each turn added to my concern of not getting the demo bike back in time, I couldn’t help but revel in the exhilaration this trail provides. When all was said and done, we decided there was nothing second tier about this ride, even when compared to the mighty Goose and Little Creek.
In our haste, we were a little sloppy throwing our bikes in the back of the truck for the rough ride off the mesa. Upon unloading at the shop and turning in that pretty blue Knolly, it became apparent there were a few pretty good chips in the paint, all the way through to bare aluminum. Fortunately, I had purchased the damage waiver, which would cover anything up to $100 of assessed damage. I’m not sure why I did: Miniskibum would be the one riding the bike, and he never damages a bike the way his old man does. Nonetheless, for some reason, it seemed a prudent precaution, and I’m glad I took it.
Physical difficulty of our route: 3.5/5
Technical difficulty of our route: 4/5
Skibum’s grade: 5/5 stars
Miniskibum’s grade: 5/5 stars
That night, more bad news came as our riding buddy, Mntbikedude, learned he needed to head home early, so our threesome was back down to just father and son.
For the next day, Miniskibum and I headed for a new-to-us area with a relatively new trail addition for another epic, this time in the Santa Clara River Preserve. The original plan was to make this something of a recovery day by riding moderate mileage over moderate terrain on the Precipice and Sidewinder trails, with a possible add on to the Barrel Roll trail.
The journey out on Precipice was entertaining and just what the doctor ordered. Sidewinder offered up more of the same, albeit with a bit of climbing. After departing Precipice, Sidewinder is a lollipop which is mostly lariat with a very small bit of loop on the end. However, branching off the Sidewinder loop was a relatively new trail which looked, and sounded… intriguing.
When we come upon a trail called “Suicidal Tendencies,” that’s just like laying a T-bone steak in front of a hungry Labrador retriever. We’d heard everything in the area was lower intermediate at best, so we figured the moniker was mostly hype, but decided to check it out anyway.
Suicidal Tendencies is yet another lariat loop starting from the far point of Sidewinder. From the turn off of Sidewinder, we could see most of what we were in for. The trail dropped very rapidly off the mesa, down into a rocky valley, and then climbed up to the next mesa. We realized that, to do Suicidal Tendencies, we’d have to make that climb up onto the next mesa. That didn’t seem to be much of a deterrent, especially as the trail seemed to climb gradually up the side of the mesa, aided by gentle switchbacks. However, we realized that, upon completing the loop portion on the far mesa, we’d have to descend back into the valley and make the much sharper climb back to our current position. This was a bit more daunting, but still not much of a deterrent, so off we went, throwing caution to the wind.
Again, we were very glad we did! The upper part of the climb onto the far mesa was challenging and exciting, and it made for a great descent on the return trip. As for the loop portion, it was a long, gradual climb around the south side, topped off with magnificent 360-degree views of all the surrounding valleys and mountain ranges. The return portion of the loop (going clockwise) was rippin’ good fun as well.
After making our way back to the Precipice/Sidewinder intersection, we decided to go ahead and add on the 6-mile Barrel Roll loop. This is a superb bit of flowy intermediate singletrack, with just a few rock obstacles to add spice. Most of the time, this would be an absolute hoot of a ride, but having just completed Suicidal Tendencies, we found it a bit anticlimactic.
If I was to do all these trails in one ride again, I’d probably start with Barrel Roll and save Suicidal Tendencies for last. Of course, that requires a good deal of commitment, so if unsure and you want tech for sure, Suicidal first is still the best bet.
That afternoon, a long, relentless rain blew in (why is it I’m always besieged by so much rain in the desert? What are the odds? I’ve been rained out twice in Moab, twice in Fruita, and once in St George! What gives?) and prevented us from hitting a second ride, so that was it for day four, but what a great ride it was!
Travel tip: St George isn’t exactly a culinary mecca, and good food beyond the average chain restaurant is hard to find. However, I recommend without reservation post ride refueling at Devey’s Urban Barbeque. The brisket is smoky and tender enough to just dissolve on your tongue. The sauce is perfectly spicy, and the sides are authentic. Good Mexican can also be had at Pancho and Lefty’s or at Don Pedros, and surprisingly good Thai, along with exceptional service, may be found at Royal Thai Cuisine.
Physical difficulty of our route: 4/5
Technical difficulty of our route: 3.5/5
Skibum’s grade: 4.5/5 stars
Miniskibum’s grade: 4/5 stars
Sadly, with the rain, the Santa Clara River Preserve would be our last ride in the St. George area. In the next installment: Price is Right for Mountain Biking!