I wish I was in Dixie, Hooray! Hooray!
In Dixie Land I’ll take my stand
to live and ride in Dixie.
Away, away, away down south in Dixie.
Away, away, away down south in Dixie
Before you start looking southeast for your next bike vacation, the “Dixie” of this travel piece is actually southwest. That’s right, America’s Dixie National Forest is in Utah, a couple thousand miles from the stars and bars, fried catfish, or all those civil war memorials. And it’s only “way down south” if you’re sitting in Salt Lake City.
Within its bounds lies variety of terrain that has to be seen to be believed. Ranging from a low of only 2,800′ above sea level and soaring to a lofty 11,233′, the 170-mile-long, nearly two million acre parcel makes for a great destination, even more so for those with a mountain bike in tow. Here is a quick guide to riding and playing in the “other” Dixie.
10 of the Best Mountain Bike Trails in the Dixie National Forest
Let’s kick off this list by starting big, as in nearly a mile of vertical descending, big. Starting at Brian Head, the Dark Hollow shuttle will have riders on the brakes a lot more than on the pedals, catching a good variety of terrain on the way while passing through multiple ecological zones. Make sure you’ve got good pads, grab a buddy, and prepare to rip!
Wow that is the best trail in the world. – bricksmitt
Great trail. Steep at the beginning then mellows out. When you get on the fire road, keep an eye out for the singletrack that dips off to the right. After the trees, the trail speeds back up and is smooth sailing down to the canyon. – Tom Cameron
The trails in the Markagunt Plateau are so empty that I am forced to make images with this old bike. The Pink Cliffs along the Virgin River Rim Trail. The riding in Dixie National Forest is awesome… Just in case you were wondering. #virginriverrimtrail #virginriver #utah #mtb #mountainbiking #enduro #singletrack #dixie #cedarcity #cedarcanyon #cycling #pinkcliffs #kanecounty #exploring #outdoorlife #travel #usa #west
The aptly-named Virgin River Rim trail, which hugs a rim suspended a thousand feet above the plain below, is a 33-mile, point-to-point epic that delivers big views and big adventure. But for those who are not up for the full meal deal, there are multiple entry points, allowing riders to customize both the distance and the challenge.
Tough, steep climbers’ trail with many beautiful views, shade, roots, and rock at 10,000′. Aspen trees abound. This trail kicked my butt.- abegold
Although a little chopped up in places by equestrian traffic, the Thunder Mountain singletrack is still mighty fine, and should be on every rider’s bucket list. The full loop has a little bit of everything, starting with a short, paved bike path, some forest road, and then sweet singletrack through an unusual variety of geography. The highlight is the cruising and descending through giant hoodoos on a crazy orange surface. This may be the most unique ride you ever do.
This has to be one of my favorite rides. Not technically or aerobically demanding, but a lot of fun and the scenery is some of the most surreal you’ll ever ride through. – buffalogerl
Another wicked-good Dixie National Forest shuttle ride, the Blowhard Trail descends a brake-hand-cramping 3,300 verts in just seven miles. Strap in and hang on!
One of the best singletrack shuttle rides out there. Spectacular views, with fast descents. Mixed scenery with plenty of stretches where you can just let it fly. The ridge lines may be scary for newbies, but the lack of physical fitness to ride downhill make this one good even when out of shape.- guest post
One of the Brian Head classics, the Bunker Creek trail shares its start with Dark Hollow, but then peels off to the east and plummets toward Panguitch Lake for a wild ride.
Going down? Make sure your brakes work, well. Fassst and fun flying past aspen and birch trees with some high speed rollers on the descent. A real blast. – david_darling
The eleven-mile Navajo Lake loop provides a more mellow way to enjoy the heart of Dixie. With only about 200′ of elevation change, this trail offers a pleasant circumnavigation of its namesake lake in a beautiful valley, where a rider can simply spin a bit and enjoy the wonderful surroundings.
Fun, easy trail around the lake. Park at the far end and loop around the lake. Lots of trails to explore around cascade falls and part of the virgin river trail. – rottenbelly
Cassidy Canyon sits north across the highway from the aforementioned Thunder Mountain. It offers more of that great orange soil, along with superb scenery and multiple route options for either a quick outing or an all day epic, especially if combined with the adjacent Losee and Casto Canyons. What the trail doesn’t offer is crowds. Despite being a great ride, this one remains surprisingly undiscovered.
Quiet trail with a couple wide creek rock-beds. Hoodoos and rusted mountains.. – floSoulo
Technically, the C Trail is not part of the Dixie National Forest itself, but sits wedged between the forest proper and Cedar City. It makes for a delightful little downhill romp right next to town for riders who choose to make Cedar City the base for a Dixie National Forest visit.
Fun trail. lots of loose gravel. It’s hard to go super fast on this trail because of the steep switchbacks and loose gravel on the switchback corners. This trail is a great trail to do laps on all day. And [it] only takes about an hour to run. – Tom Cameron
The seldom-visited Lowder Pond Loop provides a moderately strenuous but technically easy 12-mile-route with breathtaking scenery throughout. The entire route sits well over 10,000′ in elevation, which makes it a great place to escape the southwest Utah summer heat.
Paradise Canyon is an alternate line off the Dark Hollow trail that many prefer to the standard route. If you’ve got the shuttle and the gumption, you can do both in a day and rack up over 10K of vertical!. (Note: this area was damaged by a forest fire last year and Paradise Canyon was closed. Hopefully, it will reopen in the near future.)
5 Best Off-the-Bike Activities in the Dixie National Forest
If you want to get deeper into a spectacular collection of hoodoos than you can bike to on the Thunder Mountain trail, strap on your hiking boots and head into Bryce for an up close view of some of geology’s great wonders.
For even more big and unusual southwest scenery, it’s hard to beat Cedar Breaks. Interpretive programs add to the activities in this unique area.
If you happen to be in Dixie NF before the snow melts at the higher elevations, you can still recreate at Brian Head. The altitude makes for some fine skiing.
Like Brian Head, Navajo Lake isn’t just for riding a bike around. In this case, the lake welcomes outdoorspeople with all manner of water sports.
Mammoth Cave is a lava tube located on the Markagunt Plateau in the Dixie National Forest of Southern Utah, and is one of the largest lava tubes in Utah. The cave has over 2,200 feet (670 m) of passage and is about a quarter mile (400 m) long. It was formed by cooling lava and water less than 2,000 years ago. Due to moisture and its elevation of 8,050 feet (2,450 m) above sea level the cave stays cool year round. #mammothcaveutah
This ancient lava tube makes a great outing for families and amateur spelunkers.
5 of the Best Campgrounds in the Dixie National Forest
If you want to ride Navajo Lake or other area trails without having to drive to a trailhead, this is your campground.
Spent this past weekend in peace and quiet with good company. Everything's possible with a little time and a spontaneous commitment! ???????????????????? #navajolake #teahcampground #utah #nature #troutfishing #lauandproud312 #seafoodcouple #dixienationalforest #cedarcity #pontoon #hotpotincamp #lambchopincamp #nocellphoneplease
Another Navajo Lake campground, Te-Ah somehow manages to have both secluded sites and bike wash racks.
Point Supreme gives travelers the opportunity to set up camp at 10,000 feet within the glorious Cedar Breaks National Monument.
Cedar Canyon sits in an excellent location, being close to Cedar City, the Virgin River Rim trail, and the Ashdown Gorge Wilderness Area.
In an area full of scenic campgrounds, Yankee Meadows may well be the most scenic of all. If you want to bed down in the pretty between rides, Yankee Meadows is your stop.
Bike Shops Near the Dixie National Forest
Cedar Cycle is a popular full service bike shop in Cedar City, and a convenient stop for those riding in the area.
Okay, so it’s called Georg’s Ski Shop, but this sports outlet on Brian Head is a great place to rent a rig and catch a shuttle for doing laps on the mountain.
Your Turn: Have any Dixie National Forest tips that we didn’t mention? Share them in the comments below!