Playing Connect the Dots at Gooseberry Mesa, Utah

Do you remember those kids’ coloring books where you had to connect the dots in a specific order? As you finished drawing lines between the numbered dots, suddenly a coherent picture would emerge from what were just dots and numbers a few minutes earlier. Mountain biking at Gooseberry Mesa (and most places with desert slickrock) reminded me of a life-size version of connect the dots. Looking at the barren slickrock landscape, it just looks like a jumbled mess. But as you begin to connect the little white dots on the rock and the short pieces of sandy singletrack in between, the picture begins to emerge. That “picture” is a fantastic mountain bike trail.

Just a jumbled desert landscape, until you begin to connect the dots.
Aiming for the little white dots, and seeing the bigger picture appear. Photo: skibum.

The Views

Some mountain bike trails get an amazing reputation based on views alone, and while that’s not all that Gooseberry Mesa has going on, this trail does provide superb desert views! On the South Rim Trail, the line of dots eventually meets up with the rim of the mesa, and you’re afforded a long-distance view down to the highway and into the desert beyond, thanks to the several-hundred-foot cliff you’re standing on top of.

As if those views aren’t amazing enough, as you round the end of the mesa and start looping back, the North Rim Trail dishes up fantastic views of Zion National Park off in the distance:

The Trail

While amazing views are a major bonus on any trail (at least, in my book), good views don’t necessarily make for a fun-riding trail. Gooseberry Mesa, however, would be a super-fun trail to ride even if all you had to look at was desert scrub!

Dirt singletrack down near the cliff.

I dig slickrock riding as much as the next person, but if all a trail can offer is unrelenting slickrock, that just gets old after a while. Thankfully, Gooseberry Mesa intersperses the large slickrock sections with short chunks of entertaining dirt and loose-er rocks.

Climb up on the rippled slickrock.

But even the slickrock itself is more interesting than your average slab of sandstone. Trails such as Slickrock in Moab have large, relatively smooth slabs of rock with big valleys and canyons in it. The rock on Gooseberry Mesa, on the other hand, doesn’t have the massive valleys to bomb down into, but the surface is rougher and much more convoluted on average. This makes picking your way from white dot to white dot much more challenging and interesting, with major power moves required in some spots and finesse-oriented moves required in others.

Bottom Line

While not the longest ride, the most challenging, or the most jaw-dropping, Gooseberry Mesa offers a fantastic mix of fun-filled factors. The views are definitely camera-worthy, the riding is challenging and varied, and the middle-of-nowhere trailhead will make this an experience for the books. So what are you waiting for? Head to Gooseberry this fall for the best game of connect the dots you’ll ever play!

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