Moab is considered to be one of the premier mountain biking destinations in the world, and has been ranked by singletracks as the Mountain Biking Capital of the United States. With hundreds of miles of trails, in addition to limitless jeeping trails and climbing routes, it is the perfect destination for any outdoor enthusiast. Aside from the heat, elevation, and technical rock features, riding in Moab presents an intangible challenge: where to ride. One glance at a local topo/trail map, and it’s clear that you could spend weeks in Moab and not ride everything. Having spent considerable time in Moab the past few years as an “outsider,” here is what I consider to be the ideal itinerary for a long weekend, if you have the legs and lungs and want to hit the highlights.
When to Go
In case you didn’t know, Moab is in the desert, and the temperatures can vary dramatically from noon to midnight, season to season. If you are not familiar with this ecosystem, the summer can be brutally hot, and the winters can be very cold (even during the day if it is windy). Moab can be ridden year-round, but some trails, particularly ones at higher elevations (i.e. The Whole Enchilada, or TWE), may be snowed in during the winter. I’ve ridden Moab in every season, but if you want to maximize your opportunity for good riding weather, I suggest that you plan your 3-day adventure in May or in September/October. Even in May, the upper sections of TWE may be too snowy or muddy to ride.
Where to Ride
So, you’ve rented your $10,000 bike, donned your enduro kit (in blue, of course), loaded your hydration pack with food and water, and started your Strava. Now, what? Here are some friendly suggestions based on your interest and ability.
Morning Ride: Beginner/Intermediate
Moab Brand Trails: The Brand Trails are made up of about 15 interconnecting loops that are geared toward the beginner and intermediate rider (though there are 4 “expert” sections). The trail system is conveniently located off of Hwy 191. What’s nice about this system is that you can connect the trails any way you like, and use the green, blue, and black (beginner to expert) trails for skills progression. The scenery is pretty amazing here, and it is easy to rack up 15 or more miles of singletrack. You can ride as little or as long as you want, which makes it a great “warm up” for the rides to come.
Morning Ride: Advanced
Hymasa to Captain Ahab to Hymasa to Rockstacker to Jackson: Ok, this is a big ride and a heck of a way to start out three days in Moab, but a must-do if you’ve never ridden this area. The new Hymasa climb to Captain Ahab, designed by Tyson Swasey, is an absolute blast on a trail bike, with big and little hits and a plethora of rock features. You can opt to cut out Rockstacker and Jackson (which is what makes this such a big ride) and loop Captain Ahab twice. I would recommend, either way, that you cut off at the halfway point of the Hymasa climb and skip the upper section of Ahab, and that you stash extra water at the intersection of the end of Ahab and Hymasa to refill for the second lap (or the Rockstacker/Jackson part). If you opt for the whole ride, count on 4-5 hours and 3,000 feet of climbing over 18 miles, so start really early and bring water.
Evening Ride: Intermediate/Advanced
Slickrock Trail: This is the Moab classic, is a must-do if you have not done it, and it will likely be the most difficult 10.5 miles you’ll ever pedal in your life. It’s hot, all rock, and I’d suggest doing it early in the morning or as a late evening ride. Honestly, if you do this after doing the Advanced ride, you are a deity, and I bow to you. Even if you don’t do all of it, however, it’s nice to do an out-and-back just to get on the slickrock, a unique place to pedal and get well-acquainted with your granny gear.