Dozens of mountain biking trails thread through the Moab area; one good place for beginners to start is on the Intrepid Trail System at Dead Horse Point State Park. But for everyone from novices to experts, here’s a look at the best biking trails in Moab.

MOAB Brand Trails

The interconnected loops and spur trails (named for cattle brands that spell out M-O-A-B) here form a trail system with several options that are especially good for beginners or riders who are new to slickrock.

The seven-mile Bar-M loop is easy and makes a good family ride, although you might share the packed-dirt trail with motor vehicles; try Circle O (no motor vehicles) for a good three-mile initiation to slickrock riding.

More experienced slickrock cyclists can find some challenges on the Deadman’s Ridge, Long Branch, and Killer-B routes at the southern end of the trail system.

To reach the trailhead for all these rides, head about eight miles north of town on U.S. 191 to the Bar M Chuckwagon, and park at the south end of their private lot.

Slickrock Bike Trail

Undulating slickrock in the Sand Flats Recreation Area just east of Moab challenges even the best mountain bike riders; this is not an area in which to learn riding skills. Originally, motorcyclists laid out this route, although now most riders rely on leg and lung power. The 1.7-mile practice loop near the trail’s beginning allows first-time visitors a chance to get a feel for the slickrock. The “trail” consists only of painted white lines. Riders following it have less chance of getting lost or finding themselves in hazardous areas. Plan on about five hours to do the 10.5-mile main loop, and expect to do some walking.

The Slickrock Bike Trail east of Moab. Photo © W.C. McRae.

The Slickrock Bike Trail east of Moab. Photo © W.C. McRae.

Side trails lead to viewpoints overlooking Moab, the Colorado River, and arms of Negro Bill Canyon. Panoramas of the surrounding canyon country and the La Sal Mountains add to the pleasure of biking.

To reach the trailhead from Main Street in Moab, turn east and go 0.4 mile on 300 South, turn right and go 0.1 mile on 400 East, turn left (east) and go 0.5 mile on Mill Creek Drive, then turn left and go 2.5 miles on Sand Flats Road. The Sand Flats Recreation Area, where the trail is located, charges $5 for an automobile day pass, $2 for a bicycle or motorcycle. Camping ($10) is available, but there is no water.

Farther up Sand Flats Road, the quite challenging, often rock-strewn Porcupine Rim Trail draws motorcyclists, jeeps, and mountain bikers; after about 11 miles, the trail becomes single-track, and four-wheelers drop out. The whole trail is about 15 miles long.

Gemini Bridges Trail

This 14-mile one-way trail passes tremendous twin rock arches (the bridges) and the slickrock fins of the Wingate Formation, making this one of the most scenic of the trails in the Moab area; it’s also one of the more moderate trails in terms of necessary skill and fitness. The trail begins 12.5 miles up Highway 313, just before the turnoff to Dead Horse Point State Park. It’s a stiff 21-mile uphill ride from Moab to reach the trailhead, so you may want to consider a shuttle. Several companies, including Coyote Shuttle (435/260-2097, $20), provide this service, enabling cyclist to concentrate on the fun, mostly downhill ride back toward Moab. The Gemini Bridges Trail, which is shared with motorcycles and 4WD vehicles, ends on U.S. 191 just north of town.

Intrepid Trail System

Mountain bikers, including novices, should bring their rides to Dead Horse Point, where the Intrepid Trail System offers about 15 miles of slickrock and sand single-track trails in three loops that range from a one-mile beginner loop to a more challenging nine-mile loop. All routes start at the visitors center and have great views into the canyon country. To reach Dead Horse Point State Park (435/259-2614, $10) from Moab, take U.S. 191 nine miles north, then turn west onto Highway 313 and follow it 23 miles to the park entrance.

Monitor and Merrimac Trail

A good introduction to the varied terrains of the Moab area, the 13.2-mile Monitor and Merrimac Trail also includes a trip to a dinosaur fossil bed. The trail climbs through open desert and up Usher Canyon, then explores red sandstone towers and buttes across slickrock before dropping down Mill Canyon. At the base of the canyon, you can leave your bike and hike the Mill Canyon Dinosaur Trail before completing the loop to the parking area. Reach the trailhead by traveling 15 miles north of Moab on U.S. 191 and turning west (left) onto Mill Canyon Road, just past milepost 141.

Travel map of Vicinity of Moab, Utah

Vicinity of Moab

Sovereign Single Track

Not every bike trail here is over slickrock; the challenging single-track Sovereign Trail is good to ride in hot weather. The trail, which contains rocky technical sections, a bit of slickrock, and more flowing single-track, is shared with motorcycles. Several trailheads access this trail; a popular one is from Willow Springs Road. From Moab, travel 11 miles north on U.S. 191 and turn right onto Willow Springs Road, following this sandy road 2.5 miles to the trailhead. To best see the options, pick up a map at a local bike store.

Kokopelli’s Trail

Mountain bikers have linked a 142-mile series of back roads, paved roads, and bike trails through the magical canyons of eastern Utah and western Colorado. The trail is usually ridden from east to west, starting in Loma, Colorado, and passing Rabbit Valley, Cisco Boat Landing, Dewey Bridge, Fisher Valley, and Castle Valley before landing on Sand Flats Road in Moab. Lots of optional routes, access points, and campsites allow for many possibilities. This multiday trip requires a significant amount of advance planning; Bikerpelli Sports is a good place to start this process.

Moab Canyon Pathway (Road Biking)

Although the Moab area is great for biking, riding along busy U.S. 191 is no fun. The recently completed Moab Canyon Pathway starts at the Colorado River bridge at the north end of town and closely parallels the highway north to Arches National Park. From the entrance to the park, the path, which is separated from the road, continues north, climbing to the junction of U.S. 191 and Highway 313, the road to Dead Horse Point State Park and Canyonlands’ Island in the Sky District. From this intersection, the bike path is on a relatively wide shoulder; it’s a 35-mile ride to Canyonlands’ Grand View Point, or a mere 24-mile uphill chug to Dead Horse Point.

The paved route provides easy cycling access to the MOAB Brand mountain bike trails just off U.S. 191 and a more challenging ride to the Intrepid trails in Dead Horse Point State Park and the Gemini Bridges Trail, which starts just outside the park.

Excerpted from the Sixth Edition of Moon Zion & Bryce.