Moab reacts to destination mountain biking’s changing landscape.
Built on stunning vistas and impossibly tacky sandstone, Moab, Utah established itself early in the mountain biking epoch as the North American fat tire destination. “In the 1990s people were just psyched to ride Moab’s jeep roads with a little bit of singletrack because it was so scenic,” says Leslie Kehmeier, Mapping Specialist for the International Mountain Bicycling Association (IMBA).
As the sport grew, however, sleepy mountain towns and forgotten tracts of high altitude desert across the country began building impressive trail networks. Only a few hours to the north of Moab, Fruita, Colorado emerged as the slickrock area’s most direct competition—drawing recreational dollars away from Moab based almost solely on new singletrack. More recently, Moab has responded: “Moab was like, ‘Wait a minute, people are stopping in Fruita and not coming here.’ So they started building,” says Kehmeier.
Working with the Bureau of Land Management, the Grand County Trail Mix organization procured a grant that guaranteed the construction of 150 miles of new trails by 2015. So far, they have completed 120 of those miles, including the highly lauded Magnificent 7 (or Mag 7) trails.
Here’s the overview. The Mag 7 network ties together the upper and lower sections of Gemini Bridges Road with seven trails: Bull Run, Arth’s Corner, Little Canyon, Gold Bar Rim, Golden Spike, Poison Spider, and Portal. Perhaps more importantly, as four-wheeling has grown in popularity alongside mountain biking, the 21-mile point-to-point ride traverses the tops of canyons you can’t experience in a Jeep. For enduro types, shuttling to 6,000 feet and starting your ride at the upper end of Gemini Bridges Road and Bull Run Trail allows you to maximize the downhill. Slickrock and sandy singletrack take you past canyon ledges with distant views of the La Sal Mountains. From the exit, the Bar M trail and bike path let you ride all the way back into town.
Mountain magazine ran its 2014 (model year) bike tests on many of Moab’s most famed trails, both old and new. The test crew was drawn by exactly these improvements. “People are blown away by the new trails,” says Laurel Hunter, Western Spirit Cycling marketing director and active Trail Mix member. —Matt Hart / Photo courtesy of Utah Office of Tourism