Like neighbors Arizona and Colorado and nearby California, Utah is well known for its epic mountain biking. There are so many great places to mountain bike in Utah, that picking just ten trails is a challenge.
But we’ve done it anyway.
Utah’s Moab is a mountain biking mecca not just in the state, but in the entire country. It’s no wonder that half of our list is located here including Captain Ahab, the Whole Enchilada, Slickrock, Dead Horse Point Tour, and Bar-M Loop.
What makes Moab so epic?
Sprawling canyons and massive red rock formations set the stage for huge descents, rocky trails, and epic lengths.
In short, Moab doesn’t just have some of the best trails in the U.S. It has some of the best mountain biking in the world.
And, for that reason, it’s best to pick an off-peak time if you can as trails in Moab can become crowded.
Although overshadowed by Moab, trails in the Salt Lake City area should not be ignored. This includes Wasatch Crest, which offers high altitude mountain biking, with challenging and stunning mountain terrain that’s almost as breathtaking as Moab.
Here are 10 of the best mountain bike trails in Utah.
1. The Whole Enchilada, Moab
There’s a reason this trail loop has the name it has, with the length including plenty of technical challenges through slickrock, humus, woodlands, creeks, and sandy singletrack.
Starting out at an already-bewildering 10,000 feet above sea level, the trail then leads over 1,400 feet higher still through the Burro Pass. From there, it’s mostly downhill for miles in a sizable loop back to Moab.
Experienced riders will know that descents in Moab are hardly easy, often involving complex switchbacks, steep angles, and plenty of speed.
To get through the ride in one day and with plenty of daylight left, riders should start early, preferably avoiding the crowds that tend to rush in by mid-morning.
2. Captain Ahab, Moab
Ahab is a highly technical stretch of singletrack which forms a recent addition to the renowned Amasa Back trail network. With excellent views of the Canyonlands and Jackson Hole, this trail combines a challenging ride with gorgeous scenery.
Purpose-built for mountain biking, it starts off with some knotty climbs and plenty of intimidating drops. The upper length of the trail is composed of a masterful collection of technical descents. However, there are ride-around included to avoid drops for those riders who aren’t feeling up to the challenge.
Near the bottom of the trail, riders will be carried along a path overlooking Kane Creek, with plenty of flowy speed and very few impediments or climbing. Finish up by looping back onto Amasa and the rest of the trails it has to offer.
3. Gooseberry Mesa, Hurricane
Gooseberry Mesa is one of Utah’s most internationally recognized trails, with the technical elements, twisting routes, and unbeatable views drawing riders from all over the world. It’s also one of the best examples of how the terrain in Utah seems almost tailor-made for MTB.
Starting at a lofty 5,200 feet, the trail gradually climbs a modest few hundred feet, with good visibility and few surprises. Its difficulty helps to ward off some of the crowds seen on other trails, resulting in moderate traffic which allows riders to walk sections when a rest is needed.
Preceding the main trail is a handy practice trail to help riders, especially newcomers, warm up. This trail is distinguished by National Recreation Trail status, so it’s maintained by the Bureau of Land Management to high standards.
4. Navajo Rocks, Moab
Navajo Rocks is one of the newer trails around Moab, having been cut out only in 2014. It’s a relatively straightforward singletrack loop, but even novice riders will need some substantial stamina to cope with the constant ups and downs in its rolling length.
Riders will start on Rocky Tops, a short initial trail that can serve as a refreshing warmup. Tackling gentle inclines through desert scrub, sand, slickrock, and clay, you’ll eventually reach the end of this leg, where you’ll be rewarded with views of Jug Rock and other features to the north.
Next, after some tough climbs interspersed with flowy sections through the Coney Island and Big Lonely trails, you’ll top out on Big Mesa. Here you’ll be treated to dazzling vistas and impressive sandstone outcroppings and cliffs, so be sure to take your time over the flowy singletrack towards the end.
5. Dead Horse Point Tour, Moab
Moab is best known for its difficult singletracks, but it does contain a handful of trails for journeyman riders and those who want an easier ride in between the challenges. Dead Horse Point offers speed, flowy singletrack, and engaging scenery in an easy-to-tackle loop.
Beginning on Intrepid trail, a quick section that can serve as a good warmup, riders will soon reach the first great views of the ride on the Colorado River Overlook. The route then proceeds through the Great Pyramid trail, where several rock outcroppings can either be tackled by the more adventurous or dismounted to avoid. Along the way, the Great Pyramid outcropping can be spotted.
The remainder of the route includes lightly rocky sections with outstanding views all the way through, capped off by a gently technical section through intriguing rock formations.
6. Slickrock, Moab
It’s all in the name.
This tricky singletrack carries riders over miles of tacky slickrock and through starkly beautiful terrain, making it obvious why this is one of the best-known MTB trails in the United States.
The unique stone and desert surface means that this trail is also unbelievably hot, particularly during midday in the summer. To avoid some of the worst of the heat, as well as occasionally heavy dirt bike traffic, start early.
The trail will start off easily enough before coming to nerve-wrackingly steep climbs and descents through several relatively straight sections. Be sure to look out for a number of overlooks and views of canyons and rivers along the way.
It’s finally ended by a last monumental climb and descent before rejoining the area trail network.
7. The Whole Guacamole, Springdale
For those who want the views and challenge of the Whole Enchilada without the commitment required by its 34 mile length, the Whole Guacamole is a satisfying alternative. Riders will set out on sections of slickrock before hitting the singletrack that makes up most of its length.
Gravel and sand make up the surface, providing reliable tread, and small stone cairns mark the way to guide newcomers. Along the way, you’ll be treated to great views of mesas and mountains in the area, including Zion and Pine Valley Mountains.
Scattered throughout are petrified wood, sweet-smelling juniper and sagebrush, and desert wildflowers, and hawks and owls can also be spotted. The dust in some sections of this trail can be tough to negotiate after a rain, so keep that in mind when planning a ride.
8. Bar-M Loop, Moab
The Bar-M Loop is a moderately difficult trail which represents a great opportunity for beginners to get to grips with the area’s trails. Besides being a solid introduction to technicals, it’s also a good trail to find one’s feet on singletrack.
Traversing quick flowy sections and some endurance-challenging technical areas along Deadman’s Ridge, you’ll pass through a series of slickrock passages followed by berm bowls before reaching vantage points overlooking the world-famous Arches National Park.
For more adventurous or energetic riders, there’s a turn-off into the well-regarded North 40 loop, where the technical challenges get more numerous and thrilling.
There’s also an option to take a bypass to complete the ride more easily to come back to the trailhead just off U.S. Route 191.
9. Thunder Mountain Trail, Panguitch
Just like the name, this trail is indescribably cool, with plenty of tricky bits to navigate all within view of the stunning eponymous Thunder Mountain.
The trail is largely firm singletrack with several lengths of crazed switchbacks, along with technical sections that can be safely walked for those who want to avoid them.
Riders will be surrounded by trees and impressive views of the surrounding mountains of Bryce Canyon National Park from the get-go. After riding through exhilarating hills and valleys of Coyote Hollow’s dirt roads, you’ll encounter tight switchbacks and tangled technicals.
Finally, the path back to the trailhead is a long, windy flow on which you can let loose of the brakes and pick up some thrilling speed.
10. Wasatch Crest, Alta
For a refreshing, open-air ride with 360° views of the wooded green hills surrounding Salt Lake City, it’s hard to beat Wasatch Crest.
The trail is an integral part of several loops overlooking town, with trailheads at Big Cottonwood Canyon, Millcreek Canyon, Scott’s Pass, and Park City.
The dirt singletrack passes through birch, aspen, and pine woodlands in sections while exposing riders to windy ridgeline rides throughout, with plenty of deceptive ascents that are nevertheless refreshingly challenging.
Of particular note are views of Lake Desolation as well as vistas of peaks including Silver, Little Water, and Murdock. The final leg includes a fun descent down the crest itself on which a decent bit of speed can be gained.