Theres a good reason Moab is an MTB Mecca: theres an incredible number and variety of trails there, all friendly and legal. A well-planned trip to Moab can be a highlight of your biking career.
And yet, some people seem disappointed in their Moab trips. Ive heard people say its too hot, its too crowded, and the trails arent all theyre cracked up to be. And all these complaints were true but they didnt have to be.
Like just about any vacation, enjoying Moab is, in large part, knowing the proper wheres and whens. Through trial and error over the course of dozens of Moab visits (I live just a few hours away), I think Ive got the perfect Moab trip dialed. Here are 5 tips you can use to reach mountain biking nirvana.
When to go
I have been to Moab during the summer once. That was all it took. Moab is evil-hot from mid-May through most of September.
Cyclists who attempt to ride during the middle of the day this time of year have been known to spontaneously burst into flame, hydration pack and all.
Strangely, though, this is the busy season for Moab, making for crowded trails, high hotel rates and frazzled, overworked locals in restaurants. In short, do yourself a favor: dont go to Moab during the summer. Instead, think early spring, autumn, and even winter. Yes, really.
What to wear
I just got back from a spectacular long weekend in Moab at the beginning of November.
I brought all my cold-weather riding gear, but actually wore shorts and a short-sleeved jersey for the mid-day rides and just added arm- and knee-warmers for the morning and afternoon rides. In fact, we even went on a night ride, and tights, a long-sleeved jersey and a windbreaker were enough to keep me toasty.
The fact is, Moab has good riding clear through the winter. My friends and I have an annual February Cabin-Fever expedition out to Moab, and while you have to bundle up a bit (base layer, wool socks, tights, heavy jersey, jacket, thick gloves), theres still great snow-free riding to be had.
Where to stay
For such a small town, Moab has a huge number of hotels.
Im sure theyre all very nice, but I always stay in either the Aarchway Inn or the Canyonlands Best Western. Why? Theyre both clean and reasonably-priced, they both provide secure bike storage, and they both provide a nice continental breakfast.
You can find a list of all hotels and their contact information (as well as tons more information about Moab) at http://www.moab-utah.com/.
Where to eat
This may be the trickiest thing to recommend, since tastes in food vary so widely. Ill give it a shot anyway, though. For after-ride eating, I go to the Moab Brewery or Pasta Jays.
Both of these places serve good food, and lots of it. Theyre also both very bike-friendly, which means that theyre used to folks showing up with helmet hair and wearing shorts and bike shoes.
Where to ride
Ah, now we come to the crux of the matter. The truth is, there are 1.3 kazillion good rides in Moab; you cant hope to ride them all.
Many riders, looking at a map of local trails in the area for the first time, get a deer-looking-into-headlights expression, known as trailhead overload.
I can help here by listing what I consider the cant miss rides (you can get a map of trailheads at any bike shop, of which there are severalall goodin Moab). A caveat, though: Im assuming you know how to handle your bikenone of these are novice or beginner rides:
Slickrock This is the most famous trail in the world. Riding along this vast landscape of petrified sand dunes is an almost surreal experience.
Your tires have amazing grip on the sandstone (try slicks for even more incredible traction) that you can climb up incredibly unbelievably, really steep hills without slipping. Youll feel like youre defying gravity.
Most people just ride along the painted trail line, but youll get more out of the ride if you stray a just a bit (keep the painted line in sight, so you dont get lost, though). Practice climbing up tricky pitches, hopping up ledges, and such. This is a natural MTB playground.
Dont just rush through the trail, trying to get it over with. Experiment. Fiddle. Have a ball. This is one of the few rides youll do where you wont see mean signs admonishing you to stay on the trail, so dont.
Ive gone to Slickrock before and spent three hours never getting more than a mile from the trailhead; I was having too much fun just trying out different moves.
Amasa Back This is a short, out-and-back ride you can do it in just a couple of hours but its got tricky ledges, staircase descents, a lung-busting climb, and a whoop-and-holler downhill return trip.
Plus, the turnaround point is a beautiful overlook. This is a great ride to do when you dont have tons of time (if you arrive in Moab in the afternoon, for example). Amasa Back also has some secret, ultra-technical singletrack options. For the truly intrepid only.
Flat Pass In the mood for a few widely-spaced technical moves along with swooping, free-wheeling doubletrack? This is the ride for you.
You can easily spend three hours on this moderately difficult ride. The water crossings, rock-strewn dry creek bed and long stretch of deep sand at the end of the trail get mixed reviews from bikers, but make for a terrific adventure.
This trail dumps you out six miles from the trailhead, meaning youll either need to ride back to your car on the road or set up a shuttle vehicle.
Gold Bar Rim At least in my mind, this trail is Moab.
Incredible views, a good, long ride (several hours; bring a lunch), lots of tricky moves you can spend hours mastering, capped off by a hair-raising descent down the Portal Trail (when the signs say Dismount, do it. People die when they fall off this trail).
Gold Bar Rim is the best of what Moab has to offer. And, ironically, one of the least crowded. You could ride all day and not see another biker.
There are so many more good rides, and youll discover your favorites as you explore. Use these tips to get to know Moab during the so-called off-season, and I promise you like countless others will come to love this little slice of mountain biking heaven.
Elden Nelson sees no reason to ride anywhere but his own hometown trails of Utah County during summer, but gets positively goofy at the thought of a midwinter Moab road trip. Feel free to email him: firstname.lastname@example.org.