Utah's mountain biking terrain and trails vary greatly by geographical region. Essentially the state is divided between high desert and mountains, both of which provide for first-rate mountain biking. In the north, the Wasatch Range dominates the landscape and provides many alpine mountain bike routes. In southern and parts of western Utah, high desert plateaus provide many rides on rugged trails along canyons' edges and past unique rock formations.
Utah's mountain biking season varies as much as its terrain. At higher elevations in the mountains, some trails have a very short season that doesn't start until July and runs until October. Southern desert trails in destinations like Moab and St. George are ridable all year round, although the summer months are extremely hot and mountain biking, particularly midday, is inadvisable.
Mountain Bike Meccas
For decades, Moab has earned a reputation as The Mountain Biking Capital of the World. Trails such as Slickrock and Porcupine Rim are some of the best-known mountain biking trails anywhere. Best known for its slickrock and rocky 4 by 4 roads, Moab also offers access to alpine mountain biking through the La Sal Mountains to the south, thus making it an excellent taste of Utah. Moab and the greater surrounding area offer numerous mountain biking routes for novice and expert riders.
More recently, St. George, in the southwest corner of Utah, has earned itself a reputation close to Moab's. Gooseberry Mesa is a name that has earned a rank not only on Utah's top mountain biking trails, but also on lists of top United States trails. St. George offers similar high desert riding on slickrock and dry singletrack with incredible views of rock formations and canyons, but with less crowds than Moab.
Park City may be best known for its slopes and Sundance Film Festival, but it is also a major mountain biking destination in the summer. Lift service at Park City Mountain Resort, Deer Valley and the Canyons combine with greater cross-country treks through the surrounding mountains to make a truly worthy destination. Mid-Mountain Trail is one very popular Park City classic. Many of Park City's trails start right in town and work their way deep into the mountains and aspen-lined forests.
The Cottonwood Canyons (Big and Little) along with neighboring Mill Creek Canyon offer extensive trail networks with many individual trailheads. When in the Salt Lake City area, this is the place to mountain bike if you're looking for a lot of trail options all in one place. The Wasatch Crest Trail and the Big Water Trail are two of the classic trails that run through this area.
There are some dangers and considerations inherent to Utah mountain biking. Rattlesnakes reside throughout many of the deserts and wilderness areas where mountain biking is popular. Be sure to pay attention where you ride and step. Flash floods are a potential hazard in the canyons of Moab and southern Utah. Utah's cactuses and small, thorny brush can cause flat tires, requiring heavy-duty, no-flat tubes or just extra preparedness.