James Murren
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MTB Gooseberry Mesa, UT

By James Murren

Gooseberry Mesa in southwestern Utah is one of those places that has been on many a mountain biker’s bucket list for decades. Its fame and desire-to-ride has endured longer than most marriages. I’m not sure what that means, other than the relationship between a dream mountain bike ride and the terrain living up to expectations has lasted a long time, long enough to keep riders happy and coming back to red rock country, as well as telling friends to go and ride the Goose. 

The location

>> Gooseberry Mesa

Nearly a mile high in the sky, with views that elicit all kinds of adjectives that attempt to describe the massive scale of wonder and beauty that lives there, Gooseberry Mesa sits less than an hour’s drive east of the St. George/Hurricane, UT region along State Route 59. The long dirt road approach can be good, if it’s recently graded. If not, and if rains recently fell, you might need four-wheel drive and high clearance.  Forget about biking in such conditions, the dirt/mud there will drive you mad, peanut butter and cement getting gummed up in your drivetrain. 

For this particular trip, I slept in one of Kenny’s Gooseberry Mesa Yurts. This time around, I had yurt #3, or Zion View, as it’s known.  Morning sunrises coming up over the red and white rock walls of Zion National Park warmed my being in preparation for rides, while the sunsets behind the yurt over the Pine Valley Mountains put me in a tranquil mood later in the evening, the long light of early summer putting on a show across the way on Zion’s walls.

The trails

>> South Rim

Hop right on Windmill Trail from the yurt road > Bowls and Ledges > Practice > left on White to the parking lot > South Rim to the point/lookout > head back off the point and on to White > North Rim > Practice > Bowls and Ledges > Windmill.

For me, the highlight of the route is South Rim. There is technical riding in there that when cleaned, puts me in a happy place of yesterday, when “cleaning” something meant more than how fast you can ride a bike on a trail. I grunted up one of the steep slick rock climbs, making it for the first time ever without a dab. The other two, forget about it. I cannot do them. 

Out on the point, I ate lunch and chatted with fellow riders. One of the absolute best things about riding Gooseberry is that you meet people from all over the world, testament to the power of riding a bike on such a landscape. This time, what was equally as cool is that I saw several families riding the mesa. Easily, more than fifteen young people, aged 10-18 I would guess, were mountain biking, and seemingly having a great time. Moms and Dads were too. Rad!

The beers

>> Edge of the World Brewery

Kenny alerted me about a new brewery — Edge of the World — in Colorado City, AZ, a mere 20-minute drive on State Route 59. The town’s historical infamy comes with its polygamous past. Anyway, I simply wanted to taste a local high-point beer, as Utah has that 4% ABV packaged beer thing going on, and I did not make the effort to stop at a state liquor store to get heavy beer, as the state’s website calls it. In my cooler were some cans of San Diego IPAs (Pizza Port Tie Dye and Pizza Port Palapa) and Second Chance Tabula Rasa, but they were for chilling out on the yurt deck.

Off to Edge of the World Brewery, I went. Their porter was on the thin side with some hints of caramel. It needed more roasted notes to fit my liking, but the setting and crowd was great. Tiny, with a mellow vibe and seemingly locals and passers-through coexisting with ease made for a nice outing. 

Chips/guac/salsa with a side salad helped the porter go down. When the pizza arrived, I ordered an IPA I knew well: Lumberyard Brewing Company Flagstaff IPA. A multiple GABF and World Beer Cup award winner, the 6.1% ABV, 90 IBU pint poured the color of fresh straw bales that have been sitting in a barn for seven hours and the hops lightly bit my tongue as they filled my taste buds with hints of pine cones that have been laying on the forest floor for three days of dry weather, meaning not wet weather. I am pretty sure I tasted some citrus notes while eating the chicken alfredo slices, which were delicious. Balanced, is how I’d wrap up this IPA discussion.