TR: Moab MTB 9/9-9/11/2016

I am an expert at belated trip reports.

Gary suggested a Moab trip right after the Labor Day weekend as an ideal time to tag the famous Whole Enchilada ride with minimal crowds, and Jena, Zach, Alex, and I were eager to join.

We started the first day with the other main shuttle ride in Moab, Magnificent 7. The scenery did not suck.

The first half of the ride is on newer trails, build specifically with mountain bikes in mind. They are fun and flowing, with the occasional moderately technical challenge. Here I'm cranking up one such challenge, a steep, step-up rock ramp.

There's also an alternate line, which Jena had a go at.

The trail passes the Gemini Bridge arches, so we stopped for some photos.

Once you hit the halfway point of the ride, it changes dramatically in character. The modern, bike-optimized singletrack ends as  you follow a somewhat vague, loose doubletrack descent to connect with the Gold Bar Rim jeep road. A couple gnarly drops on the road (that pose a serious challenge to heavily modified rock crawlers) leads to a brutal, hot, exposed climb up to the Gold Bar Rim singletrack. The scenery on the rim is nothing short of spectacular, though, and we were treated to a fantastic view of the Colorado River.

The Gold Bar Rim singletrack is burly. It's exposed and technical, and though it trends downhill overall, there are numerous steep, punchy, technical climbs that make it significantly more draining than you'd expect. We were pretty worked by the end.

Problem is, once you hit the end of Gold Bar Rim, you have two choices, and neither one is easy. The first option is to ride nearly 8 miles down the Poison Spider jeep road. That's a lot of distance, and the road is not really a "road" it's a full-on 4x4 trail, so it's not smooth sailing. We were getting low on daylight so this didn't seem appealing.

The other option is Portal. Portal has probably killed more mountain bikers than any other trail in North America. It is only 2.5 miles, but it is literally wedged onto a shelf between two cliff bands, with massive exposure. Walking your bike in many sections is mandatory. Once past the exposure, the trail drops 1000' in less than a mile through extremely technical terrain. It's no cakewalk.

Eventually we decided to do Portal, taking it slow, and everyone made it down safe. We were all pretty psyched for brats over the fire that night.

The next day we saddled up for the Whole Enchilada. Many claim it's the best mountain bike ride in the country. I'll be a contrarian and not go that far... much of the singletrack is a little pedally for my tastes, and there's a significant amount of doubletrack. That said it's definitely a special ride. The coolest part is the number of different ecosystems you travel through - starting in the mountains near treeline, descending through evergreen forests, then aspens, through high desert scrub oak and sage brush, and eventually down into the desert and ending up along the Colorado River. Here's Gary cruising through the aspens after the first (and in my opinion) best descent, from Burro Pass to Hazard Country.

Pretty much everyone takes a photo at this spot overlooking Castle Valley from Porcupine Rim, for good reason.

There are some fun spots on the Porcupine Rim jeep road. Zach entering a nice double drop.

The ride ends with a sweet singletrack finish from the rim down to the Colorado River. Alex, Zach, Gary, Alex.

Nap shaming each other is a thing among my friends, and I fell victim that evening. Biking is hard.

We had a gorgeous sunrise the next morning.

Most everyone packed up and headed home, but Zach and I wanted to get one more ride in. Hymasa/Captain Ahab is a newer loop and relatively short. We didn't take any action shots but the trail was super fun and the scenery fantastic.

A quick rinse seemed like a great idea before a 5 hour drive home so we took a quick dip in Mill Creek to finish off the day. Awesome trip!


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