Barrel and Zen Double Loop

The Barrel/Zen route combines two popular loops to give technically-oriented riders a full smorgasbord of rocky, stunt-laden fun.

Mountain Biking Severe

Distance
17 km
Ascent
540 m
Descent
540 m
Duration
1-2 hrs
Low Point
826 m
High Point
1 km
Gradient
Barrel and Zen Double Loop Map

Just off the southwest corner of St. George, Utah, lies a massive conglomeration of trail networks where riders of all levels and styles can find multiple options to their liking. The area includes well-known trails from buttery-smooth to totally-gnarly, and a confusing myriad of connecting trails, doubletracks, and old dirt roads, making for quite a spaghetti plate of options. This route brings together two fairly straightforward loops, both of which can be ridden from the same trailhead, or even from town. These are the two most technical loops in the area, each about six miles in length, so it's possible to ride just one or the other which, despite the low mileage, may be enough for many riders given the challenges presented.

Description

The route as described begins with a loop up part of the Green Valley racecourse and descending on the longtime St. George favorite, the Barrel Trail, so named for the many barrel cactus that line it. Most of the climb is relatively non-technical and of moderate grade, making it a fairly easy way to gain some elevation for the return trip. Once on top, there is a large open rock area which is fun to ride, but will require a sharp eye for cairns in some places to stay on the route. When the loop turns back down, that's where the fun (or mayhem) begins. You'll encounter all manner of stunts, some natural, incorporating the many rocks along the way, and some man-made, including ramps onto or off of rocks. There are also a few gap jumps, some times long enough to require serious speed. There are ride arounds (or hike arounds) for all the most challenging features, so a solid intermediate and a pro freerider can hit this one together and still have a great time.

The second loop is on the Zen Trail, which was cut much later than the Barrel Trail, and makes maximum use of the more frequent rock features on its part of the great escarpment. The climb for this one is longer and more taxing, but the more continuous natural technical features make it worth the effort. If you think you may only be up for one loop and you prefer natural features, then skip the Barrel Trail and just do Zen. If you're not sure, do Zen first and then go to Barrel. The upper part of Zen is an absolute rock crawler's delight, with all manner of rock moves including wide open and narrow, step ups, rollers, drops, real thread-the-needle grooves, and even a low overhang which requires the rider to really duck to clear.

These trails are all completely exposed to the harsh desert sun. The good news is that they're generally ridable year round, but if riding in the summer months, start early to beat the heat and always bring plenty of water. Bring your camera as well, as there are lots of great shots both of the mountain and desert backdrops, as well as action shots of the many features.

Difficulty

Severe

Widely variable, narrow trail tread with steeper grades and unavoidable obstacles of 15in/38cm tall or less. Obstacles may include unavoidable bridges 24in/61cm wide or less, large rocks, gravel, difficult root sections, and more. Ideal for advanced-level riders.

High Exposure

3 out of 4

Some trail sections have exposed ledges or steep ascents/descents where falling could cause serious injury.

Remoteness

2 out of 4

Away from help but easily accessed.

Best time to visit

January, February, March, April, May, June, July, August, September, October, November, December

Features

  • Flow
  • Technical
  • Singletrack
  • Drops
  • Jumps
  • Gap Jumps
  • Rock Rolls
  • Rock Slabs
  • Rock Gardens

Similar routes nearby

Guidebooks in this area