The Most Epic Desert Southwest MTB Road Trip Ever

If you were to hit all of these epic desert trails in one road trip, it would be the most epic Desert Southwest mountain bike road trip EVER!!

Greg Heil

Images

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Be careful to make the turn off the Ribbon before you reach this point, because it’s a long way down! Photo: Greg Heil

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View from the top of Free Lunch. Photo: Greg Heil

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View from the rim of the upper rock slab. Photo: Greg Heil

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The rock slab at the top of the trail. Photo: Greg Heil

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Your choice is between really hard and insane on the Free Lunch Trail. Photo: Greg Heil

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The technical descent on Moore Fun

by Greg Heil

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Off camber Moore Fun traverse, on new singletrack

by Greg Heil

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by Greg Heil

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Greg Heil

by View of the Colorado River from Wrangler's.

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Bombing down a ridgeline at 18 Road. Photo by Leslie Kehmeier, Mapping Manager, International Mountain Bicycling Association. Photo courtesy BLM via Flickr Creative Commons.

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Bombing down a ridgeline at 18 Road. Photo by Leslie Kehmeier, Mapping Manager, International Mountain Bicycling Association. Photo courtesy BLM via Flickr Creative Commons.

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Bombing down a ridgeline at 18 Road. Photo by Leslie Kehmeier, Mapping Manager, International Mountain Bicycling Association. Photo courtesy BLM via Flickr Creative Commons.

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Bombing down a ridgeline at 18 Road. Photo by Leslie Kehmeier, Mapping Manager, International Mountain Bicycling Association. Photo courtesy BLM via Flickr Creative Commons.

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Looking back up The Whole Enchilada toward the La Sal mountains. Photo: Stanislav Sedov via Flickr Creative Commons

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Mountain biking The Whole Enchilada. Photo: Stanislav Sedov via Flickr Creative Commons

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Enjoying the lower sections of The Whole Enchilada. Photo: Stanislav Sedov via Flickr Creative Commons

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Round Mountain in the Castle Valley, as seen from The Whole Enchilada. Photo: Stanislav Sedov via Flickr Creative Commons

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Rider: Greg Heil

by Mike De La Rosa

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View of the Colorado River. Photo: Greg Heil

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View of the La Sal Mountains. Photo: Greg Heil

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Classic spray painted dots show the route on Slickrock. Photo: Greg Heil

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Riding the Slickrock Trail. Photo: Trailsource.com via Flickr Creative Commons

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Riding the Slickrock Trail. Photo: Trailsource.com via Flickr Creative Commons

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Gorgeous view from the top of the trail. Photo: Greg Heil

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The rock faces in this valley are simply stunning! Photo: Greg Heil

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Tight squeeze. Rider: Greg Heil

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Climbing Hymasa. Photo: Greg Heil

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Rock rolls abound. Rider: Greg Heil

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Gorgeous view from the top of the trail. Photo: Greg Heil

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Rider: Greg Heil

by Marcel Slootheer

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This gives you a sense of the exposure on the iconic Portal Trail. Photo: Robert Tadlock via Flickr Creative Commons

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Gold Bar Rim is just a litttttle bit exposed. Rider: Greg Heil

by Nick Orticelle

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by Greg Heil

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by Greg Heil

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Riding along the rim of Gooseberry Mesa. Photo by Leslie Kehmeier, Mapping Manager, International Mountain Bicycling Association. Photo courtesy BLM via Flickr Creative Commons.

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Riding at Gooseberry Mesa. Photo by Leslie Kehmeier, Mapping Manager, International Mountain Bicycling Association. Photo courtesy BLM via Flickr Creative Commons.

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Gooseberry Mesa slickrock. Photo by Leslie Kehmeier, Mapping Manager, International Mountain Bicycling Association. Photo courtesy BLM via Flickr Creative Commons.

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Sunset on Gooseberry Mesa. Photo by Leslie Kehmeier, Mapping Manager, International Mountain Bicycling Association. Photo courtesy BLM via Flickr Creative Commons.

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Riding along the rim of Gooseberry Mesa. Photo by Leslie Kehmeier, Mapping Manager, International Mountain Bicycling Association. Photo courtesy BLM via Flickr Creative Commons.

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Guacamole Rocks

by John Fisch

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by John Fisch

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by John Fisch

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Views of Zion from Guacamole Mesa

by Greg Heil

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by Greg Heil

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by Greg Heil

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by Greg Heil

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Zen Trail Overhang

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Zen Trail Climb

by John Fisch

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Lotsa Lava Scott Cotter

by Scott Cotter

Licence Free

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Glad to be back. Scott Cotter

by Scott Cotter

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Rocks and Roll Scott Cotter

by Scott Cotter

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Gentle Bench Scott Cotter

by Scott Cotter

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Big Grin Scott Cotter

by Scott Cotter

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Bigger Dipper Scott Cotter

by Scott Cotter

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Greenery Scott Cotter

by Scott Cotter

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Rock and Ramble Scott Cotter

by Scott Cotter

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Signs of Impending Doom Scott Cotter

by Scott Cotter

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Rider: Marcel Slootheer

by Greg Heil

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Rider: Greg Heil

by Marcel Slootheer

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Rider: Greg Heil

by Marcel Slootheer

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Rider: Greg Heil

by Marcel Slootheer

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Rider: Greg Heil

by Marcel Slootheer

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by Greg Heil

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by Greg Heil

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by Greg Heil

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Panorama of Submarine Rock and Broken Arrow Trail area

by Coconino National Forest

Licence Free

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Red rock on the Hangover Trail. Photo: Trailsource.com via Flickr Creative Commons

by TRAILSOURCE.com

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Junction with Mund's Wagon Trail

by Coconino National Forest

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Mund's Wagon Trail segment

by Coconino National Forest

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Crossing Willow Creek John Fisch

by John Fisch

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Granite Basin Hill John Fisch

by John Fisch

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Granite Basin Rock Garden John Fisch

by John Fisch

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by Leslie Kehmeier, Mapping Manager, International Mountain Bicycling Association, courtesy of the BLM

Creative Commons: Attribution
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by Leslie Kehmeier, Mapping Manager, International Mountain Bicycling Association, courtesy of the BLM

Creative Commons: Attribution
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by Leslie Kehmeier, Mapping Manager, International Mountain Bicycling Association, courtesy of the BLM

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by Leslie Kehmeier, Mapping Manager, International Mountain Bicycling Association, courtesy of the BLM

Creative Commons: Attribution
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by Leslie Kehmeier, Mapping Manager, International Mountain Bicycling Association, courtesy of the BLM

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by Leslie Kehmeier, Mapping Manager, International Mountain Bicycling Association, courtesy of the BLM

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by Leslie Kehmeier, Mapping Manager, International Mountain Bicycling Association, courtesy of the BLM

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by Leslie Kehmeier, Mapping Manager, International Mountain Bicycling Association, courtesy of the BLM

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by Leslie Kehmeier, Mapping Manager, International Mountain Bicycling Association, courtesy of the BLM

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by Leslie Kehmeier, Mapping Manager, International Mountain Bicycling Association, courtesy of the BLM

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by Leslie Kehmeier, Mapping Manager, International Mountain Bicycling Association, courtesy of the BLM

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Start of Geronimo Descent John Fisch

by John Fisch

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Mormon Climb 2

by John Fisch

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by Greg Heil

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View of Phoenix

by Greg Heil

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by Greg Heil

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by Greg Heil

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Top of the Geronimo Trail

by Greg Heil

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by John Fisch

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Scenic desert views.

by Bob Robinson

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Fast and flowy!

by Bob Robinson

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Mother Nature's rollers!

by Bob Robinson

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Second Mesa Descent John Fisch

by John Fisch

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Third Mesa Singletrack John Fisch

by John Fisch

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Switchbacks on Third Mesa John Fisch

by John Fisch

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by Greg Heil

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View of the mountains

by Greg Heil

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Hero dirt!

by Greg Heil

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by Greg Heil

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by Greg Heil

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White Mesa, Dragon's Back @theofficialtrailblazers

by The Trailblazers

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White Mesa, Dragon's Back @theofficialtrailblazers

by The Trailblazers

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Second Hot Spring @theofficialtrailblazers

by The Trailblazers

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Rejoining the start of Dragon's Back @theofficialtrailblazers

by The Trailblazers

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East Leg, White Mesa @theofficialtrailblazers

by The Trailblazers

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The descent at the end of Dragon's Back @theofficialtrailblazers

by The Trailblazers

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The hike-a-bike section @theofficialtrailblazers

by The Trailblazers

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Galisteo Basin Preserve Trail

by The Trail Blazers

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Galisteo Basin Preserve Trail

by The Trail Blazers

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Galisteo Basin Preserve Trail

by The Trail Blazers

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Galisteo Basin Preserve Trail

by The Trail Blazers

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Galisteo Basin Preserve Trail

by The Trail Blazers

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Galisteo Basin Preserve Trail

by The Trail Blazers

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Galisteo Basin Preserve Trail

by The Trail Blazers

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A seat with a view. Scott Cotter

by Scott Cotter

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A skull to guide the way. Scott Cotter

by Scott Cotter

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Into the blue Brett Huber

by Brett Huber

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Ledges of Love Brett Huber

by Brett Huber

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Viewtastic Brett Huber

by Brett Huber

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Selfie Shelf Brett Huber

by Brett Huber

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Rock groove Brett Huber

by Brett Huber

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Flowy desert singletrack.

by Greg Heil

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Looking up at the mesa.

by Greg Heil

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by Greg Heil

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Pedalling along the rim.

by Greg Heil

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by Greg Heil

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by Greg Heil

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by Greg Heil

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View from above. Photo: Greg Heil.

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Colorado River down below. Photo: Greg Heil

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Sweet singletrack on the Horsethief Bench Trail. Photo: Trailsource.com via Flickr Creative Commons

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Horsethief Bench singletrack with cliffs and the river in the background. Photo: Trailsource.com via Flickr Creative Commons

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Holy Cross. Rider: Greg Heil

by Joel Lipovetsky

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Holy Cross. Rider: Greg Heil

by Marcel Slootheer

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by Marcel Slootheer

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by Marcel Slootheer

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by Marcel Slootheer

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by Greg Heil

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by Greg Heil

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by Greg Heil

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by Greg Heil

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by Greg Heil

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by Greg Heil

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by Greg Heil

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Rock ledges on Boneshaker

by Greg Heil

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Ledge drop on Boneshaker

by Greg Heil

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Climbing Kibbles-n-Bits

by Greg Heil

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Ledge drop on Boneshaker

by Greg Heil

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Rocks on Boneshaker

by Greg Heil

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Red Rock views

by Greg Heil

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Red Rock views

by Greg Heil

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Red Rock views

by Greg Heil

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View of Calico Hills

by Greg Heil

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Boneshaker Trail

by Greg Heil

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Boneshaker Trail

by Greg Heil

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Boneshaker Trail

by Greg Heil

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Red Rock views

by Greg Heil

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by Greg Heil

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by Greg Heil

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by Greg Heil

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by Greg Heil

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by Greg Heil

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by Greg Heil

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by Greg Heil

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by Greg Heil

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by Greg Heil

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by Greg Heil

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by Greg Heil

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by Greg Heil

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by Greg Heil

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by Greg Heil

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by Greg Heil

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by Greg Heil

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by Greg Heil

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Ridgeline Trail

by Greg Heil

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Desert Tortoise

by Greg Heil

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Final Descent

by Greg Heil

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Rider: Greg Heil

by Marcel Slootheer

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Rider: Greg Heil

by Marcel Slootheer

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Rider: Greg Heil

by Marcel Slootheer

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Rider: Greg Heil

by Marcel Slootheer

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Marcel Slootheer on the Bug Springs Trail

by Greg Heil

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Marcel Slootheer on the Bug Springs Trail

by Greg Heil

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Marcel Slootheer on the Arizona Trail

by Greg Heil

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Marcel Slootheer on the La Milagrosa Trail

by Greg Heil

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La Milagrosa

by Greg Heil

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La Milagrosa

by Greg Heil

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Marcel Slootheer on the La Milagrosa Trail

by Greg Heil

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Rider: Greg Heil

by Marcel Slootheer

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Rider: Greg Heil

by Marcel Slootheer

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Rider: Greg Heil

by Marcel Slootheer

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Rider: Greg Heil

by Marcel Slootheer

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Rider: Greg Heil

by Marcel Slootheer

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Ledge drops on Porcupine Rim. Rider: Greg Heil

by Mike De La Rosa

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Rider: Marcel Slootheer

by Greg Heil

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Rider: Greg Heil

by Marcel Slootheer

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Around the Mountain. Rider: Greg Heil

by Marcel Slootheer

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Cowboy Slickrock. Rider: Greg Heil

by Marcel Slootheer

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Rider: Greg Heil

by Marcel Slootheer

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Rider: Greg Heil

by Marcel Slootheer

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Rider: Greg Heil

by Marcel Slootheer

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Around the Mountain. Rider: Greg Heil

by Marcel Slootheer

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Rider: Greg Heil

by Marcel Slootheer

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Rider: Greg Heil

by Marcel Slootheer

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Jagged Axe. Rider: Greg Heil

by Bryce Zeigle

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Climbing Cairn Me Up. Rider: Bryce Zeigle

by Greg Heil

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Jagged Axe. Rider: Bryce Zeigle

by Greg Heil

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Climbing Cairn Me Up. Rider: Bryce Zeigle

by Greg Heil

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Jagged Axe. Rider: Greg Heil

by Bryce Zeigle

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Jagged Axe. Rider: Greg Heil

by Bryce Zeigle

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Holy Mole. Rider: Greg Heil

by Bryce Zeigle

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by Greg Heil

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by Greg Heil

Description

The USA's Desert Southwest is one of the most dramatic landscapes in the world. Wide-open expanses of sagebrush, sand, and rocks have served as the set for countless movies. Towering rock formations burst from the ground in every variation imaginable—from upthrust cliffs to soaring spires, freestanding arches, blocky monoliths, and everything in between. In the Desert Southwest, the sky is massive, water is scarce, the landscape is harsh and unforgiving, and yet... this rugged terrain radiates a magical beauty that has captured the hearts of millions of visitors.

Connecting this iconic landscape is an endless network of trails. While many of the original routes were created by animals moving from place to place, and some were created by Native Americans, today, mountain bikers have embraced this rugged landscape by building miles upon miles of bike-optimized trails. Now, some of the most renowned mountain bike destinations in the world are found here in the Desert Southwest. Have you heard of Moab? Fruita? Sedona? Yeah, I thought so.

This road trip itinerary creates a loop connecting the most iconic mountain bike destinations in the Desert Southwest. In between the big-name destinations, you'll find lesser-known gems that are just as worth riding, even if they only receive a fraction of the traffic. If you complete this itinerary, you'll visit:

— Grand Junction, CO
— Fruita, CO
— Moab, UT
— Hurricane, UT
— St. George, UT
— Boulder City, NV
— Sedona, AZ
— Prescott, AZ
— Phoenix, AZ
— Tucson, AZ
— Gallup, NM
— Albuquerque, NM
— Glorieta, NM
— Santa Fe, NM
— Aztec, NM
— Cortez, CO

As you scroll through the list below, you'll realize this is an ambitious selection of trails. If you were to ride every single one of these trails in the course of a single road trip, it would easily be the most epic Desert Southwest mountain bike road trip EVER!! This list is meant to be inspirational. You can easily pick and choose the trails and the destinations from the list that you'd like to hit. The loop can be significantly shortened by skipping one or more destinations, or only hitting one trail in each location. But for the true vagabond that's leaving winter behind in search of desert sand and sun… consider tackling all of these epic trails (and more!).

Adventures

The Ribbon -> Free Lunch -> Holy Cross

One of the fastest, rowdiest, point-to-point shuttles anywhere, with wide-open rock slab riding, uber-technical rock gardens, and big jump and drop options--experts only!

Moore Fun Loop: Newer Version

Enjoy a well-built cross country trail on your way to access the technical centerpiece of the Kokopelli Loops: Moore Fun.

Horsethief Bench

Horsethief Bench is the most famous trail in the Kokopelli Trail System, primarily because of its uber-gnarly drop down to the main trail. The views are spectacular as well!

Zippety Do Da

Zippety Do Da provides the fast downhill bombs, swoop and flow, and visually-stunning ridgeline singletrack that put Fruita on the map.

The Whole Enchilada

One of the most epic mountain bike rides of all time, the Whole Enchilada drops over 9,000 feet of vertical and passes through every climate zone imaginable, from high alpine tundra to desert.

Slickrock

One of the original world-famous mountain bike trails, the unique slickrock slabs provide an otherworldly ride experience

Captain Ahab

Captain Ahab combines the best new-school singletrack trail building techniques with Moab's famous views and challenging rocks for a classic mountain bike experience.

Magnificent 7

Ride some of the most technical and dangerous mountain bike trails in the world in one massive shuttle route!

Guacamole Mesa: Full Outer Loop

This ride links together the outer loop Guacamole trails into a great 11-mile ride—perfect for upper intermediates—with plenty of advanced options as well.

Jem Trails Loop

Flowy, easy-to-access singletrack with gorgeous views, and the occasional challenging section.

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.

Bootleg Canyon: Long Trail Ride

You'll think you hit the big Vegas jackpot when you ride Bootleg Canyon, a chunky, exposed, hardscape of improbable singletrack carved from the harsh volcanic rock and crumbling granite that sits near the Black Mountain.

Hiline

Hiline offers stunning views of the Red Rocks region from exposed mountainside singletrack. Finish it off with a raucous descent down a black-diamond plunge!

The Hogs

The Hogs are some of the most entertaining—and challenging—trails in Sedona, with technical rock rolls and rock gardens, cliff exposure, and of course—beautiful views!

Hangover

Extreme exposure coupled with brutally-technical rock moves make Hangover one of the most technical--and dangerous--trails in the nation.

Granite Basin Loop

This route links the best trails in the Granite Basin area into a moderately challenging but highly-entertaining loop.

Black Canyon Trail

A 78-mile purpose-built singletrack trail rolling through the Arizona desert.

Best of Golder Ranch

This route links up the most entertaining segments in the Golder Ranch trail system for advanced or adventurous intermediate riders.

High Desert Trail System

The High Desert Trail System provides a good diversity of mostly flowy terrain with options to customize distance and challenge.

White Ridge Trail

A serpentine network of rocky outcrops, smooth singletrack, and exotic colors.

Dale Ball Loop

The long outer loop through Santa Fe's marquee trail system.

Phil's World

A 25-mile winding, swooping beginner-friendly (but joy-inducing for all levels) chunk of high-desert terrain that will pin your grin from ear to ear.