Guidebook

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!!

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
— 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!).

The Ribbon -> Free Lunch -> Holy Cross
The best Routes on FATMAP, hand-picked by FATMAP’s Editorial team.

The Ribbon -> Free Lunch -> Holy Cross

Grand Junction
17.8 km
256 m
894 m
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!
Extreme
Private
Moore Fun Loop: Newer Version
The best Routes on FATMAP, hand-picked by FATMAP’s Editorial team.

Moore Fun Loop: Newer Version

Fruita
15.2 km
346 m
347 m
Enjoy a well-built cross country trail on your way to access the technical centerpiece of the Kokopelli Loops: Moore Fun.
Severe
Private
Horsethief Bench
The best Routes on FATMAP, hand-picked by FATMAP’s Editorial team.

Horsethief Bench

Fruita
12.9 km
286 m
286 m
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!
Extreme
Private
Zippety Do Da
The best Routes on FATMAP, hand-picked by FATMAP’s Editorial team.

Zippety Do Da

Fruita
10.9 km
277 m
278 m
Zippety Do Da provides the fast downhill bombs, swoop and flow, and visually-stunning ridgeline singletrack that put Fruita on the map.
Difficult
Private
The Whole Enchilada
The best Routes on FATMAP, hand-picked by FATMAP’s Editorial team.

The Whole Enchilada

Moab
50.2 km
873 m
2,752 m
One of the most epic mountain bike rides of all time, the Whole Enchilada drops over 7,000 feet of vertical and passes through every climate zone imaginable, from high alpine tundra to desert.
Extreme
Private
Slickrock
The best Routes on FATMAP, hand-picked by FATMAP’s Editorial team.

Slickrock

Moab
15.8 km
388 m
388 m
One of the original world-famous mountain bike trails, the unique slickrock slabs provide an otherworldly ride experience
Severe
Private
Captain Ahab
The best Routes on FATMAP, hand-picked by FATMAP’s Editorial team.

Captain Ahab

Moab
14.2 km
425 m
425 m
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.
Severe
Private
Magnificent 7
The best Routes on FATMAP, hand-picked by FATMAP’s Editorial team.

Magnificent 7

Moab
44.4 km
678 m
1,292 m
Ride some of the most technical and dangerous mountain bike trails in the world in one massive shuttle route!
Extreme
Private
Gooseberry Mesa
The best Routes on FATMAP, hand-picked by FATMAP’s Editorial team.

Gooseberry Mesa

Zion National Park
17.0 km
230 m
230 m
Rippled slickrock riding paired with extreme exposure and beautiful views from the mesa's rim.
Severe
Private
Guacamole Mesa: Full Outer Loop
The best Routes on FATMAP, hand-picked by FATMAP’s Editorial team.

Guacamole Mesa: Full Outer Loop

Zion National Park
15.6 km
169 m
169 m
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.
Moderate
Private
Jem Trails Loop
The best Routes on FATMAP, hand-picked by FATMAP’s Editorial team.

Jem Trails Loop

Zion National Park
25.8 km
376 m
376 m
Flowy, easy-to-access singletrack with gorgeous views, and the occasional challenging section.
Moderate
Private
St. George Barrel/Zen
The best Routes on FATMAP, hand-picked by FATMAP’s Editorial team.

St. George Barrel/Zen

16.8 km
540 m
540 m
The Barrel/Zen route combines two popular loops to give technically-oriented riders a full smorgasbord of rocky, stunt-laden fun.
Severe
Private
Bootleg Canyon
The best Routes on FATMAP, hand-picked by FATMAP’s Editorial team.

Bootleg Canyon

47.4 km
1,433 m
1,434 m
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.
Severe
Private
Hiline
The best Routes on FATMAP, hand-picked by FATMAP’s Editorial team.

Hiline

Sedona
14.2 km
330 m
330 m
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!
Extreme
Private
The Hogs
The best Routes on FATMAP, hand-picked by FATMAP’s Editorial team.

The Hogs

Sedona
13.2 km
302 m
302 m
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!
Severe
Private
Hangover
The best Routes on FATMAP, hand-picked by FATMAP’s Editorial team.

Hangover

Sedona
13.3 km
385 m
385 m
Extreme exposure coupled with brutally-technical rock moves make Hangover one of the most technical--and dangerous--trails in the nation.
Extreme
Private
Granite Basin Loop
The best Routes on FATMAP, hand-picked by FATMAP’s Editorial team.

Granite Basin Loop

17.9 km
393 m
393 m
This route links the best trails in the Granite Basin area into a moderately challenging but highly-entertaining loop.
Moderate
Private
Black Canyon Trail
The best Routes on FATMAP, hand-picked by FATMAP’s Editorial team.

Black Canyon Trail

142.6 km
1,959 m
2,845 m
A 78-mile purpose-built singletrack trail rolling through the Arizona desert.
Difficult
Private
South Mountain Technical Loop
The best Routes on FATMAP, hand-picked by FATMAP’s Editorial team.

South Mountain Technical Loop

13.9 km
513 m
513 m
This route gives the technical rider a great tour of the best of South Mountain.
Severe
Private
Best of Golder Ranch
The best Routes on FATMAP, hand-picked by FATMAP’s Editorial team.

Best of Golder Ranch

21.7 km
476 m
476 m
This route links up the most entertaining segments in the Golder Ranch trail system for advanced or adventurous intermediate riders.
Severe
Private
Sweetwater Preserve Trail System
The best Routes on FATMAP, hand-picked by FATMAP’s Editorial team.

Sweetwater Preserve Trail System

16.2 km
207 m
207 m
A classic, scenic desert mountain bike trail with challenging rock sections.
Moderate
Private
Arizona Trail Race: Saguaro National Park to Oracle State Park
The best Routes on FATMAP, hand-picked by FATMAP’s Editorial team.

Arizona Trail Race: Saguaro National Park to Oracle State Park

136.3 km
3,308 m
3,024 m
The Arizona Trail Race route, running from Saguaro National Park past Mount Lemmon and culminating at Oracle State Park.
Difficult
Private
High Desert Trail System
The best Routes on FATMAP, hand-picked by FATMAP’s Editorial team.

High Desert Trail System

32.7 km
505 m
505 m
The High Desert Trail System provides a good diversity of mostly flowy terrain with options to customize distance and challenge.
Moderate
Private
North Foothills / Elena Gallegos Open Space
The best Routes on FATMAP, hand-picked by FATMAP’s Editorial team.

North Foothills / Elena Gallegos Open Space

15.3 km
326 m
326 m
Albuquerque's town trails deliver beautiful views and entertaining singletrack.
Difficult
Private
White Ridge Trail
The best Routes on FATMAP, hand-picked by FATMAP’s Editorial team.

White Ridge Trail

12.8 km
316 m
316 m
A serpentine network of rocky outcrops, smooth singletrack, and exotic colors.
Difficult
Private
Galisteo Basin Preserve Trails: Intermediate Route
The best Routes on FATMAP, hand-picked by FATMAP’s Editorial team.

Galisteo Basin Preserve Trails: Intermediate Route

17.1 km
329 m
329 m
Fantastic ridge line riding amid dramatic skies, stunning topography, and unique geology.
Moderate
Private
Dale Ball Loop
The best Routes on FATMAP, hand-picked by FATMAP’s Editorial team.

Dale Ball Loop

16.1 km
454 m
454 m
The long outer loop through Santa Fe's marquee trail system.
Difficult
Private
Alien Run Trails

Alien Run Trails

33.6 km
594 m
594 m
Under-the-radar desert singletrack that deserves much more fame!
Difficult
Private
Phil's World
The best Routes on FATMAP, hand-picked by FATMAP’s Editorial team.

Phil's World

44.8 km
708 m
708 m
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.
Moderate
Private