7 - 8
FATMAP difficulty grade
This epic loop is a fantastic way to tour the back roads of the San Rafael Swell by bike.
This loop route measures about 66 miles in length, which opens up the opportunity to complete it in one very long day or to break it up into two days as a bikepacking overnighter.
How you choose to approach it is entirely up to you, but a single-day attempt would be a burly ride indeed. The route incorporates long stretches of fairly smooth-pedaling gravel road, but there are plenty of rough sections of OHV road mixed in.
Specifically, the "Behind the Reef" section features plenty of rough rocks, sharp edges, and rock slabs.
There's also a very steep, challenging crux move to even get onto the road, known as Chute Canyon.
While on a bicycle, it's fairly easy to just get off and push up this challenging section, the challenging crux move precludes stock vehicles from negotiating this jeep trail. Even so, the OHV traffic on this route can be downright hellish during peak season.
To avoid the dust clouds and noise of Brapp Brapp Nation, only attempt this route during the week or in the off-season...
or preferably both. The mixed bag of road surfaces means that riders will attempt this route on all types of bikes.
A mountain bike would be most capable in the rough sections but slower on the road sections.
A gravel bike would be faster on the road sections, but some of the rocks would be downright sketchy on a gravel bike.
The ideal rig is a bikepacking-specific adventure bike with fat tires and no suspension...
if you happen to have one of those lying around. Due to these diverse road conditions, this route has been uploaded as both a mountain bike route and a gravel biking route.
It warrants a "Moderate" mountain bike difficulty (with some sections possibly exceeding), but it gets an "Extreme" technical rating for gravel biking. The route shown here is the full-value loop that loops all the way around Red's Canyon Wilderness Area.
It is possible to skip this section and shorten the loop by staying straight on McKay Flat Road.