Mountain Biking Moab Like a Local
There’s seldom a top mountain biking destination list published that doesn’t include Moab. It’s simply a mountain bike Mecca (singletracks.com recently ranked it as the MTB capital of the USA), and if you’re looking to make your first pilgrimage, it can be a bit overwhelming. So whether you’re new to the scene, or a seasoned veteran, we’ve put together the local’s guide to mountain biking Moab, to help you make the most of your next mountain bike adventure.
When to Mountain Bike Moab
The best months for visiting Moab to ride are October, November, February, & March. Of course during any of these months you run the risk of not being able to access some upper elevation trails, however, this time of year almost always offers cool-temps, fewer crowds and a good supply of prime campsites. April – June are some of the busiest months to visit, and camping can be hard to come by. Furthermore, if you’re looking to ride the Whole Enchilada, you’ll have to wait until July as the Forest Service does not permit shuttle companies to access Burro Pass before July 1.
Pro Tip: Avoid Jeep Safari week like the plague unless you’re into inhaling exhaust and listening to rednecks rev their engines and fist pump to Florida Georgia Line all night.
Finding a Campsite in Moab
During the busy season (April – September) don’t be that guy who rolls in after 5 on a Friday and expects to find a campsite. You can reserve sites at any of the designated Forest Service campgrounds and Dead Horse State park campgrounds online in advance. We’d recommend avoiding private campgrounds & RV parks unless you like experiencing nature packed in like sardines with a nice view of your neighbor Fred’s rolling palace and the not-so-pleasant aroma of RV septic.
Pro Tip: If you’re arriving on a Friday or Saturday, send a friend to scout a campsite in advance or reserve one online.
Make Like a Boy Scout & Be Prepared
Mountain biking in Moab can have real life or death consequences. The trails are some of the most technically challenging in the world, and a few of them have sections of exposure where one wrong move or missed turn will send you off a cliff to your sudden demise. If the trail doesn’t get you, the heat very well could. Summer time in the desert is no joke and death from heat exhaustion and/or dehydration is not uncommon. Before setting out on a ride, make sure you’ve done your due diligence and have the proper supplies and nutrition to last if a worse-case scenario were to go down. If you’re a beginner or haven’t ridden in the desert before, you should save trails like Porcupine Rim, Portal, & Captain Ahab until you’ve built up some confidence on some of the more accessible trails. Don’t let ride mileage fool you… 1 mile on technical desert trail is often the equivalent of 3 or more miles of buff alpine singletrack. Just because a ride is only 10 miles, does not mean it’s an easy or intermediate ride.
Additionally, if you’re coming from a humid climate or sea-level, you may not be as noticeable sweaty, however the dry desert heat will suck the moisture straight out of your skin. Hydrate more than you feel as though you should. If your trip is during the summer, plan on finishing your ride by 11am or starting after 6pm and spend the middle of the day hanging out on the river.
Pro Tip: Stock up on water, sunscreen, and enough electrolytes to kill a horse.
Locals Know: Slickrock Trail Sucks
I’ll let you in on a little secret… The world famous Slickrock trail kinda sucks. Yea, it was one of the first mountain bike trails, but do you still ride the first mountain bike ever made? Mountain bike trail building in Moab has progressed leaps and bounds in the last few years and as a result, there’s much better riding to be had regardless of your ability level. If you must check it out, don’t dedicate a whole ride or day to it, and instead leave Slickrock trail to the clueless Euros and 4X4 crowd. With that said, some people do love it, for whatever reason…
We also highly recommend hiring a shuttle (even the locals take a shuttle), especially if you’re planning on riding the Porcupine Rim. It may seem pricey, however, by the time you factor in travel time, fuel, and wear & tear on your vehicles, it’s worth it. Additionally, all the shuttle companies kick back a percentage of their profits to fund local trail building efforts so part of your money will be going to a good cause.
Best Moab Mountain Bike Trails for Beginners
As mentioned above, the amount of singletrack available has surged in recent years. While before, the only real beginner option was the practice loop at Slickrock, there are now dozens of options to keep beginner riders entertained. For those just starting out, we recommend the Moab Brand Trails, Klonzo Trails, Klondike Bluffs Area, Navajo Rocks, & Deadhorse State Park trails systems to build your confidence before moving on to more advanced trails like Porcupine, Ahab, and Magnificent 7.
Pro Tip: Don’t burn ride time on Slickrock and hire a shuttle.
Best Moab Local Eats
Our favorite grub spots are the following:
- Milt’s Stop & Eat – Best for a post-ride cheeseburger & shake. Pro Tip: Call ahead & BYOB.
- Luv Muffin – Best pre-ride breakfast spot. Pro Tip: Get there early to beat the rush.
- Quesadilla Mobilla – Best for between rides when you need something quick and good.
- Ekleckticafe – Best spot for casual breakfast & lunch.
Escaping the Snow for a Weekend in Moab?
If you’re escaping the slush or mud for the weekend and are heading down from Northern Utah, plan your trip to make the most out of your mileage by riding the trail systems north of town such as Klondike Bluffs, Moab Brand (Bar M) or Magnificent 7 trails on your way in or out of town. Additionally, Pipe Dream trail is an often overlooked, yet super fun trail that is easily accessible from town if you need to squeeze a quick ride in after arriving or before departing.
We also recommend stopping at the following along the way.
- Balance Rock Cafe – Price, Utah
- Taco Truck in Green River, Utah
- Ray’s – Green River, UT
Best Bike for Moab
For starters, the riding in Moab is unlike anything else. Many think of Moab as a hardcore downhill destination a la Red Bull Rampage, however, the reality is there is very little gravity riding in Moab. Instead, you’ll find endless miles of trail featuring technical riding and views that would make the most surefooted billy goat shake in his hooves. Our favorite bikes for Moab are modern 27.5” or 29” all-mountain bikes such as the Ibis Ripley LS or HD 3, Santa Cruz Nomad or Bronson, Pivot Mach 6 or 429 trail, or the Yeti SB-6.
Do people ride Moab on hardtails? Sure. However, if you want to get the most fun out of your ride, I’d highly recommend a full-suspension bike. Don’t have a full-suspension bike to bring? Time your trip during a festival such as The Thaw or Outerbike and demo a different bike all weekend or rent one from a local shop.
Get a Tune-up
My first few trips to Moab, I left with something broke on my bike, and there’s a good chance you’ll have a similar experience. In fact, I consider riding in Moab a success if the only thing that’s broken when I leave is my bike and not my body. While components have made great strides in durability, Moab riding is hard on bikes and parts. Before your trip, make sure your bike is operating smoothly, as Moab will only exasperate any underlying issues. Don’t be that Joey with a broken bike holding his friends back because you were too cheap to get a proper tune before your trip.
Bring Spare Parts
It’s also a good idea to bring plenty of extra tubes, a spare derailer hanger or two, extra brake pads, and anything else you commonly find yourself replacing.
Have a local tip or favorite trail of your own? Leave a comment below and let us know what we missed.
The Slickrock Trail may be old, but it’s hardly obsolete. The climbs aren’t for your slack angle mega travel rides, but you can’t match the lung busting rush of cleaning the next challenge and soaking in the 360 panorama, while your lungs soak up some O2! A light hard tail 29 is my weapon of choice for this ride, and don’t forget to stand and lean forward on the steeps!
great article !!!!!!!!
I don’t know if it fits in here.. but I’ll try.. I’m from 1-3 november 2016 in moab and I would like to go for a ride (enchilada trail). I’m pretty experienced and I’m looking for someone to ride with me…
maybe you have a contact for me?
Calling us Euros clueless is pretty uncalled for asshole, other than that great article and thanks for the info.
If he checks another person even offers the chance
to test and it remains.
Great article, and spot on! I think you’ve got all the great trail systems, with the exception of Bar M which has some fun slickrock riding for Beginner/Intermediate riders. There is a ton of great BLM (free) camping around Moab too, mostly off Willow Springs Road and even off Klondike Bluffs road too. Campendium.com has a great user-generated list of free spots. If you are looking to rent a bike in Moab, check out our Moab bike rental price comparison tool which lets you compare prices at local shops and book online: https://www.tripoutside.com/moab-ut-bike-rental-prices. Happy riding!