At one time, riding horses in the Moab area, shod with metal shoes, was a treacherous thing. The horses would slip like crazy over the surface of the sandstone. And so the rock earned its name, “slickrock.”
Today’s modern steeds are sleek, two wheeled, wide tired, well treaded, swift, rugged awesome beasts with wicked suspension. Yup, I’m talking about mountain bikes.
Believe it or not, bikes take to the slickrock like geckos to an adobe wall, clinging to its impossible angles like no one’s business. The rock is abraded, like sandpaper, and so its grip is incredible.
Riding on the slickrock is such a fun experience.
The riding can be fast, with punchy ups and very steep downs, when you’re riding on the petrified sand dune shapes of the upper cliffs.
The riding can be dusty as you wind through cacti and snake through sand patches, created where erosion smooths the sandstone and gets trapped in ditches and gullies. Watch out for those sand traps! They get riders that are clipped into their pedals in spectacular, slow motioned, soft-cushioned falls.
The slickrock riding can be breath-taking as you struggle up long inclines… and breathtaking in an entirely different way as you take in views of mesas rising up out of a desert plateau or the Colorado River, like a snake, winding through a canyon far below you.
For every up, there is a super fun down. And so the trails can have tremendous drops and bumps that have you rolling over big rocks and ledges, and rattling down rocky inclines, thankful for the cushioned travel in the suspension of your trusty steed.
We’ve been to Moab twice now, to ride its fun and technically challenging trails. And we will be back again. Each time we return as better, more skilled riders, and so the fun that we have is different, and better.Sadly, I developed bronchitis during our Moab week and had to cut my riding short, so I need to return again. I will. Me and my swift fox (my trusty steed) will be back…
If You Go…
You’re going to have to trust me on this. These photos do NOT do the riding justice. The trails can be wonderfully hard and technically challenging… it’s just difficult to take photos when you’re caught up in the thrill of the moment, and ricocheting down a steep section with all of its bumps and ledges, drops and boulders, steep inclines and even more steep ups. Watch this video to see what I mean… Biking Moab (man can these guys ride!)
You can go to a biking specific area, like Amasa Back, Horsethief, or Klondike Bluffs and spend the entire day out there. There are that many trails in each of the biking areas.
Be sure to bring plenty of water and food on these biking trails, along with what you need to change a flat. There is nothing, and I mean nothing, out there to help you in a pinch, save other riders going by.
Riding with a group can have its advantages. There are more heads, tools, spare tubes and fingers to put into play, should a repair issue develop with one of your trusty steeds.
There’s another advantage to biking in a group too… it can be quite fun to arrange a drop off and a pick up vehicle at different trailheads, meaning that you can ride some of the trails all downhill (like taking Rocky Tops and a few other trails to Ramblin‘ at Navajo Rocks, and blasting down it), and not have to do the gruelling ups to get back to your car.
Almost all the trails in Moab are free to ride. The Slickrock Trail in the Sand Flats Recreation Area is the exception. It has an entrance fee and is used by jeeps as well. It has a bike practice loop to try out your skill level on that I recommend. It lets you know what you’re in for, before testing your mettle and maybe getting in over your head on the entire length of the Slickrock Trail (it is a 16km/10.5 mile long loop). But it is worth it.
You can rent bikes and gear in town at Poison Spider Bicycles. Their staff are helpful and can give you a good sense of which trails should be ridden in one trail only, and which can be ridden both directions.
Other terrific biking-specific websites to visit for up to date trail info are Trail Forks and MTB Project. Just remember to download maps before heading out on the trails, as many of the areas have no cell service. There is also an app available called Moab Trails 2.0, but it’s for androids only.
For more info on making the most of your stay in Moab, go to the “If You Go…” section of my first post, An Ode to Moab.
Trekking up a mountain’s shoulder, hiking through a flowering alpine meadow, snowshoeing through a dense pine forest, or taking in the 360 degree views from a ridge top vantage point make me feel alive. The experiences in these places give me a profound sense of space and place.
Travel does a similar thing, pushing me out of my comfort zone, exposing me to new experiences, new people and new ways of thinking; it also gives me that sense of space and place in this world.
I believe that life is lived in the contrasts: when you experience simplicity and complexity and life's ups and downs, whether they be physically in this world or mentally in your own personal inner landscape, you know that you are truly living.
The bigger they are, the more there is to explore!