Head South: Getting Out of the Valley To Ride in the Off-Season

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Hello again. It’s been a minute since I posted anything to the blog so I’ll start out with what I’ve been up to since I was on here last. Back in October, I had some free time and decided to take a little road trip. I filled up the Jeep with camping gear, my mountain bike, and Clark dog and we headed south just as the snow began to fall. I decided to visit some friends I hadn’t seen in a while, catch up with them, and explore some new trails in the process.

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First stop was Logan, UT, where I met up with my buddy Laredo who had just made it back from spending the summer in AK. Last time I was in Logan I rode Providence and Green canyons a couple times each. Both of these trails are fun XC out and backs but are on the shorter side. Having ridden these already and in search of new terrain we headed up Logan Canyon to the Stump Hollow trail with our friend Mike. Stump Hollow starts just across from the turnoff to Beaver Mountain Ski Resort. The area had already seen some snow, which had mostly melted off by the time I arrived. Unfortunately, it hadn’t quite dried back out. Less than 10 minutes up the trail, we ran into some of the greasiest dirt I’ve ever attempted to pedal. The bikes’ drive trains quickly became a solid mass of mud and leaves and we were forced to get off and walk. We started hiking the bikes up the hill but didn’t make it too much further before we figured that the trail was probably going to be pretty much unrideable. We decided to call it and turn around. The way back had a few fun water bars and small jumps that we ended up lapping several times. But after getting a taste for how fun the downhill could be, we had second thoughts about going home so soon and made another go at it.

After pushing for a bit we eventually got out of the woods and back onto dryer dirt. We made it to the top of the ride, had lunch and enjoyed the sun for a while and by the time we started heading back, the trail had dried out a little more. Still, not enough and it was one of the sketchier rides of my life. Every corner was an oil slicked drift turn and every bunny hop off of those water bars was just asking for it. If you weren’t perfectly upright and balanced, the bike was going out from under you. I think everyone went down at least once but it was totally worth it. Anyway, I’d definitely recommend this trail to anyone looking for something to ride in Logan. I might suggest waiting until it’s dry though.

While you’re in the area, check out: Joyride Bikes, talk to Wayne for trail beta and directions; The White Owl is the locals bar known for their extra large draught mugs which they call “Big Dogs;” Tandoori Oven has some super legit Indian cuisine; Caffe Ibis makes a killer cup of coffee and has a great breakfast/lunch menu; and just across the street from Ibis is The Italian Place, which does the deli sandwich right (the fried egg is a must have ingredient on any sandwich).

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After Logan, I hopped back in the Jeep and made the 9-hour haul to my next stop, Nederland, CO. I know several people living there but mostly went to visit my good friend Travis. He’s not so much into mountain biking but pointed me in the direction of some nearby trails. The East and West Magnolia networks were just up the road from his house near Eldora Mountain Resort. My first attempt at riding these loops ended up with me repeatedly getting spit back out at the trailhead. The area has a lot of short, unmarked, intersecting segments and with no real sense of direction there, I kept taking wrong turns that would bring me right back to where I had started.

The next day I stopped into Tin Shed Sports to get more info on the trails. The staff there was pretty helpful and gave me their preferred route to navigate the loops as well as a great deal on a new crankset to replace the one I had beat up over the summer. I went back to the Magnolia trails with a much better lay of the land and ended up having an awesome ride. The terrain was mostly mellow XC but had a few challenging sections including a techie boulder maneuver on the Re-Root trail. If you’re thinking about riding here, the MTB Project has a good post on the area as well.

There isn’t a whole lot to see or do in Nederland but a few recommendations would be to check out: Salto Coffee Works for breakfast/lunch. It has the same owners and is in the same nice building as Tin Shed Sports; along those lines, you have New Moon Bakery just up the street; Backcountry Pizza has a great pie and a decent selection of brews; and Kathmandu has authentic Nepali cuisine. If you’re looking for something a little faster paced, Boulder, CO is just down the canyon and has plenty of riding and all of the shopping/restaurants you could ever need.

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My next destination was too far to drive in a day so I picked a random state park on the map near the halfway point and set off for Texas. Another 9 hours later, I had arrived at Palo Duro Canyon State Park just south of Amarillo, TX. On a side note, I don’t believe there is anything worth seeing in the city of Amarillo (I stand corrected). If you happen to find yourself in this area, just keep driving. Anyhow, I pulled into the park after dark and couldn’t see a thing. I hadn’t even seen pictures online so was pleasantly surprised when I crawled out of my tent the next morning and caught a look at the place. It looked more like northern Arizona and nothing like the rest of North Texas I had spent the better part of a day watching drone on endlessly from the driver’s seat. Another side note, if you have to go anywhere in Texas, just fly there, driving across that state is no bueno.

After breakfast, I packed up camp and took Clark dog and the camera on a walk. Just as I was getting to the trail I had planned to hike, I started to hear a lot of hollering that was soon followed by the unmistakable rattle and clank of mountain bikes barreling down singletrack. Then, two riders came skidding out of the trail. Up until that point, I hadn’t realized mountain biking was an option on the trails in the park. My plans quickly changed from hiking. I went back, to the car, changed, grabbed the bike and got a nice ride in before saying goodbye to North Texas. If you should happen to find yourself in this part of the country, a visit to Palo Duro would be highly recommended. If you’re interested, MountainBikeTx has some good photos and descriptions of the trails there.

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The next stop on my route was Austin, TX, which I arrived at some 8+ hours later. I was going there to visit a few old friends I hadn’t seen in years, Shylo, Mellisa, and Sarah. None of them are mountain bikers so I was on my own when it came to finding somewhere to ride. I came across a bike shop called Cycle Progression just around the corner from Shylo’s house. The shop was pretty interesting as they sell both mountain bikes and moto’s. It seems that they do mostly custom bike builds so didn’t have much on the shop floor to look at but what they did have was all high end (Turner, Pivot, Intense, Spot, Knolly, etc.). The shop employee working there that day was awesome and gave me excellent directions to the nearest trail, which was also in the neighborhood and one of Austin’s most popular rides, the Barton Creek Greenbelt. This trail is officially a 7-mile (one way) out-and-back stretching from Town Lake, near the city center, to the western edge of the city limits. The only pavement you’ll encounter on this ride is above you as you cross under several highways along the way. I said officially b/c aside from the main trail there are also several side trails that criss-cross it, giving you plenty of options and increasing the total available mileage to somewhere around 12 (one way). These side loops aren’t “official” trails so you won’t find them on any maps but asking around will get you a long way in this town. This trail is fairly flat (think Hagen) but has a lot of technical rocky sections (think Aspen x5). One of the most awesome things about this trail are the swimming holes (see the photo gallery on the BCG link above) including the Barton Springs pool in Zilker Park at the east end of the trail.

There are plenty of other places to ride in and around the city of Austin, info for most of which can be found at Austin Bike. But before I had a chance to check out anything else it started raining. It poured for the next couple of days, causing some flooding and even cancelling ACL Fest. I heard it hardly ever rains there but of course they had the storm of the decade while I was in town. After it stopped raining, I took Clark back to Barton Creek and the trail we had just ridden was under water, people were actually kayaking it. So I spent the next couple of days waiting for things to dry out a bit and letting my friends show me around their town.

One day I met my friends Melissa and Andrea for lunch at Bouldin Creek Cafe. Bouldin Creek is a self-described “bohemian vegetarian eatery & coffee bar” located in the neighborhood that it’s named for near the South Congress area. They serve up very tasty and affordable options such as their Veggie Chorizo Tacos ($2.75 ea.), Chick Pea “Chik’n” Salad Sandwich ($6.50) and the Wanna-BLT made with homemade tofu bacon ($7.00). They have a pretty extensive breakfast and lunch menu full of healthy, homemade, vegetarian items, most of which are in the $5-7 price range. Definitely worth checking out if you’re in town. Along the same lines in terms of good healthy food is the multi-location co-op, Wheatsville. Their deli menu rocks and has several unique options like the Buffalo Popcorn Tofu Po-Boy and the Tempeh Chili Frito Pie, as well as classic standards like a Tuna Melt and an Applegate Farms Turkey Sandwich. They also have plenty of ready-made items in their grab-and-go case and a complete coffee & smoothie menu.

One evening Shylo gave me the locals tour of several eating and drinking establishments in the area: Craft Pride is a bar on Rainey Street which focuses on micro-brews all made within the state of Texas, they actually have 56 taps from 20+ different Texas breweries. I consider myself a bit of a beeroisseur, so I was fairly surprised that I had never heard of any of the breweries they had on tap that night. PS: If you also like beers, late October is a good time to be in town. Austin Beer Week, which showcases many of the local craft breweries, runs from 10/24 – 11/02 this year; The Whip In is a package store which hosts live music and serves authentic Asian and Indian cuisine with a Texas twist; The Liberty bar on S. 6th isn’t much too look at but hosts one of the best food trucks I’ve ever eaten at, East Side King. They actually have 5 locations around the city, each serving a slightly different menu with a common theme of super tasty and affordable (nothing over $8) Indian/Asian/Mexican fusion. Lots of veggie options here such as the Beet Home Fries, Brussel Sprouts Salad and my favorite, the Curry Buns  homemade peanut butter curry in a deep fried bun with basil, cilantro, mint, onion, and jalepeno. Plenty of options for the omnivores here too.

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The next morning, I drove 45 minutes south to San Marcos to visit my friend Sarah. After spending some time catching up with her, she pointed me in the direction of some nearby trails at Purgatory Creek. These trails are all fairly mellow XC singletrack but have just enough rock thrown in to keep it interesting. If you link everything up, you can get around a 10 mile ride. I ended up lapping a few of the trails to get a couple extra miles in. More info on these trails including maps and photos can be found at Mountain Biking San MarcosMountainBikeTx and Austin Bike. I headed back to Austin shortly after the ride so don’t have much to say about the town of San Marcos but Sarah lives there so it’s got that going for it.

At some point I stopped in to Mellow Johnny’s, which is a nice but sort of characterless bike and coffee shop owned by Lance Armstrong. It seems like they mostly cater to roadies and mostly sell Trek bikes, which makes sense when you take into account the location and proprietor of the store. They did have some Santa Cruz mountain bikes in stock and also carry Club Ride apparel, which is a Sun Valley, ID, brand! Their repair shop looks legit so if you need any work done on your bike I would consider them. Another place I visited worth the mention was Lick, an ice cream shop that prides itself on using all local, all natural ingredients. They have a pretty interesting flavor selection such as “Goat Cheese, Thyme & Honey,” “Roasted Beets & Fresh Mint,” and “Sweet Pea & Sorrel,” in addition to other less radical flavor combinations like “Texas Sheet Cake,” “Grapefruit Ginger,” and a dairy free “Coconut, Peanut Butter & Chocolate Swirl”. If you end up in Austin you’ll probably want to pay these guys a visit b/c even in mid-October, it’s freaking hot there.

After a week of visiting with my Austin friends, it was unfortunately time to go. I wish I could have stayed longer or brought them all back home with me. Hopefully it won’t be as long until the next time I see them again.

11 hours later I arrived at my next stop, another random state park I found on the map, Sugarite Canyon near Raton, NM. I may have said this already, but to reiterate, don’t drive across Texas unless you absolutely have to. The entire northern part of the state is the most boring and desolate stretch of highway I’ve ever encountered. New Mexico’s Sugarite Canyon was beautiful and a welcome reprieve from the driver’s seat and the barren countryside that is most of Texas. The park does not allow biking on the trails but the hike out to Lake Maloya from the campground was an awesome consolation. After taking in the scenery and getting some much-needed fresh air, Clark and I got back on the road and headed for our final destination before returning home.

PA180676The 8-hour drive northwest from New Mexico through Colorado nearly made up for the starkness of Texas I had just endured. In contrast, it was some of the most scenic roads I’d ever been on. In Salida I picked up a hitchhiker named Tyler, a young kid on his way to Grand Junction and then back home to Georgia after having spent the summer building trails in the area. It was nice to have someone to talk to besides Clark after being on the road for a couple days. He ended up being one of the few people I’ve encountered out west who was into some of the same obscure music I listen to so we had quite a bit to talk about. We drove over Monarch Pass, through Gunnison, and into the Curecanti National Recreation Area where I took him on several short hikes so I could get some photos of the Blue Mesa Reservoir and Dillon Pinnacles. After dropping Tyler off, I made the last 12 miles of my drive and arrived in Fruita, CO.

My friend Ryan, and his dog Winston were just starting their trip south from Teton Valley on the way to southern Utah and were meeting me in Fruita on my way back home. I met up with Ryan at the Hot Tomato Cafe & Pizzeria for some dinner before heading out to camp. The Hot Tomato makes homemade pizza from scratch using all fresh ingredients and has a full selection of beers exclusively from New Belgium Brewing in Fort Collins. If you’ve been to Fruita before, you’ve probably eaten there. f not, you should. Everything on the menu looks awesome. We opted for the “Granny’s Pesto” and weren’t disappointed.

We didn’t spend much time in town so I don’t have a lot to report on other bars or restaurants there but from the looks of it there wasn’t much, which was just fine b/c we were there to ride. Ryan had arrived a little earlier than I that day and managed to secure one of the last spots left at the North Fruita Desert Campground on 18 Road. The trails at 18 Road, also known as the Book Cliff trails, are evidently really popular that time of year and especially so on the weekends. To avoid crowds I would recommend planning your trip to ride during the week, or if you’re going to be there for the weekend, arrive as early as possible on Friday to ensure you have a camping spot.

PA190704 (2)After breakfast the next morning, we took a look at the map and began pedaling right from camp. One of the best things about these trails is the campground being right at the trailhead, which means no driving! We started off by taking Prime Cut uphill to the PBR (Pumps, Bumps & Rollers) trail. This is a newer trail just built in the last year or so; it’s also one of two in the area designated downhill only. The whole loop only took roughly 30 minutes but was so much fun that we went right back for a second lap. We explored a couple of trails on the east edge of the area before heading back to camp for lunch.

After lunch I managed to explode a pedal and a derailleur so we called it for the day and drove into town to get supplies and have my bike worked on. The guys at Over The Edge Sports were awesome. They gave us some more info on the trails in the area and had me and my bike back out the door in no time.

The next day, our friend Chris, another Teton Valley native, joined us for some biking. We showed him the PBR trail and then spent the rest of the day exploring the trails on the west side of the road. Kessel Run was fun and flowy. Much of the trail follows a bermed out drainage. The next 2 trails, Joe’s Ridge and Zippity Doo Da, are probably some of the more scenic and iconic rides in the Fruita area. Both traverse wide open, exposed ridge lines for most of their lengths. Joe’s Ridge was so much fun we ended up lapping it twice. It was recently extended with the addition of Mo-Joes, a tight and twisty trail with a lot of medium hits that follows the drainage just next to Kessels.

Fruita puts on a couple of events each year that line up nicely with our mud seasons. The annual Fruita Fat Tire Festival, which just celebrated its 19th year, takes place in late April. With 4 days of demos, expos, clinics, and evening activities, there’s a little something for everyone. The F-Town Gear Down happens in late October. It’s a 1 day, bike-centric, mini-festival in the town square, which celebrates the end of the biking season. Ryan and I randomly happened across this one evening during our time there. Don’t expect a lot of frills but with a poker ride, live music, beer, and a local mountain bike film festival, it’s a great way to spend an afternoon in town.

With what little time we had there, we weren’t able to explore some of the other riding areas, but from the looks of it the Kokopelli Loops near Loma or the Lunch Loops in Grand Junction would be some other good places to start. I’ll definitely be back. If you’re looking for more info on the trails here stop into Over The Edge and pick up a copy of the guidebook they have for sale there. Also, the Colorado Plateau Mountain Bike Trail Association, or COPMOBA for short, has a good digital map of the area on their site.

The 3 of packed up camp on Monday morning and caravanned to Moab, UT. After taking Clark and Winston on a hike to the end of Negro Bill Canyon, Ryan and I said goodbye to Chris and headed north to Green River. That night we met up and camped with our friends Jess and Emily who Ryan was canoeing the Green with that following week. The next morning, I started my drive back home to the Tetons.

P4140455Winter and skiing were good this year. Not the 600″ of snow I was hoping for, but at 480″ and with more than most everyone else, I won’t complain. I still got in plenty of great tours and some amazing runs. Since putting the skis away, I’ve managed to get a few miles in on the mountain bike. Pocatello has been completely clear of snow for a couple of months now. I’ve made the trip down there a couple of times and ridden trails like Over The Top, which isn’t usually completely clear of snow this early, and Sterling Justice, a new 7 mile trail that connects City Creek to the Gibson Jack/Mink Creek areas. I also ventured over to the east side of the highway where I discovered a few short but fun rides. Probably more riding out there, but I can’t seem find any info, including names, for anything on that side of the interstate. Also, If you’re already in racing shape, Pocatello is kicking the season off with the City Creek Pedal Fest on June 14th, more details on their site.

Most recently, I spent a weekend in Park City, UT, where I went to visit friends and get some biking in there. After making it to town in time for an awesome backyard BBQ, Megan, Greg, and myself took the better part of the next afternoon to explore the trails near their house. While most of the higher, north facing trails near the ski resorts were still under snow, the Glenwild and Round Valley networks across the valley had been dry for weeks. From their place, we rode the bikes along the Rail Trail to the Round Valley Way trailhead. With more than a dozen individual trails ranging from flat to fast and flowy, the ride options here are numerous. We ended up taking some combination of Rambler/Ramble On/Somewhere Elks/Nowhere Elks/Kari’s/Rusty Shovel and had a great time. Most of these segments are newer; in fact, Megan had just helped to build Rusty Shovel sometime last fall, but were buffed and seemed well established.

After the ride we stopped by Sammy’s Bistro for lunch, a casual place in a strip mall a few blocks from Park Ave, that serves good homemade food. I kept it simple and ordered the Grilled Cheese, Salad, and Tomato & Basil Soup trio, which hit the spot. A few other recommendations for food in town would be Davanza’s, which has an eclectic menu consisting of pizza, tacos, burgers and fries and any combination of the above. Perfect for a quick, cheap meal (most items are between $3 and $8;) If you’re looking for a good drink check out High West, a whiskey distillery that serves up comfort food with a western twist.

Just across the highway to the north of Round Valley is Glenwild. I didn’t have time to ride there on this trip but a local rider I met on the Round Valley trails highly recommended the Flying Dog trail. I’ll have to check that out next time. I did have just long enough to get a few laps in at the Trailside Bike Park before I left town. Also located near Round Valley, Trailside is a small but super awesome bike park with tons of features like wall rides, drops, tabletops and more berms than you can count. It takes less than 10 minutes to pedal to the top of the trails and only a couple to get back down them. From the trailhead kiosk It looks like they have lots more in store for this little park with other planned phases marked on the map. If you find yourself in PC with a bike, go take a look.

For more info on the riding in Park City, have a look at Basin Recreation or Mountain Trails Foundation which has a great digital map of the area trails.

Bovine Gary and RyanFor now we’re all just waiting for more riding to open up here but it’s finally starting to look like spring in the Tetons. Over the last few weeks several of the lower trails have begun to open and are already seeing lots of use. I’ve been out to the lower Horseshoe Canyon Loops a couple of times. There are still a few patches of snow and mud along with some downed trees but MBT has a trail day planned this Friday the 30th to take care of those. A few other upcoming dig days are Teton Freedom Riders – 05/31 & 06/07 and TVTAP – 06/14 (I’ve added all the dig days I can find info on to the calendar on this site). Rush Hour is also a go, some other nearby trails may still have some snow and mud. Aspen trail is all clear except for a bit of mud and some high creek crossings.

In Jackson, some of the lower Cache Creek trails like Putt-Putt, Cache Sidewalk, and Hagen are ready to ride for the most part. I also just heard a report of the lower Munger trails being clear except for a few snow/mud patches and downed trees. It’s probably going to be a minute before any of the higher trails have melted off, Targhee still has enough snow to ski to the base, but get out there and ride what you can, or head south. Summer is on the way!

Speaking of local trail conditions, anyone can post updates to the conditions section at the bottom of each trail’s page on the site. If you’ve gone for a ride please let the rest of us know what kind of shape the trails are in. Any help I can get from you guys to make the site more useful would be awesome. As far as the site goes, I’m hoping to have all of the popular and legal trails mapped this summer. There isn’t a lot left but I still need to ride a few in the Big Holes including the Big Hole Crest trail, all of JHMR, and a few scattered trails around both valleys to complete the map. Once all of the basics are out of the way, I’d like to add a handful of nearby trails to the map such as Pinnacle Buttes and Pine Creek Bench. Other projects for the site will be to add trail difficulty ratings, work on the suggested rides and to continue to photograph and video the trails. If anyone wants to contribute or has any great ideas for the site, I’m always open to suggestions. Hit me up.