Moab Mountain Bike Menu

By TravelLightLaura | May 16, 2024
North America > United States > Utah

Better to be late to the party than to miss the whole enchilada. The Whole Enchilada is a world-famous mountain bike trail in Moab that usually means a shuttle ride to an epic seasonal drop-off point. Be ready for 7,000 feet and 15+ miles of descent with exposed views of Castle Valley. It's fantastic, with plenty of tech and steep rolls seasoned with stunner views.
Admittedly, I am a big fan of enchiladas, but after a recent visit, I'd say Moab is more like a family-style platter of sizzling fajitas. It has everything, from juicy steak and tender chicken to grilled shrimp, with piles of grilled onions and peppers. Plus, add copious toppings, like beans with melty cheese and spicy pico de gallo, all wrapped up in a warm tortilla. Moab's mountain bike menu offers plenty of choices, from mild to super spicy.

The Moab mountain bike scene has been on the map since the mid-80s, and Josh and I finally made it to this mecca in April. Over three decades later, it remains the stuff of legends; I can confirm the lore and reputation are deserved. Moab is not hype; it's the real deal for a party on two wheels. When you tell bike pals you've been to Moab to ride, your street cred will go up a big notch.

According to Moab Adventure Center, Rim Cyclery sold 15 mountain bikes in 1983, a leading number in the world. Today, 12 million are sold worldwide each year. Then, in 1985, Mountain Bike Magazine launched and helped spread the word about a new destination to ride. Pair that momentum with a superbly stunning landscape. I'd liken it to putting the Rocky Mountains and a sandstone desert in a giant geology bag: add a dash of salt, a splash of the Colorado River, then give it a good shake. Out comes petrified slick-rock and spectacular formations, mesas, and arches in vibrant colors from yellows and orange to deep brick reds. Great mountain bike trails, yes, but even better views.

Biking with views of Dead Horse Point State Park

Biking with views of Dead Horse Point State Park

Magpie Cycling, Moab's Local Bike Guide

When visiting a new mountain bike destination, I am a big believer in hiring a local guide. In Moab, check out Magpie Cycling and book Maggie and Mike's crew for half-day or full-day guided rides. It's a great way to gain insight on trails and routes that match your ability, plus you'll learn essential skills and bike-handling tips. All the guides and coaches are certified, and listening to them will lessen your chances of having close-up encounters with slick rock. Learn to be a better biker, and as a bonus, ride with Maggie, “the bike scientist,” get local geology and naturalist tips, and even get to taste edible wildflowers with buds that taste like wasabi.

We rode for three days with Magpie Cycling, covering trail systems at Klondike Bluffs, Dead Horse Point State Park, and Navajo Rocks. Don't ask me to pick a favorite; that's an impossible task.

Funny thing, I did the most climbing on day one, with no one to blame but myself for requesting a route that took us to the top of Klondike Bluffs for an amazing vista. The reward was a rollicking descent down Mega Steps! Maggie worked with me on better braking techniques right out of the gate, which certainly came in handy in subsequent days. Klondike Bluffs starts out unassuming and is certainly approachable as a Moab appetizer. Take Dino Flow to warm up, then climb Little Salty to Alaska. Great spot to learn to ride some rock.

Biking Klondike Bluffs Trails in Moab, Utah

Biking Klondike Bluffs Trails in Moab, Utah

Navajo Rocks, indeed, it does. This trail system is a fun series of loops, so you can choose 10 miles or 20. We loved riding Ramblin and Big Mesa for a scenic ride along sandstone cliffs and plenty of fun slick rock rolls and descents.

Dead Horse Point State Park is Moab's most chill riding experience, next to the Brands Trail System. The Horse does not require much climbing and is primarily a leisurely pedal on top of the mesa with stunning views of the curvaceous Colorado River valley. Make sure to pedal to Miner's Point for the best panoramic sightline. I'd give this a nod for families with young kids for on-site amenities, snacks, and even on-site bike rentals.

For an overview of all the trail options, this is a good source, but I'd suggest you ride with Magpie Cycling and let them help you choose based on current conditions are your riding level.

Porcupine Shuttle Ride Day

We also dedicated a whole day to the shuttle experience on a portion of the Whole Enchilada. Dan and the Porcupine Shuttle van piloted us to a Kokopelli Trailhead start for a short climb to the UPS and LPS portion of WE. Down we went, my definition of downhill biking is forever changed. I stopped plenty for the WE visual feast. There are plenty of exposed vistas (and steep cliffs on the edge of the trail) into the valley that will inspire your legs to continue to the next course.

After a hefty dose of technical sections, we branched off and followed the recommended new Raptor Route. From top to bottom, follow Eagle Eye, Hawk's Glide, Falcon Flow, to Kestrel Run. 12 miles of 6% grade and spectacular views of the La Sals, Abajo, and the Henry range. If you are a solid intermediate rider, give this a shot plus the bottom section is even a bit flowy. Finish up and roll by the Sand Flats Recreation Area and the Slick Rock trailhead, then land at Milt's for burgers, tots, and a milkshake.

Views from the top of the Whole Enchilada Trail

Views from the top of the Whole Enchilada Trail

Hike Arches National Park

There's a hiker in every biker, so we had to fit in a half-day of hiking at Arches National Park, just a few miles north of Moab. It's worth the drive to the farthest parking lot and trailhead at Devil's Garden. Take the primitive trail to the Double O Arch loop for about five miles of awe-inspiring walking and gawking, where you can notch a glimpse of at least 10 arches on this route. Tip: Be sure to reserve a timed entry online to ensure a reservation on a specific date.

Landscape Arch, Arches National Park

Landscape Arch, Arches National Park

Stay at Purple Sage Flats

After many miles and time in the saddle each day, my sit bones needed a rest. I'd recommend melting into an Adirondack chair by the fire pit on the patio area at Purple Sage Flats. There's a place to wash and store your bike, and most importantly, the hot tub jets are a button-push away to loosen up tight thigh muscles. They also have on-site laundry and a gas grill. We ended our days at this oasis, sipping on local Moab Brewing Imperial Pilsners, with the outdoor lights winking to the fading sunlight off the mountains.
Locally owned, Purple Sage is an excellent alternative to a traditional hotel room. It's much more spacious, with a separate living room area to relax. The full kitchen is a great amenity to cook in or savor a cup of morning coffee. The location is a bonus: It's a short two-block walk to Main Street and a bevy of bars, coffee shops, restaurants, and, yes, bike shops.

New Bikes at Poison Spider

It was Friday, our last day in Moab, so we thought we'd pop into Poison Spider Bicycles to buy some logo socks and check out their merchandise. Socks in hand, I was diverted by a long row of rental bikes on sale, price tags displaying half off or more. I looked closer; there were 2023 models, Yeti's, Pivots, Santa Cruz, Ibis, and more, all of which we had recently demoed at an Outerbike event. After about a half hour of rolling around the parking lot and confirming the size and components, the sock purchase turned into a “new” bike day! I pushed go on a new Yeti SB130, and Josh fell for his true love, a Pivot Switchblade. Armed with the knowledge of a lesser tax bill than expected, we invested some extra cash in our fun fund vs. a CD paying about 5%!

Funny thing, we've been home several weeks, and I've been craving enchiladas and fajitas pretty much non-stop! A return visit for the Moab Mountain Bike Menu will definitely be needed.

Arches National Park Moab Mountain Biking North America United States Utah

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Written by Travel Light Laura
As an ambassador for life-work-play balance, my mission is to help YOU plan the trip you’ve back-burnered too long. Find ideas for your next active trip in my books and blog. Bike, hike, paddle, ski, golf, and play! Home base is the Mitten, aka Michigan. I am anxiously plotting the next trip because the best way to ward off (PVD) post vacation depression is to start planning the next one.

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