I’ve been hearing good stuff about Gooseberry Mesa for a long while now. Last year, when I went to St. George for the True Grit 50, I told myself that I was gonna hit Gooseberry for a “recovery ride” the next day (Gooseberry Mesa is on the edge of Zion National Park, about 30ish miles from St. George). The combo platter of being pretty beat down, and knowing the my daughter was sick at home, had me in the truck and back to Mammoth right after the race. Gooseberry was put on the back burner, but still simmering…
A few weeks ago, I found out I was doing Longmire again. So I knew I’d be road-trippin’ out to Santa Fe, NM. As luck would have it, a quick study of mapquest shows that while driving from Mammoth to Santa Fe, throwing in Hurricane, UT and Sedona, AZ only tacks on about 100 miles to the trip. So the decision was made – ride Gooseberry Mesa and the Sedona Big Friggin Loop (my next post). Done and done’er.
Not everybody likes Gooseberry. Some “freeride/dh” die-hard friends of mine hated it. I loved it. SLICKROCK. On par, if not better than the Slickrock Trail in Moab. Less crowded, less touristy, and more of it. Perfect fun for my rigid SS setup. My Maxxis Ikon rear tire just hooked up on everything. I only had a few hours to ride – if we wanted to get to Sedona before nightfall – so I made the most of my ride. After research, I decided to do the classic “Figure 8 Loop”. It includes all the main trails in the system (I’ll have to go back for the “secret” trails and a couple newer segments). All in all, I feel this is a great way to explore Gooseberry if you only have one day / one ride in the area.
Park in the Gooseberry Lot (not White or Windmill). This will give you a one- mile gradual climb to the White Trail parking lot- where the real riding ensues. Jump on the South Rim Trail to your left out of the lot. Everything is very well signed, so you should be able to navigate easily. All the slickrock has white paint dots (almost too many in fact) – so it’s pretty easy to stay on course. South rim has huge expanses of sweet slickrock. Up and down, up and down, fun little punchy climbs and descents. I felt like a gopher, popping my head out to wicked views, and then back down under. You hit a junction with Hidden Canyon Trail around 3-4 miles. The junction is clearly marked. Take HC trail. More of the same. Slickrock mixed with flowy, dirt singletrack. One of the best trails, I thought. Eventually HC hits the White Trail (the fire road / beginner trail that runs through the whole trail system). Make a right at white, ride for a hundred yards and turn left on the “connector” that takes you up to the North Rim trail. Go right. The moment you hit the North Rim Trail, you’re rewarded with a gorgeous view of the valley below. The exposure here reminds me of sections of Porcupine Rim in Moab. Simply amazing. Once you get your fill of photos – continue on, marveling at the crazy geological circumstances that created this place!
Before you know it, you’re at the intersection for the Yellow Trail – take it!. It’s short, but sweet, and before you know it, you’re merging with White Trail and South Rim Trail. Go right, and head to “The Point”. You’ve come this far, you have to go to “The Point”. It’s only about 1/2 mile further, and takes you out to the tip of the iceberg with sweeping views. Kind of like being Jack on the front of the Titanic during sunset sans the nasally disruptive singing of Celine Dion. After you’re done fist pumping, turn around and head back to join up with South Rim Trail. You’ll now be riding back over the section of South Rim you haven’t ridden yet. I came up on 8 cows lounging in the trail giving me the stink eye for disrupting them. The slowly moo-sied out of the way as I passed, but they were not pleased. Anyhoo, continue on to the intersection of Hidden Canyon again. Take it again. Just as fun the 2nd time. Now, when you hit the North Rim Trail, go right instead of left – this will start the last segment of your “Figure 8”. More singletrack than slickrock, this is fun and flowy, and was a welcome relief from the beating my rigid fork was putting on my arms. Eventually you hit the practice area, which is fun in it’s own right, and takes you to the White Trail back to parking lot, DONE.
The whole ride is about 17 miles with about 1,200′ of elevation gain. But remember, this is short, poppy ups and downs, with lots of technical maneuvering – slickrock at it’s best. So budget some time. I wasn’t “racing” the course, and took a bunch of pics – took about 3 hours. So yeah, don’t think you’ll bang it out in 1.5 hours.
I have the gpx file. If interested, drop a line. Gooseberry lived up to my expectations and more. I love this type of riding because it boosts your skills, and I can’t get it at home (kind of like a prostitute? – oh, that’s too far, oh well, the delete button is stuck). Next stop, SEDONA. stay tuned….