November 12, 2011
Gooseberry has always sat in the back of my mind as a ride that didn't deserve the ratings it has claimed. It's fun but for me I like a lot more speed with my technical stuff. Even on my XC bike which is a mere 4" travel race oriented bike. But everyone wanted to do it this particular day of this trip. There were about 8 or 9 of us. So we moved across the desert mesa like a caterpiller anxiously headed toward the pinnacle of the ride, an overlook which peers down on Hurricane, La Verkin, and Virgin. These little towns of Utah aren't mountain bike towns like Park City or Steamboat Springs, but they host some amazing trail riding. The JEM is one of my favorite desert speedwagons.
We rode the loop starting from the beginning of the South Rim. I recommend this as you start with a moderatly awesome warmup cruising up and down small sandstone/slickrock obstacles. As we traveled further west on the mesa the slope graduated to more difficult and some climbs became noteably harder to negotiate. Admittedly, I found that some of the slow, trials-esque ascents through odd rock crannies got the best of me. Some I was willing to session but others I just shook my head and hiked up.
Early on there is an option to get on the White trail, jeep track, follow the "most difficult" rated trail and keep riding. I'm not giving roads an option. They're used by atv's, jet-skiers, and sportsmen, so watch out; they're pretty much suicidal. There is another weird trail merge 2 miles down the trail. Stay on the rim trail and you'll be fine.
Eventually we popped out at the western rim of the mesa where you can see the adjacent mesa and a wreck of a car driven off the rim of the cliff decades ago. It lays there as a symbol that there is no better place to leave your motor behind than here in the middle of the desert. What if we could all go out the same way?
From this point we headed back to the end of White trail, which is how they must have gotten the car out to the cliff's edge, and some went back that way. Four of us followed the rest of the trail back. There are lots of little trail shorts on the return along the northern rim. Getting closer to the parking area there are a few "Practice Trail/Loop" signs. More than there had been in the past. We took one and ended up on the White trail and rode back to the parking area. Apparently we ended the trail too soon.
Notes: Take a lot of water on a hot or even warm day, especially if traveling with a larger group with mixed ability. Getting lost could be dismal out there but at least you're on a mesa so not entirely catastrophic. Don't get lost. This trail is brutal on gear. Make sure your bike is in proper working order and serviced regularly. I've broken derailleurs, chains, and my buddy, a pedal on this trail. I wacked my SPD pedals the whole way up the trail. Food and good times are recommended for the finish. There are plenty of places to camp here. So do it.
Getting there is easy. Take Highway 59 southeastly out of the town Hurricane, Utah. You'll cruise past the bike shop "Over the Edge Sports" a franchise of the legendary shop in Fruita, Colorado. Get your last supplies there. Follow the highway out of town, up the hill, through Apple Valley, and as you're headed south by southeast you'll see a sign for "Gooseberry Mesa." You'll turn left and start heading directly North until you see another sign for Gooseberry Mesa, go left. Leave you're low-rider GTI here as you'll tear apart the bottom of your rig. It's a good truck road.
Follow this track past the potty well and go to down the White road to a better parking area. Ride the rim.