Moab Biking Roundup

Slickrock Trail
Descending double-track
Descending double-track

Awesome. Breathtaking. Indescribable. There aren't enough superlatives to describe the Slickrock Trail, arguably the world's best-known mountain-bike ride. Designed for motorcycles around 1970, this mountain-bike Mecca was quickly taken over by the pedal-powered crowd in the early 1980s. Slickrock tops every rider's list when he or she rolls into Moab—and when you pedal out onto the vast expanse of undulating Navajo sandstone that gave the trail its name, you'll find out why.First, you'll happily discover the trail's sandstone surface is anything but slick. Knobbies grip the slickrock like suction cups, letting you power up steep climbs and along scary sidehills like a fly climbing your kitchen wall. You'll successfully ascend slopes you'd never clean at home, where rocks, roots, and loose gravel cause frustrating spinouts. Nor are the climbs very long. The Slickrock Trail's short-but-steep hills are a sandstone roller-coaster, where the momentum from downhills and the incredible traction let you exuberantly swoop over the short hills like a pro racer.

Not that the trail is easy—you'll spend lots of time on your small chain ring. Slickrock's steep spots are intimidating to some, and a few extreme pitches like"Cogs To Spare" and "Stairway to Heavin'" will make all but the toughest mountain bikers get off and push their bikes for short distances. The altitude might challenge flatlanders, and the exposed, treeless landscape can be hot, but since technical stretches are few, short, and easily portaged, novice riders with a good attitude will have a great time on the Slickrock.

If you have doubts, start with the 1.8-mile Practice Loop that breaks off the spur leading to the main trail. If you enjoy this short ride, turn right when you rejoin the spur to hit the main loop. The trail markings are excellent: Closely spaced white dashes mark the way, with black diamonds painted in the dashes when you're approaching really difficult sections. According to the markings, you can pedal the loop clockwise for a slightly easier ride. The practice and main loop together cover about 12 miles, but marked spurs and cut-through trails let you customize your Slickrock adventure to almost any length you choose.

The trail wanders over a high rock peninsula surrounded by the Moab Valley, the Colorado River, and Negro Bill Canyon. From the Portal Overlook you can see the Colorado River flowing into Canyonlands National Park and see Moab in the green valley to the south. The Panorama and Natural Selection Viewpoints are precipices offering views northward over the Colorado River and into Arches National Park. Strong riders can pedal the whole trail in less than two hours, but most ordinary mortals will spend five hours or more exploring the cut-throughs and spurs, taking pictures at the overlooks, and reveling in the unique riding experience found only on the Slickrock Trail.

To get there: From the intersection of Mill Creek Drive and Sand Flats Road in Moab, drive 2.3 miles east on Sand Flats Road.

Published: 29 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 27 Oct 2011
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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