Moab Biking Roundup

Mountain Biker's Paradise
  |  Gorp.com

"This is the most beautiful place on Earth."

So Edward Abbey opened his classic Desert Solitaire: A Season in the Wilderness, the story of his ranger days in Arches National Park near Moab, Utah. When you see Moab for yourself, you'll understand why Ed was so enthralled with the Utah canyon country that's become an internationally renowned mountain-biking paradise.

Moab has changed a lot since Ed was here in the '50s and '60s, but the rugged and beautiful otherworldly landscape surrounding this desert oasis is as incredible as ever. You'll marvel at barren and convoluted desert canyons shadowed by the forested alpine peaks of the nearby La Sal Mountains. The deep gorge of the Colorado River snakes through the landscape, too, its murky waters and lush green banks contrasting sharply with the red-rock country towering over the stream.

Mind-boggling rock formations are everywhere. Slender rock pinnacles reach for the sky, rising from canyon walls streaked black with desert varnish. Sandstone domes bulge from the landscape. Fingerlike red-rock peninsulas divide one deep and dark canyon from the next. Some are slots hundreds of feet deep, yet so narrow that you can touch both walls. Others are wide and expansive, with arches and caves that peer at you like eye sockets in a skull.

Sound forbidding? Well, it is—but that's part of the land's allure. So is the silence of Moab's canyon country—a quiet so deep it's almost palpable. In the hush you'll hear the secretive rustlings of lizards and the soft flutter of the canyon wrens as they breeze over the landscape. Locate bighorn sheep and mule deer by the click of their hooves on the ledges, talus slopes, and slickrock. The silence becomes haunting when you stumble upon signs of the Anasazi, the "ancient ones," who inhabited the canyons hundreds of years ago. Look sharp, and you'll find their paintings and carvings in the redrock walls, or spot a tumbledown dwelling or granaries perched on a ledge overlooking the canyon floor.

After World War II, uranium was discovered in the canyons around Moab, and miners and prospectors bulldozed roads all over the mesas and canyons of southeast Utah. The mines closed long ago, leaving behind miles and miles of abandoned tracks ideal for mountain bikes. In this waterless terrain, long-distance hiking is next to impossible—but with a little grub and a few quarts of water, you can pedal from sunrise to sunset through overwhelmingly beautiful terrain, and then cap your day with a microbrew and gourmet dinner in town.


Published: 29 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 8 Nov 2011
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication

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