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The trails of the desert canyons offer visitors, young people and neighbors of Grand Sion a single-track oasis

Desert Canyons Trail System, St. George, UT. Photos: Mike Cartier

Tucked away in southwest Utah off of Highway 7, the Desert Canyons accessible trail system is just steps from the St. George Regional Airport in the Greater Zion region. A few years ago this young trail system was founded by a local residential builder who wanted to build a new subdivision outside of town with easy access to mountain bike trails on their doorstep.

These trails are privately owned and cater for cyclists and hikers with approximately 20 miles of singletrack close at hand. While there is plenty of mileage to go in this physically small, yet dense and passionate community, this trail system mostly consists of a few loops for beginners and intermediates: ideal for those who want to squeeze in a quick ride after the job.

A student-athlete pre-riding the race with St. George Regional Airport in the background.

Although the skill level is very open and inviting for new riders, there are plenty of technical features that will satisfy even the most skilled rider. This trail system is definitely more XC-focused and recently hosted the Utah State High School Mountain Biking Championships with hundreds of fast, youthful runners from across the state.

Subdivision of Desert Canyons visible just across Highway 7.

Much to our surprise my friend Dave and I got to experience this trail the weekend before the state championships. At first we were overwhelmed with participating in this seemingly small trail system, but the atmosphere and warmth of the other riders was awesome. While my friend packed a borrowed bike, I had the chance to walk around a bit to take some photos of the huge parking lot filled with riders and locals.

Preparation of the bike before departure. We have seen a lot of participation from runners and recreational cyclists.

By chance I ran into Jake Weber, a high school mountain bike trainer and NICA member since 2011. I informed him it was my first time at Desert Canyons and he had a blast with nothing but good things to say about the trails, the community, and the long-term mission of bringing the local community – as well as the national – by bike.

Weber was instrumental in the course design and gave us some useful information before Dave and I set off on our slow “lap”. Weber’s enthusiasm accompanied me as I started the loop, often passed by very fast high school students. The positive impact of this site and trail system on residents and traveling student-athletes across the state was clear; he brought everyone together for a competitive but fun time.

Jake Weber, High School Mountain Bike Trainer and NICA Member / Advocate.

Dave and I started the loop clockwise with a modest, gradual climb before the singletrack started. We had just over seven miles total in the race loop which consists of green tracks (Pushing Tin Loop and Secret Sauce) and a mile of blue tracks (Claim Jumper) in the Varsity Loop. The elevation isn’t severe, but the rolling and often punchy climbs are about 550 feet above sea level according to the course description. Most of each trail is fairly docile, but there are enough technical rocky sections to keep skilled riders on their toes. The occasional smooth descents allow for a fun rest before the next technical section and add to the overall balance.

Sportiness and climbs galore.
Teammates navigating through boulder fields.
Whether you look up or down the trail, you will find like-minded trail users.

Winding just over a mile and a half into the pushing tin loop, there’s a scenic clifftop vantage point where casual riders can relax and grab a snack. The bench adjacent to the trail allows users to gaze out at Highway 7 into the Arizona desert before continuing.

Pause to view Arizona at the top of the Pushing Tin Loop trail.

As we cruised through larger and larger boulder fields, the variety between gradual climbs, pedaled straights, and smooth fun increased. This loop seemed to give you a bit of work before you gain more of your runs towards the end.

Dave climbs up and walks away from the trailhead.

I have already mentioned the proximity to the nearby airport. All kinds of airplanes, military, small personal planes and national airliners frequently came and went from the airstrips.

I dreaded to think that I would be leaving Utah on a plane like this in a few days.

For other desert dwellers, this trail system might not be scenic, but I found the barren landscape to be stunning. The rocks changed in size, but stayed the same with inspiring grip in the dry and cool conditions. We drove in the middle of the afternoon in October with temperatures in the 70s. It was a pleasant day to ride, to say the least.

Dave zooming in between the rocks.
So cool to see the young people of Utah so passionate about cycling.
Accurate representation of the escalation to access the flow.

While there are many well known or epic / difficult trails in the St. George / Greater Zion area, you certainly cannot ignore what Desert Canyons has to offer and their impact on the local cycling community and economy. . With the rapid eruption of housing on the outskirts of St. George, trail systems like these not only generate massive selling points for buyers, but create a healthy base for the young people who live on these trails. For the adventurous novice rider or maybe the experienced rider who wants to get out of the house, this trail has a lot of character and challenge in those little loops.

Tags : st georgeutah state
Mary Cashion

The author Mary Cashion