The Ultimate Southwest Mountain-Biking Tour: Las Vegas to Moab to Flagstaff
- Las Vegas
Day 1: About two-and-a-half hours northeast of Vegas is Hurricane, near the southwest entrance of Zion National Park. Zion does not permit mountain biking, so instead head to Gooseberry Mesa, a maze of trails on a 5,200-foot-high slickrock mesa right outside the park. The terrain here is sick, with house-size sandstone structures, narrow rock canyons, and ledges with sweeping views into the park. Camp there, or head back to Hurricane and crash in one of the town's numerous hotels.
Day 2: Today you travel clear across the state to the center of Southwest mountain biking, Moab, so get an early start. Drive three hours north on Highway 89, then three hours east on Highway 70, and head straight to Moab's legendary Slickrock Trail. The parking lot will be jammed, but once you're a mile or so in, it's an empty, otherworldly landscape of undulating sandstone with some of the steepest, hairiest terrain anywhere. Stay at the Gonzo Inn, which caters to bikers.
Day 3: Today you have a choice. If you're ambitious, ride Porcupine Rim, an all-day journey through technical slickrock, with tight, fast singletrack, including a stretch that skims the rim of a 200-foot cliff. If you need a break from the adrenaline, spend the day exploring Canyonlands National Park via wide and mostly mild jeep roads.
Day 4: The drive to Flagstaff is long, about six-and-a-half hours. Luckily, the halfway point is Monument Valley. Stand and gawk at the iconic John Ford–movie landscape. Or hire a local Navajo to take you by jeep into the valley itself. When you do make Flagstaff, head to Schultz Creek Trail, a wooded three-and-a-half-mile route that's an after-work favorite among locals. Stay at the historic (and allegedly haunted) Hotel Monte Vista.
Day 5: Mount Elden looms 9,301 feet over Flagstaff. Elden Lookout Road is not all that technical, but it is long and steep, and the views get better the higher you go. The payoff: a screaming four-mile, single-track roller coaster down Sunset Trail. When your heart stops pounding, it's back to the Vegas airport and the red-eye home.