HURRICANE – Crowds of mountain bikers gathered on Saturday at the upper parking lot for the JEM trail just off state Route 59 near Hurricane to celebrate the completion of new single track trails in the Hurricane Cliffs trail network.
The trail completions represent a two-year (and ongoing) collaboration between the Bureau of Land Management St. George Field Office and the Dixie Mountain Bike Trails Association – the Southern Utah chapter of the International Mountain Bicycling Association, whose mission is to create, enhance and preserve trails for mountain bikers around the world.
Between 2013 and today, four new trails, some that can stand alone and others that act as connectors or add-ons to the existing JEM trail, were conceptualized and completed, Monte Lutz, an association board member said.
The trails were built in two phases.
The first phase was planned in the fall of 2013 and built during the winter of 2013-14: Goosebumps – which sits just below Gooseberry Mesa; and Cryptobionic – a play on the fragile cryptobiotic soil prevalent in the area.
The second phase was planned in 2014 and completed during the winter of 2014-15: Dead Ringer – named for a cow skull found while surveying for the trail with its bell still on; and More Cowbell – from the infamous “Saturday Night Live” skit of the same name.
“This kind of went from a single trail,” Lutz said, “to an honest to gosh, what we would call a trail system.”
The addition of the four new trails created much needed access for beginning riders to get experience on single track dirt.
“(It brought) the technical level down to kind of a beginning level,” Trails Association President Lukas Brinkerhoff said, “but still have a very fun trail which kind of shows in the people that are riding out here. It has just exploded.”
Teena Christopherson, a member of Dixie Mountain Bike Trails Association echoed Brinkerhoff’s assessment of the new trail system. She said:
The thing that is cool about this trail is there just aren’t a lot of beginner trails in our area, … and there is a really nice beginner trail here. You can bring your 6-year-old kid and ride a nice little loop.
Arguably the most impressive part of the trail build was the smooth collaboration between the BLM and Trails Association.
Lutz said that to get trails built this quickly and smoothly in any other state is almost unheard of.
“This trail would have never gotten built if it weren’t for the Dixie Mountain Bike Trails Association,” Dave Kiel, outdoor recreation planner for the BLM, St. George Field Office, said. “What it was, was a total collaboration. So what they (the trails association) did was they provided the layout in terms of volunteer hours and then we provided the environmental analysis and we paid for the crews that actually came out and built the trails.”
Praises for the BLM were equally high.
“It is phenomenal,” Teena Christopherson said, “The fact that we could get with the BLM and they were so willing to work with us.”
Groups from the American Conservation Experience, known as “ACE crews,” were paid to come build the trails. The ACE crews, often joined by volunteers from the area and members of the Dixie Mountain Bike Trails Association, worked 10-day shifts and 10-hour days, Kevin Christopherson, the trails association’s newest board member said.
“The manual labor it took was astounding,” Kevin Christopherson said, “we wanted narrow single track trails – so we didn’t want equipment – so it was all done by hand with just shovels and hoes.”
On the easier sections, crews could do about a mile a day, Kevin Christopherson said, but some of the more difficult sections, areas where they had to go up and down cliffs, took longer.
“There was one section that took us about two weeks to go a half-mile,” Kevin Christopherson said.
Money used to complete the trails and pay the crews came from recreation fees collected from events, like races, held on BLM land, and from commercial guiding, Kiel said.
“There were no tax dollars involved,” Kiel said.
As part of the Federal Lands Recreation Enhancement Act, Kiel said, money collected from recreation fees cannot go back to the District of Columbia and must be used locally to enhance recreation opportunities.
Saturday’s celebration paid tribute to the groups involved with making the trail network come together. It featured food, prizes, a ribbon cutting, group rides on the new trails and planning for more trails in the future.
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- Trails are exposed (no shade) and dusty; carry plenty of water
- Basic bike maintenance and safety kits are advised
- The Hurricane Cliffs trail network contains trails that are open to equestrian and hiking use, caution and courtesy are advised when sharing the trail
- Use proper trail etiquette; see the International Mountain Bicycling Association’s “Rules of the Trail” linked here
- Posted signs urge bikers to refrain from riding the trails when muddy
- Biking alone is not recommended; riders going alone should let a relative or friend know of their destination and approximate return time
Driving directions from St. George
- Travel north on Interstate 15 to exit 16
- Travel east on state Route 9 to Hurricane
- Turn right on Hurricane Main St.
- Turn left on state Route 59 toward Grand Canyon/Lake Powell
- Travel east on state Route 59 about five miles
- Turn left on gravel road
- Travel .25 miles to upper JEM parking lot and trailhead
- Dixie Mountain Bike Trails Association: Website | Facebook
- Bureau of Land Management St. George Field Office: Website
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