Western Slope Adventure

Written by Alchemy’s custom bike painter, Phil Harwood.

Spring sure is taking it's time to show up this year, so when my cousin invited me on a camping trip to Moab, I jumped at the chance to skip out on a snowy and cold Front Range weekend in exchange for some desert sunshine.  Thankfully my awesome wife encouraged me to bring my mountain bike, and together  we shoveled 6 inches of fresh snow in the driveway, brushed off the car, packed it up, and headed west.

This was my first trip to Moab, and wow, it did not disappoint!  We got into town Friday evening, navigated the bustling Jeep traffic downtown, and met my cousin at her campsite west of town in the Sand Flats recreation area.  The Sand Flats road is actually part of the Kokopelli trail a popular bikepacking route from Loma, Colorado, to Moab.  Campsites were $15 a night, and although the place was jam-packed Friday night, it emptied out Saturday, and no one was around on Sunday.  Get there early if you are trying to snag a weekend spot.  There are plenty of campgrounds in and around Moab, as well as hotels and motels, but what made this spot so great was the proximity to some of the more famous trails, like Slickrock and Porcupine Rim.  
 
 
Woke up cold Saturday morning (it gets real cold in the desert at night, especially when the wind is howling all night long and threatening to blow your tent off the mesa), but that did not deter me from getting up early to get on the trails ahead of the weekend crowds.  I cruised right from camp to the Falcon Flow trail, a great blue square singletrack trail that is part of the Raptor Route, a less technical trail system as an alternative to the big rocks and extreme gnarliness of Porcupine Rim.
 
Falcon is an intermediate trail, perfect for warming up the legs and body on a chilly morning.  Fast, flowy, not very technical, and following the purple painted lines on the rocks was a good warmup for a Moab newbie before taking on Slickrock.
 
Slickrock.  Wow.  Just, WOW.  So many different people tried to explain this trail to me, and everyone explained it differently, so I will keep my own description brief.  It's a one of a kind mental and physical rollercoaster through some of the most weirdly beautiful terrain I have ever seen.  I felt like I was playing tetris with my bike on this alien landscape, looking ahead to try and plan my next few moves and the line I would take.  You will need confidence, gears, good tires, and solid brakes to navigate this trail.  I would recommend packing a snack to take a break somewhere in the middle of this ten mile loop, as it will take you longer than you think.  Beginners should start off on the practice loop before doing the full loop.
Enough talk, just go ride it and experience it yourself!
 
First trail ride finished by noon, we headed into town for some lunch.  Food Truck Park  was a great spot, with easy on street parking. a variety of food trucks, a bathroom with running water, really everything you need to feel safe getting a variety of food during a pandemic.
 
After lunch we drove to Arches National Park, and cruised around marveling at how cool nature is, and how insignificant human life is compared to hundreds of thousands of years of rocks.  Highly recommended and worth every penny of the admission charge.  On less crowded days would be an epic road ride, a 36 mile out and back with climbing, towering switchbacks, and views for days.
Sunday morning we did a short hike near the campground at the Juniper Trail, about a mile loop up and around a mesa with awesome 360 views.  A great family activity for kids and dogs and everything else in life that does not revolve around two wheels.
 
Post hike I kitted up in the parking lot, and rode my bike east on the Sand Flats road to the Porcupine Rim trail.  I didn't have time to do the Whole Enchilada, so saving that monster of a ride for another day, was content to at least ride the lower half.
 
From the western trailhead, the trail climbs two miles up a gnarly, rocky, and broken jeep trail.  It gassed me pretty good hopping up the rocks, and trying to pick smooth lines.  When I finally got to the edge of the rim, my jaw dropped.  It was the best view I have ever seen on a trail, so much more rewarding after such a gut punchingly technical climb.  Cathedral Valley to the north, the snow capped La Sal mountains to the the west, the weird and wonderful desert colors...  Plan on pausing here for a while to just gawk at nature's splendors.
 
The rest of the trail was primarily downhill, with sandy sections here and there giving a respite from the bone jarring rocks.  I got off to walk some of the bigger drops, and the more technical parts on the lower singletrack sections, but was content with the opportunity to catch my breath, look around, and take some pictures.  It was awesome, all of it.  One of the harder trails I have ridden, not overly technical or gnarly, but just enough of both seemingly all the time to make you feel quite accomplished when you roll under route 128 and pop out by the Colorado River, just outside of town.  There is a bike path here that goes straight back to town, and numerous shuttles exist to ferry riders and bikes to the trailhead.
 
Our time in Moab coming to a close, we drove back to Colorado along route 128, which is a stunning drive, and a highly recommended scenic route back to I70.  There are a bunch of campgrounds nestled between this road and the river, and I'm already planning on another trip with some biking and boating involved.  Lots of free range cattle and gorgeous canyon views to distract you, drive safe and watch out for the pronghorn antelopes!
 
We decided to spend one more night on the sunny Western Slope, and booked an inexpensive hotel room in downtown Glenwood Springs for the night, situated nicely halfway between Moab and Denver.  A dip in the hotel pool and a quick pedal to Kedai Pho and Japanese Cuisine restaurant for takeout made for a great evening after a few days at the campground.  And the gangster movie Casino was on television!  Aces high!  I got up early to check out some local trails just across the river from downtown, and holy smokes, they were awesome!  I ended up riding this loop and it was a perfect way to check out a variety of local terrain.  A long grind of a climb up a hard pack dirt road to start, an incredible view at the top, and an absolute hooting and hollering, twisty and bermy rocketship rollercoaster of a descent back down the mountain I had just climbed had me grinning ear to ear like a kid in a candy store.  This was an especially rewarding descent after a couple rides in Moab - hardly any rocks, not technical, just fast, flowy, and fun.  
 
I continued on the loop and checked out some more trails, which were great, but I wish I had ridden the second part of the loop first, and saved the rip roaring descent for the end of the ride.  However you do it, these trails are excellent, and so close to town and everything else there is to offer, like the famous hot springs, numerous great restaurants, a gondola, an adventure park, and that's just the tip of the iceberg.
With a storm moving in, it was time to drive back towards Denver before the weather and road conditions worsened.  On cue, we were greeted with sleet and fog upon our return to the Front Range, and I had to shovel the driveway again before unloading the car back at home.  I usually hate shoveling snow, especially this far into spring, but after such a rad weekend, I was still grinning ear to ear.

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