Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Constructing a Mountain Bike Tour

Cedar Mesa - Constructing a Mountain Bike Tour

Over the past year or so I've been researching new areas/destinations for mountain bike tours that follow the model of the White Rim and The Maze in Canyonlands and even the Kokopelli Trail from Fruita to Moab - a beautiful tour on mellower terrain appropriate for fit beginners and intermediate riders....and even advanced riders wanting a relaxed tour with some amazing scenery.

Dating back a year ago, Hermosa Tours supported a single day event in Valley of the Gods in SE Utah in the Cedar Mesa region. I was struck immediately - how had this area not been discovered for a wonderful mountain bike tour?? Well, as beautiful as Valley of the Gods is, it represented 17 miles...not quite eough for 5 days of riding. :)

So began the 12-month recon for linking together 4 more days of tour goodness. It really ramped up last fall when Lisa Lieb (HT guide) and I spent 4 or 5 days driving the area and riding a bit despite rapidly descending temps! This time was worth while - collecting a great section of road here, a view point there and overall a great sense of the lay of the land.

At the end of that trip we had the makings of a nice trip, but we were left with a gap between the Tables of the Sun area and Cedar Mesa/Valley of the Gods. There seemed to be a little "ditch" in the way of connecting this tour - Grand Gulch. Hmmmm....

How about a mid-tour hike into one of the most special places on earth?? That'll do just fine! It was set (in my mind)...the Cedar Mesa tour. The only thing left to do was go ride and hike the route to get it all dialed for great sites, areas of interest, etc. We're recently back from this trip and here is the report and some photos....

Day one we bit off A LOT of recon - after a 10-mile road traverse, we dropped into Valley of the Gods via the "Moki Dugway":

Truth be told the picture above is from 2009. The cloud cover during this trip didn't make for nice photography, so I didn't spend much time fooling about taking shots.

Some of these are out of order, but here is a classic shot giving some perspective to Cedar Mesa. we were actually CLIMBING the road the tour would go DOWN...ugh! The rock you see is the "edge" of Cedar Mesa itself as we climb up from Comb Ridge, pictured next to the right of the rider.

I laugh when I see this picture of Howard (who runs our Arkansas Tours) riding with Comb Ridge to his right. We were feeling quite high on life at this point, thinking we had maybe and hour and a half to go. Hahaha! 3 hours later we reached the car....BEAT. Unbelievable views, including the title shot at the beginning of this post above.

Day two we hiked down into Grand Gulch. What a different world and what serendipity that this will be part of the tour. What once was a "problem" in the route is now arguably the highlight...

The "keyhole", which actually meant we had missed our turn into Grand Gulch from Collins Canyon. Well, that's what recon is for and what it takes to dial a tour in properly...

That wrong turn did lead us to an interesting side hike, the "Family" rock art from the ancient Anasazi...

Day three was our circumnavigation of Red Canyon....and of course we were doing it backwords...aka the "hard way"!!! Don't ask. Just be glad we learned the hard way and you get the fun, "right" way. :)

Howard peeking into an old, abandoned mine....

Like most photos, these shots really don't give you the full understanding of the beauty and scale of these side canyon views. I was pretty awe struck. I wish I'd had more time to just sit and soak it in.

Endless views open up around this part of the route. Here's Howard cruisin' for a glamour shot...

Some Paintbrush at our campsite....

After I get done scoping a whole tour route/experience I always ask myself, "am I comfortable charging money for this and would I want to come on this tour?" I can say unequivocally - YES. :) Check it out....first dates start this fall:


  1. After scouting this tour with Matt, my mind keeps returning to the experience. Riding and camping in the open emptiness of the painted rock landscapes, traversing the rugged Cedar Mesa canyons, and hiking into the Grand Gulch cultural area are truly unforgettable. I am ready to do it again.

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