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Sidewinder Trail
Includes Precipice Trail

The Sidewinder Trail is a short but fun upper-intermediate singletrack in the Santa Clara River Preserve. It forks off the Barrel Roll trail. The Precipice Trail is a short (0.8) mile connector between the Cove Wash trailhead and the beginning of the Sidewinder (see below).

View north as Bruce skirts the cliff edge on a smoother stretch of Sidewinder. Photos and original review April 14, 2009 by Bruce. Latest update March 2017.

The trail is shaped like a lariat, with a small loop at the summit. The name Sidewinder comes from the trail's shape -- it has a zigzag shape like a snake's body, with the small loop forming the head. Out-and-back from its origin on Barrel Roll, the Sidewinder trail is 3.0 miles. Connecting via the shortest route from the trailhead, the total ride will be 4.8 miles.

As the trail zigs back to the south side of the ridge, we get this alternate view.

The pitch of the trail is fairly pleasant. But it's a bit steeper than Barrel Roll, rising 350 feet over a mile. Total climbing will be 500 feet for a ride from the Cove Wash trailhead via Barrel Roll, up Sidewinder, and back down.

Sidewinder's resident gila monster. Photo swiped from Neil, April 2011. Haven't seen a real sidewinder here yet.

Because the trail goes back and forth between the north and south sides of the mesa, there will be frequent pretty views. To the north are Ivins, the red cliffs near Snow Canyon, and the Pine Valley Mountains. Looking east downhill, you see Green Valley and Black Hill. On the south rim are views of the mesas and badlands of the Stucki Springs area.

As we climb higher, we can see over the mesa to the north. There's Ivins, then Snow Canyon, then the white cliffs above the highway, then the Pine Valley Mountains. At the left side of the mesa, you can just make out the curved streak of the west end of the Barrel Roll trail.

The trail has more technical features than Barrel Roll. Most won't slow down a skilled rider. At the top of the loop, there's a fairly gnarly steep turn on rock near the cliff edge that's tricky in either direction. Most of the trail, though, is straight-ahead cranking on smooth narrow singletrack.

Bruce fights through an area of technical rock in March 2017.

The loop at the top -- the sidewinder's head in snake terms -- is best done counterclockwise. There's a steep "90-degrees plus a ledge" feature that's hard to clear when done uphill in the clockwise direction.

Gene Poncelet reaches the loop fork at the top of Sidewinder in February 2011.

On the south side of Sidewinder's loop is the connection to the Suicidal Tendencies trail. This has become a popular ride, but it's not to be taken lightly. If you add this option, your climbing will be 1500 vertical feet and your distance 13 miles. And the riding gets even more techy.

Rolling one of the many turns on Sidewinder.

 

 If the above video does not appear on your browser/device, you can watch it on YouTube by clicking here.

Jackie demonstrates the path over the boulders.
Very do-able, but will stop an intermediate rider.
View from the top, looking over the badlands toward
the north and the Santa Clara River.
Precipice Trail

The Precipice Trail is a 0.8 mile trail from Barrel Roll to the Sidewinder Trail. It's my favorite route to Sidewinder. It forks left from Barrel Roll about 100 feet from the Cove Wash trailhead, then joins Sidewinder about 100 feet from its origin off the south side of the Barrel Roll loop. 

Bruce cruises outbound from the Cove Wash trailhead on Precipice.

 

 

Precipice is a bit more technical than Barrel Roll. There are some tight steep-ish turns and a bit of rock banging. There's a section with steep side-slope. The trail follows the same general westward course as clockwise Barrel Roll. But instead of climbing the smoother terrain on top of the hill, it navigates between two rows of rock outcrops below the top cliff-line. 

Climbing into a couple of tight rock slots on the steep sidehill.

When you reach the Sidewinder trail fork, go left to climb Sidewinder. (Or right then left to ride Barrel Roll clockwise.)

By using the Precipice trail for your climb and descent, is makes a nice Sidewinder five-mile out-and-back from the trailhead. Ride Precipice to Sidewinder, loop around the end, then head back the way you came, saving Barrel Roll for your next ride.

Bruce rails one of several semi-tough uphill turns on Precipice.

 

Bottom Line:
The Precipice-Sidewinder route is a lot of fun, but it's a pretty quick ride. Most riders will do it as an add-on to the Barrel Roll trail. Or as the connection to Suicidal Tendencies for a bigger tougher ride. 

And if you're looking for more rocky stuff, the Rim Rock Trail system is just south of Cove Wash.

The trail descends past oddly-shaped boulders. This is the same Shinarump layer found on the Zen Trail and at Gooseberry Mesa and Little Creek.

Riding notes, out-and-back Sidewinder:
0.0   Start on Barrel Roll Tr
        N37 07.250 W113 40.503
        Take L fork of Barrel Roll loop
             - or -
        Fork L to Precipice ( if finished)
0.9   Fork L for Sidewinder if on Barrel Roll
        N37 07.404 W113 41.157
0.95 Pass Precipice if coming from Barrel Roll
        (Keep R if already on Sidewinder)
        If on Precipice, fork L on Sidewinder
        N37 07.384 W113 41.154
2.4   At loop, pick a direction
        N37 07.336 W113 41.787
2.7   Finish loop, descend
4.0   If Precipice is finished, fork R
        N37 07.384 W113 41.154
        If not, ride 60 ft, R on Barrel Roll
4.8   Back at parking
Getting there:  In St. George, head north on Bluff Street and turn left on Sunset Blvd. Drive 3 miles west on Sunset through Santa Clara. As you're reaching the end of Santa Clara, look for a road crossing the river on your left. It's about 200 feet before the Jacob Hamblin Home (which will be on your right if you pass the turn). Turn and cross the river and follow the road as it turns right. About 0.4 miles from Hwy 191 (just after the road veers right), turn left uphill onto the dirt Stucki Springs road.
At mile 0.7, turn right at the sign "Santa Clara Preserve" or "Cove Wash Trailhead." Pass the water tank, and at mile 1.3, turn right again through the fence toward the trailhead. This road will veer left to a log fenced parking area at mile 1.5, N37 07.253 W113 40.508. Connecting by bike from Green Valley (5 track options): GPX
There's a singletrack trail you can ride from the valley to the trailhead. After crossing the river and following the road as it turns right, pass the dirt Stucki Springs road. About 100 feet past the road, a doubletrack heads obliquely westward uphill on the left, turning quickly into singletrack heading up along the wash. at about 1/3 mile, keep R at the fork (L rejoins the road). The trail will climb up and west of the water tank, then join the road right at the fence of the preserve.
Riding resources for this trail:
Single-page riding guide
GPS track files (right-click and "Save as..."):
     GPX sidewinder only  Ride w B.R. up, SW, down Precipice 
      Area multi-track file    Map datum WGS 84
St.George southwest, interactive map:  Load 
Wider-area topo for printing:   View full area topo     Smaller map
Lodging, camping, shops:    Links to St. George area resources

Copyright 2009 Mad Scientist Software Inc
Updated 2011, 2017