Virgin River Rim Trail
(Strawberry Point, Pink Cliffs, Navajo Peak, Woods Ranch)
The Virgin River Rim Trail is a high-altitude alpine
singletrack, skirting the edge of Utah's high southern plateau. The trail
offers excellent forested singletrack riding and some awesome views. The
trail is long and tough, so most
riders ride only a piece of this trail - we describe those options below.
The trail melts out in mid-June, with a return of snow in mid-October.
Looking toward the Pink Cliff area, we're at 9000 feet. To the south,
the land breaks away towards Zion Canyon, sloping down to below 3000 feet
elevation. Original review July 2001 by Bruce Argyle.
Updated July 2017.
For those who have strength, stamina, and are acclimatized to high
altitude, you can ride the entire trail as a point-to-point with shuttle.
Allow at least 7 hours -- 10 hours allows for photos, rest stops, and an
unhurried lunch. You'll do 32.5 miles, with over 4200 vertical feet of
climbing, at an average altitude of 9300 feet.
Top altitude is 9700 feet at Navajo Peak, lowest is 8200 at Woods
Ranch on the western end. The biggest and steepest
single climb is 600 feet in 1.5 miles.
Bruce starts the Virgin Rim trail from the eastern
end near Strawberry Point. There's room for two -- maybe three -- cars at
Most riders will choose to ride only a portion of the
trail. In addition to the end points, the Virgin River Rim trail can be reached by
car where it crosses the Strawberry Point road, at Lars Fork, Cascade Falls,
Navajo Lake, and Webster Flat. These connections allow for shorter out-and-back
ride options and loop rides.
The most popular of these
shorter rides is the climb from the west end of Navajo Lake to Navajo
Peak. I'll describe some of these loop or out-and-back options later.
through long-leaf pine.
The trail winds through forests of pine, fir, and aspen as it climbs to the
ridgeline. Here, you're on the southern edge of the Utah's massive high plateau
country, looking into the valleys 6000 feet below as they break down towards
Zion National Park. The Navajo Lake and Strawberry Point sections of the trail
let you admire these views, while the west (Te-ah campground to Woods Ranch) section
is wooded and virtually view-free.
Chad looks down into the salmon-pink
rock of the Pink Cliffs in this 2001 photo.
The trail is fairly well-maintained
considering its remoteness. There are trail markers at most trail
and road intersections, but it's possible to get lost after the trail
temporarily joins a dirt road if you aren't paying attention.
Much of the understory is sparse, allowing good sight
The trail base is mostly hard-pack dirt, but with a lot of
rough rocky sections. There will be a few stiff-but-short climbs on loose rock
that you'll probably hike-a-bike. And although the trail is designated
non-motorized, you'll find a few spots where gas-heads have poached it and
churned up the rocks for you. The eastern end (Strawberry Point to Pink Cliffs)
seemed to have the toughest trail surface during my rides.
Cruising past the cliffs in this 2017 drone shot.
One of the ride's highlights is the view of the Pink Cliffs, an eroded rock
formation similar to Bryce Canyon. The pink and orange rock is soft limestone
from the Tertiary Period, called the Claron Formation. This limestone formed in
a large fresh-water lake about 40 million years ago. During this era,
the uintatherium and giant sloth lived in Utah in warm thick forest among many
Mike stands at the cliff edge in 2001, 6 miles
into the ride.
Riding the trail from Strawberry Point, you'll encounter some fairly stiff
climbs, particularly from Cascade Falls to the top of Navajo Peak. The eastern
side is by
far the toughest half of the ride, but it's also the most scenic. This section
includes the amazing Pink Cliffs (definitely a big photo op!). At Navajo Peak,
you reach the ride's peak altitude of 9700 feet. If you do ANY
part of the Virgin River Rim, you should do the eastern half.
Rolling across the top of the mountain.
The hardest bit of the eastern half (when riding east to west) is the (average 8% grade)
climb from the Cascade Falls road up to Navajo Peak. Navajo Peak isn't a sharp
peak like those in the Wasatch -- rather, it's a mound with a ridgeline on top.
Take a minute to stroll through the wildflowers at the top. There are more great views
of the deep valleys to the south from Navajo Peak.
Enjoying a smooth section of flat trail.
On the second
(western) half of the trail, elevation change is more gradual with up-and-down
riding. The western half is a decent forest ride, but it lacks the great views
you'll see on the ridgeline of the eastern end of the trail.
this side of the trail, you'll drop about 1000 vertical feet overall.
Bruce admires the view from the
ridgeline of Navajo Peak in 2001.
For those who aren't doing the shuttled "whole
thing" ride, my recommendations are, in order of preference:
1- Navajo Lake from Te Ah. Climb east over Navajo Peak, descend the Dike
Trail and roll around the lake.
2- Pink Cliffs section, done counterclockwise. Climb Lars Fork then turn
east on the VRRT. (In this direction there will be a push-a-bike as you
leave the Pink Cliffs.)
Dominic rides down from Navajo Peak,
where the Virgin River Rim Trail merges with the Navajo Lake Loop Trail.
In general, the dirt roads that connect to the rim are
smooth and well-maintained. You may use these roads to create a loop ride,
or to drive to the Rim for an out-and-back. Traffic is highest on the
Navajo Lake, Cascade Falls, and Strawberry roads.
down Lars Fork, a return route from the Pink Cliffs loop ride. It's a fun
downhill all by itself, or makes an easy climbing route that puts most of
the singletrack on the downhill side!
Virgin River Rim Trail - Pink Cliffs section loop ride
If the above video does not appear on your
browser/device, you can watch it on YouTube by clicking
Epic Virgin River Rim Trail Ride (32.5 miles) - see below for
Trailhead Strawberry Point, 9 miles up Strawberry Road (Forest Service Road),
descend down road
0.5 leave Forest Service Road onto singletrack on right GPS N 37° 26.284' W 112°
42.129', altitude 9000 feet
1.8 cross Forest Service Road, altitude 8400 feet, begin climbing
2.6 doubletrack joins trail from right (continue straight)
2.9 exit doubletrack onto singletrack on left
3.5 cross doubletrack, then small (usually dry) creek
4.3 doubletrack merges in from left
4.4 exit doubletrack onto singletrack on right
5.3 brief view of cliffs, cross doubletrack, then 2nd doubletrack 200 feet later
5.9 awesome view over colored rock formations, altitude 9100 feet, begin descent
to 8900 feet
6.9 Lars Fork road on right side, cross loop of road (2 crossings), climb
switchbacks with road on right side
9.9 reach ridgeline, 9300 feet, start descent
11.1 cross Cascade Falls road near overlook (trail is across road, left of outhouse),
altitude 9000 feet
12.2 climbing rocky grade up to ridgeline
13.5 intersect Dike Trail, altitude 9600 feet, continue straight and descend
14.7 intersect Spruces Campground trail on right, saddle at 9300 feet, continue straight, begin climb
15.5 top of Navajo Peak, altitude 9700 feet, generally flat and up-and-down
16.0 intersect Navajo Trail, keep left (straight), descending
18.0 trail turns away from ridge and begins faster descent
18.5 merge with Navajo Lake Loop Trail, keep left (straight)
20.1 reach paved road, altitude 9100 feet (campground just across road has water tap), turn left on
20.2 go right on doubletrack GPS N 37° 32.020' W 112° 49.303' as road turns
south, begin descent
20.7 singletrack trail abruptly turns right off doubletrack (if you reach a
gate, you went too far), 9000 feet
22 up and down, but generally climbing up to altitude 9300
24.3 descend and cross small wooden bridge
26.5 turn right uphill on doubletrack, altitude 9000
26.7 fence/gate, continue straight ahead on doubletrack
27.1 doubletrack turns right in sharp switchback, go straight onto singletrack
at corner of switchback
27.2 several small wooden bridges crossing small springs (Stucki Springs)
27.6 reach Webster Flat road, look left - singletrack continues on the other
side of the bend in the road
28.3 top of mountain, 9400 feet, go over sheep grate in fence, descend
29.4 trail rejoins Webster Flat road, turn right on the road, descend
32.1 doubletrack reaches gravel road, turn right
32.5 road enters parking area at Woods Ranch GPS N 37° 35.455' W 112° 55.032' NOTE: This is an accurate wheel
odometer reading from 2001. Your results will vary!
GPS odometers will display a lower
distance, with the degree of error depending on the spacing between points.
This error will become more
pronounced on longer rides with lots of curves.
Sample section rides!
Pink Cliffs Section (Loop): This loop takes you up to the fabulous views over
the Pink Cliffs. Park where the Lars Fork Road branches off the Strawberry Creek
(Forest Service) Road, about 4 miles from the highway, or at the spot where the
VRRT crosses the road (there's room for one or two parallel-parked cars
here). For a clockwise 14-mile ride, pedal south on the Forest
Service road and continue up
to Strawberry Point. Then descend the singletrack (back to the road crossing)
and take the 10-mile loop. Climb up to the cliffs, then descend and turn right when you reach
the Lars Fork Road and ride the road back to your vehicle. Or ride it the other
direction, counterclockwise, by climbing the smooth and scenic Lars Fork
doubletrack up to the Rim. About 14 miles for the long
version, 10 miles without going to Strawberry Point.
Navajo Lake Section (Loop): This loop takes you up Navajo Peak, with views
over the deep valleys to the south. Ride uphill, keeping right where the Navajo
Lake Loop trail and Navajo trails fork off. Continue east over Navajo Peak, then
descend to the Cascade Falls road. Turn left on the road. At both forks in the
road, keep left, and you'll be on the road down to Navajo Lake. Watch for the
Navajo Lake Loop trail as it crosses the road at GPS N 37° 31.056' W 112°
44.996'. Turn right on the singletrack, and go around the lake. (For a slightly
shorter ride - 16 miles - go left.) When you reach the road, turn right to get
back to the trailhead. See the Navajo Lake Loop Trail page for additional
details. About 17 miles.
Cliffside Shuttle Ride: Leave your shuttle car
at the Navajo Lake trailhead, where the trail reaches the Navajo Lake
road. Then drive to Strawberry Point. Ride it as above, but you'll finish at Navajo Lake for a 20-mile
ride. This ride covers all of the big views of the Rim Trail, and will
still give you a major workout.
To make the ride even shorter, and to eliminate the brutal climb up
from Cascade Falls, consider leaving your shuttle at Cascade Falls. Ride
from Strawberry Point to Cascade Falls for an 11-mile
Either of these rides can also be done west-to-east.
Getting there: From Cedar City, drive 11 miles east
on U-14 to Woods Ranch. Leave a vehicle at the parking area of the second
entrance (the gravel road that comes in parallel to the highway is the end
of the trail). Continue east on U-14 to 33 miles from Cedar City, and turn
right on Strawberry Road. Continue straight on the dirt road to Strawberry
Point, 9 miles. You'll pass the trail marker on the left-hand side of the
road about 1/2 mile before the overlook.