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Carne Asada

Carne Asada is a climbing-only trail in the JEM riding area east of Hurricane. It replaces lower JEM (which is now a one-way DH-only for the bottom mile) as a climbing route. The trail is new in 2022, with some route-finding confusion at the top -- which I expect will get better soon. 

Looking west down toward the Virgin River Gorge from Carne Asada. Photos and review by Bruce on November 11, 2022.

The Carne Asada trail begins along the Virgin River Gorge on JEM, just west of the trailhead. It's either 1.6 miles long, or 2.5 miles long, depending on what the "official" trail will be once everything is built and signs are installed. For now, follow the ride directions below to avoid dirt-road riding when connecting uphill.

Descending JEM along the Virgin River Gorge. The drone is flying directly over the trail fork to Carne Asada from JEM.

 
Trailheads and access
Sheep Bridge Road Lower JEM trailhead

In La Verkin, turn east onto Highway 9 toward Zion National Park. Drive 4 miles uphill. Just after you reach the first homes approaching Virgin, find the cindered Sheep Bridge Road on your right. Descend and cross the Virgin River. There's a parking strip on the right directly off the road, then a dirt road to the right going to a second parking area where the trail actually starts. (If you park directly on Sheep Bridge Road, you'll need to pedal the doubletrack to the trail.) Begin the JEM singletrack, then in 100 feet, turn hard left for Carne Asada. Do NOT continue on JEM, as it becomes one-way DH-only at this spot!

Trail fork from JEM to Carne Asada (one-way climbing route), just 100 feet from the trailhead at the end of the doubletrack.

Highway 9 Upper JEM trailhead

In Hurricane, turn south on US-59 (towards the Grand Canyon). Drive exactly 5 miles uphill. Turn left on cindered doubletrack right as you approach the base of Gooseberry Mesa. Drive another 0.3 miles to the parking area. Cross the cattle guard at the gate, then immediately turn right on singletrack. Descend JEM. Near the bottom of JEM at mile 6.7, just before JEM hits the trailhead in the Gorge, you can veer to the right to begin the climb back uphill on Carne Asada.

Looking northeast in the upper JEM Highway 59 trailhead.

 
Carne Asada Trail
First, get onto the bottom of Carne Asada from JEM, just west of the Gorge trailhead. See the instructions above. The trail will wind around as it climbs up a low hill above the gorge.

A group of riders climb Carne Asada with Hurricane Mesa (right), and the Pine Valley Mountains (left) in the background.

You'll do around 250 vertical feet of climbing overall, as the trail undulates up and down a bit. There will be views across the flats, plus occasional views down toward the gorge where you'll see the JEM trail above the Virgin River.

Following the trail southbound, we see the Moenkopi clay slopes of Gooseberry Mesa ahead.

At mile 1.1 from JEM, there's a connector trail to the right as you cross a shallow wash. This connector descends 0.2 miles alongside the wash -- and in the washbottom -- to hit JEM as it also crosses the wash.

For this first section of Carne Asada, the trail is well-signed and the correct route is obvious.

Desending in the bottom of the wash on the Carne Asada to JEM connector trail.

At mile 1.6, you'll have some options, and things get confusing. Carne Asada hits another singletrack trail at a T intersection. My suggestion is to go right and follow the singletrack down through the camping area and up to the Hurricane Rim trail fork as shown on my map.

We've turned to the right at the T intersection and are heading north toward Hurricane Mesa again.

To the left, the trail dumps into a race staging area. Sheep Bridge Road is 100 feet away to the left, where you'll find the entrance to the Quarry trailhead and camping area. The doubletrack here descends to JEM and the climbing trail (which may or may not be "Carne Asada" at this point). So that's a second riding option. A third is to take Sheep Bridge Road to the Sheep Bridge trailhead, where you can pick up Dead Ringer to climb to the top of JEM.

From Sheep Bridge Road just outside the race-staging parking strip, this is the entry to the Quarry trailhead and the camping zone. Both the climbing trail and the JEM trail are 1/10th mile down this doubletrack.

Assuming you forked to the right on the singletrack before the race staging/parking zone, the trail goes north a bit, then drops downhill through the northern edge of the camping zone. You'll reach the doubletrack at mile 2.1 from JEM. Look for the continuing singletrack climbing the hill to the west.

Descending away from the race-day parking strip on the bluff. We'll pass through the camping/trailhead zone ahead.

If you're well-aquainted with JEM from past rides, you'll probably spot the JEM trail ahead and to your right as you work your way across the doubletrack and through the camping/trailhead zone. But follow the main trail across the north-south wash -- without turning downhill in the wash -- and you'll find yourself climbing singletrack again. You'll climb on the left side of a shallow east-west wash. The JEM DH route is on the northern side of this wash.

Once you find yourself on this rock ramp in the wash, you're almost there. Keep going and the trail exits the slickrock to the left.

If you succeeded in staying on-trail past the camping zone, the singletrack will reach the JEM trail at mile 2.5. This trail junction occurs at the spot where Hurricane Rim forks away westbound. Keep straight to begin climbing the two-way section of JEM.

With the addition of new trails in the area, most riders now incorporate Dead Ringer, Goosebumps or Cryptobionic into a ride on the JEM trail. See our area page for a quick description and links to various trails.

Joining JEM for the two-way section.

Bottom Line:
Carne Asada is not as fun as the old climb up JEM along the Virgin Gorge, but it's easy to see why a separate climbing trail was necessary for safety. Riding traffic has increased dramatically along the narrow path hugging the edge of the cliffs.

For less-fit riders, a ride up Carne Asada and down lower JEM makes a nice quick loop.

The lower part of JEM is very scenic. This is the way back down to the bottom of Carne Asada.

Getting there: From I-15 north, take the La Verkin exit on UT-17. From the south, take the Hurricane exit on US-9 and go through Hurricane towards Zion National Park. At the junction of US-9 with UT-17, turn east towards Zion. 4.8 miles after the turnoff, turn right (south) on a gravel road signed "Sheep Bridge Rd." 0.5 miles later, you'll cross over the Virgin River. Just uphill is a parking strip on the right, then a doubletrack on your right 0.1 miles after the bridge. Take the doubletrack 0.2 miles to a turn-around overlooking the Virgin River. The singletrack is at the end of the turn-around.
Upper JEM trailhead: In Hurricane, turn south on US-59 (towards the Grand Canyon). Drive exactly 5 miles uphill. Turn left on cindered doubletrack right as you approach the base of Gooseberry Mesa. Drive another 0.3 miles to the parking area. N 37 08.329' W 113 14.527'

Resources for this riding area:
Connecting trails:
     Hurricane Cliffs Trail Summary page   Gould's Connector  JEM trail
     Hurricane Rim Trail      Gould's Rim Trail     Goosebumps/Cryptobionic
     More Cowbell (beginner White Ledges loop)   Dead Ringer   JEM DT
GPS track files (right-click and "Save target as..."):
     GPX master file of area trails 
Area map (view and/or print) in separate window:
    Printable topo map of trail system 
Lodging, camping, shops:   Links to St. George area resources

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