Grafton Mesa DH
With connections to Wire Mesa and Big Fatty Mesa
Grafton Mesa is part of the same mountain as Gooseberry Mesa, located
just west of Zion National Park. The official ride is the mesa road plus
the old coach trail off the mesa. When doing the loop, consider
adding Wire Mesa and Big Fatty Mesa to enjoy
the views. Local riders often navigate some social
trails on Grafton Mesa on their way to the downhill.
From the west side of Grafton Mesa,
we're looking west at banded curtains of Moenkopi shale on Pastry Ridge.
To the left is the north rim of Gooseberry. The Pine Valley
Mountains are in the background. Photos by Bruce on March 18, 2008 and
April 1, 2011.
The easiest ride option is out-and-back on the mesa
doubletrack to a viewpoint overlooking the Virgin River valley as it rises
into Zion Canyon. This is a nice ride, 4.2
miles total with 300 vertical feet of altitude change. It's OK for
The loop ride is 9.3 miles. It features a boring but strenuous climb
and a terrifying technical descent. Altitude change 1100 feet, to 4850 at
the top. Non-experts will walk much of the descent down the old coach
Climbing up toward the top of the
mesa, we're looking at Smithsonian Butte. The white stuff is snow.
Nearby, there are shorter
doubletrack rides to views on Big Fatty Mesa and Wire Mesa. On the way up for the loop ride, consider
a short out-and-back (1.5 miles round trip) on the ATV track of Big Fatty
Mesa. The ride is fairly flat and easy, with views over Wire Valley Wash
on your left. At the end of the mesa, you can
look across the valley at the entrance to Zion Canyon.
We're at the end of Big Fatty Mesa,
looking east at Zion Canyon.
A bit further up the road, Wire Mesa is 3 miles round trip on ATV-track to
a viewpoint over the valley. Elevation change is trivial, with gentle
slope. If you're looking for a relatively easy singletrack ride, Wire
Mesa added a nice riding loop in 2016.
Either of these dirt road routes are nice beginner rides. If you do
out-and-backs on the Big Fatty and Wire Mesa roads, the loop ride becomes 13.1 miles.
(Still pretty easy).
We're at the end of Wire Mesa, looking
across the valley. The Slickrock Swamp (Rockville Bench) trail is on the
ledge in the middle of the photo.
If you park at the fork for the simple loop ride (as per the directions
below), you'll spend the first 4.5 miles climbing dirt road (1100
vertical). Then you follow the mesa doubletrack 2 miles to the edge of the mesa.
From the hill, there are views north
into Zion National Park, and east toward Virgin.
| To find the continuing trail, look at the cliff edge
on the left side of the open area. That
little passage around the tree is the trail. As you get closer, you can
see the trail below the tree. Get ready for some serious bike-control
issues. The trail here has been worked over recently (2008), so pretty
much every inch is capable of being ridden. But it's steep, spooky,
slippery, and bumpy.
View to the northwest, with Pastry
Ridge in the mid-ground and the Pine Valley Mountains on the skyline.
The plunge off the mesa follows an old eroded coach road.
You'll drop 600 vertical in 0.6 miles. That's a 20% down-grade. Loose
slippery stuff, rocks to drop off or bang over -- it's a lot of work going
downhill. To your side, the slope breaks away like a cliff. Crashing is
not a good idea.
This is the viewpoint where the doubletrack ends.
From here, you find the continuing singletrack plunging down on your left.
Arrive at the bottom with your triceps burning and your knees
trembling, and hang a left on the DT heading down the valley. Or just for
laughs, ride the wash-bottom of South Wash. When you reach the cemetery, turn right to
close the loop. It's 1.5 miles back to the car.
Note: You may hear about singletrack on Grafton Mesa. As of 2011 that
trail and the wash trail connecting Grafton
to northeast Gooseberry is not sanctioned.
We're on the final descent. The bottom
half isn't as gnarly as the first part. Here you can
finally let it go. The first half is so steep, loose, and bumpy, it's hard
to stop for a photo!
|Clockwise loop ride, from Horse Wash:
0.0 Start up Scenic Byway
N37 09.090 W113 03.542
1.5 Big Fatty Mesa DT on R
N37 08.047 W113 03.845
2.0 Wire Mesa DT on R
N37 07.881 W113 04.179
3.8 R on DT (Grafton Mesa DT)
N37 07.847 W113 05.894
|6.0 Viewpoint on cliff N37 09.432 W113 05.319
ST on L on side of cliff, go
7.3 L on DT near wash bottom
N37 09.456 W113 04.977
7.7 Pass cemetery, R on Grafton Road
N37 09.817 W113 04.826
9.3 Back at car
||Getting there, from Rockville: In La Verkin, turn
toward Zion National Park on Highway 9. When you get to Rockville, drive
until you're seeing the end of town then turn south (right) on Bridge
Road. Cross the Virgin River on the old bridge. Follow the road as it
veers right (west). At the fork in the road 1.5 miles later, turn left and
park near the wash. Start riding south uphill on the Smithsonian Butte
Scenic Byway (may or may not have a sign). If you're shuttling to the top,
it's the last doubletrack (on your right) before the top of the mountain,
4.4 miles up, just after the road has turned south again. N37 07.683 W113 06.131.
Parking areas: Just to the northeast of the intersection of the mesa road
with the Smithsonian Butte road, plus right along the trail on the next
Camping: Primitive along dirt roads, BLM land.
Bike services: Hurricane, Springdale
|Getting to Grafton Mesa from Gooseberry: From the spot where the
Gooseberry road leaves the Scenic Byway, proceed north 1/2 mile. Just
after you start more steeply downhill, watch for the first doubletrack on
your left. This intersects the trail, and can be a good parking spot.
However, understand that the REAL Grafton Mesa road is found a bit further
downhill around the corner, and is a much smaller road.
Grafton Mesa ST