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J.E.M. Trail

The JEM Trail is found just west of the town of Virgin near Zion National Park. It remains one of the most-popular rides in the Hurricane area. Named for trailblazers John, Ellen, and Mike, this trail offers high-speed desert cruising and a cliff-side ride along the Virgin River.  Except for one dangerous switchback (which you can walk), it's an easy technical ride.

View towards Gooseberry Mesa from the JEM Trail on July 7, 2001. Original photos and review by Bruce Argyle in 2001. Latest page update April 2019.

From the Highway 59 trailhead at the top to the Sheep Bridge road trailhead (just off Highway 59), JEM is 7 miles long. There's 800 vertical feet of elevation loss over that distance. Riders can start from either end.

There's some pretty scenery as we ride the cliffs above the Virgin River near the Sheep Bridge road trailhead.


Important note!
Since April 2015, the upper portion of JEM is now one-way, downhill only. This is the section from the Highway 59 trailhead down to the Goosebumps/Dead Ringer connector intersection. When climbing to the Highway 59 trailhead, you must use either Dead Ringer or the JEM Doubletrack.

Heading downhill, just a short distance from the upper (Highway 59) trailhead. This upper portion -- until you've dropped off the upper hill and reached Goosebumps -- is one-way downhill.

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.

See our topo map below for an overview of the area trails. Navigation is fairly easy, but a cell phone with a trail App always helpful when deciding where to ride next as you stand at a trail fork. The trail is well-marked with carsonite posts.

The middle portion of JEM is a high-speed flight through the desert.

Most riders do JEM in one of three ways:
(1) Lariat. From the lower parking on SR-59, JEM uphill to the Dead Ringer fork at mile 5.3, up the hill on Dead Ringer, then down JEM back to the trailhead.
(2) Top to bottom with shuttle from the lower trailhead off SR-59 the upper JEM trailhead on SR-9.
(3) As part of the Goulds and Hurricane Rim loop ride, doing the 5 miles of JEM that lies between SR-9 and the Hurricane Rim trail fork.

The lower part of JEM is very scenic. Here Bruce rides toward the SR-59 trailhead, following the edge of the wash as it approaches the Virgin River.

Then there's the old classic JEM Loop, which is 12.9 miles in length with 800 feet of altitude gain. The first half of the classic JEM loop is uphill doubletrack; the last 6.2 miles is downhill singletrack. While fewer riders are using this route now, it's an alternative for groups who want to ride side-by-side on the way uphill.

View up the wash, about 2.5 miles into the classic loop ride in 2001. The wash here has a hard bottom, and is fairly easy to ride.

 Descending JEM from top to bottom (2019 video)...

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

The trail is a fun ride, and definitely worth doing. The views into the chasm of the Virgin River are awesome (note that you'll miss this section of JEM if you're riding the Hurricane Loop option). The high-speed singletrack descent is a blast.

Near the top of the ride, the trail passes by a fruiting yucca.

The "badlands" and the alternating bands of red and white of Gooseberry Mesa are mudstone of the Moenkopi Formation, laid down during the early Triassic (about 240 million years ago). As the ocean receded, gravel and shoreline deposits formed the hard Shinarump conglomerate, which begins the cap of the mesa.

Bruce heads away from Gooseberry Mesa.

Bottom Line

One of the best trails in the area, very popular. A good choice for mixed-ability groups! The JEM trail is a must-ride for your bucket list.

In this 2001 photo -- loving the bar ends -- Bruce is ready to drop down JEM from the doubletrack of the old classic loop ride.

 An old video (analog era) of the guys riding the Hurricane Loop...

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

Riding notes, Gould/JEM/ Hurricane Rim Loop:
Start from parking area on US-59 above Hurricane
0.0 R (downhill) on US-59
0.2 L uphill on DT
1.8 Top of DT climb
2.3 R off DT onto ST
      N 37 09.606 W 113 16.330 Alt=4000'
5.4 Trailhead, L on DT, head NE
      N 37 08.142 W 113 16.280
6.2 At corral, find ST rear on R
      N 37 08.310 W 113 15.649
8.0 ST comes in from R
8.3 US-59. For Big Loop, cross to DT
      N 37 08.096 W 113 14.564 Alt=4350'
      For small loop, head downhill on road
8.6   JEM Trailhead, cross cattleguard
        N 37 08.329 W 113 14.527
        Immediate R onto ST
9.0   Cross DT, descend toward cliffs
9.3   Keep R (L=More Cowbell)
        N37 08.863 W113 14.661
        Drop off ledge on switchback
10.0 Straight (R=Goosebumps, L=Dead Ringer)
        N37 09.119 W113 15.103
10.8 Keep R (L = China Wash)
        N37 10.541 W113 15.154
11.0 Cross Dead Ringer
        Cross Sheep Bridge gravel road
11.1 Cross Cryptobionic 
        N37 10.798 W113 14.354
14.0 Fork L to Hurricane Rim
        N 37 11.261 W 113 13.862 Alt=3650'
15.8 Virgin Dam trailhead
        N 37 11.781 W 113 14.109 
        (Cryptobionic start on L)
16.0 Keep L (R=Virgin Dam trail)
18.7 R across Chinatown Wash
        Straight = Chinatown Wash trail
19.6 Dam trail rejoins on R
20.2 Panorama Point
        N 37 11.169 W 113 16.179 Alt=3850'
21.5 Back at parking

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 cattleguard, 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. For the classic (old) JEM loop ride, head back on the dirt road. For the Hurricane Loop, ride up JEM to the Hurricane Rim trail.
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'

See the topo map link below for a color-coded topo of all area trails.

Other Resources for the JEM Trail:
One-page riding guides to:  Classic Loop   Hurricane Loop
Connecting trails:
     Hurricane Cliffs Trail Summary page   Gould's Connector
     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   JEM only
     JEM Classic (OLD) Loop track  
     Loop from Sheep Bridge TH JEM - Hurricane Rim - Goulds - JEM
     Loop from Hurricane Hill TH Goulds-JEM-Hurricane Loop
Area map (view and/or print):
    Printable topo map of trail system 
Lodging, camping, shops:   Links to St. George area resources

Copyright 2000 Mad Scientist Software Inc
Updated 2019