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Lightning Switch
and Ghost Flats trails

The Lightning Switch trail is located just uphill from the Thunderbird Gardens trailhead one mile east of Cedar City. The trail forks off the Ghost Flats trail just 0.2 miles from the trailhead, then climbs to meet the Ghost Flats trail uphill just below the ridgeline. Lightning Switch itself is 2.4 miles, and with Ghost Flats as a downhill the overall ride will be 4.5 miles.

View to the west down the canyon early in the ride. Photos and ride description by Bruce on April 27, 2017.

More trails in this area are under development, with 50 miles of planned interconnecting routes. See the Red Hollow and Thor's Hideout pages for information on other completed trails.

Lightning Switch is a relatively stiff climb, best done by strong experienced riders, but can be managed by intermediates with a few rest stops and short hike-a-bikes. As the name would imply, there are a lot of switchbacks in the trail.

Bruce grunts uphill on his Rocky Mountain Element.

You'll gain 1000 feet of altitude -- from 6000 feet to 7000 -- but the overall climbing will be 1300 vertical because the route frequently takes a downhill break as you climb. The average pitch is 10%, but there will be a few tough grunts to make up for the times you coasted downhill.

Most of the switchbacks are ready to rail. A few are tight, needing a bit of tweak excavation or a lot of riders wearing in the turning line.

The terrain is pinion pine mixed with juniper. The spacing of the trees means that you'll be almost entirely sun-exposed for the entire ride.

A few bits of sage fill the open spots, but for the most part you're surrounded by rock and dirt. The soil color alternates between salmon and dirty-white.

View south to the Thor's Hideout area. Note that we've already climbed significantly higher than the Thor's ride. (The trail can be seen lower right. This will be our descending route on the loop ride.)

There are frequent and changing views west over the valley as you climb higher. You'll have a look down into the canyon behind The Red Hill.

Plenty of climbing.

Most local riders are doing Lightning Switch as an out-and-back, rather than a loop. Unless Ghost Flats sees some TLC, I'll probably do it that way myself next time.

Getting closer to the top, another view west over the Cedar City area. The Thunderbird Gardens trailhead parking lot is the white spot just to the right below center.

At mile 2.6 from the trailhead, Lightning Switch ends on the Ghost Flats trail. For the loop ride, keep to the right and head downhill though what looks like a small wash. The "wash" is the severely eroded trail, which will become obvious after heading 100 yards downhill.

(If you head to the left instead, you'll reach another fork in about 100 feet. Here the left -- uphill -- fork takes you over the ridge then down through thick pinion forest to the flats, a grassy sink area. The right fork continues east, but I haven't followed it to see where it winds up.)

Lightning Switch is not all climbing. There will be some flat cruiser spots and short gentle downhills. But you'll make up for it with stiffer climbing later.

Ghost Flats Trail

Ghost Flats will be your route downhill for the loop ride. I recommend it only for expert riders at this time, because there's a lot of chunk and rough spots on relatively steep sections of trail. Intermediates will manage but probably won't think it's fun.

As mentioned, the downhill starts as essentially a wash. After about 100 yards, it's more obvious that it's a viable trail. But it will, periodically, turn into a wash side-walling adventure as you dodge rocks.

A fun flow section of Ghost Flats. More chunks and washbottom riding coming up.

The trail will drop about 600 vertical feet over the first mile. Not a bad rate of descent, but loose angular boulders throwing my bike around made it seem steeper. Technically, you could climb Ghost Flats for a counterclockwise loop, but it's likely you'll have several longish push-a-bikes.

After this first mile of descent, Ghost Flats flattens for a while before taking a quick drop down to the junction with the Thor's Hideout Trail.

Descending a smoother section of Ghost Flats.

To complete the loop, turn to the right (north) and descend the combined Ghost Flats - Thor's Hideout trail.

A quick out-and-back to Thor's Hideout is an option here, as you're already done most of the climbing for that ride.

Almost down to Thor's. Handlebar view as the ridgeline trail drops to the west.


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

Notes on trail extensions:  This area is being developed by the BLM as a multi-user trail system with over 50 miles of trail options. So connections and alignments will change over the next couple of years. For now, continuing further uphill from the top of Lightning Switch will take you into some rough trail that's hard to ride. The northbound trail climbs over a ridgeline then descends through tall pinion forest to the flats shown below. Nice spot for a picnic and a turn-around. The eastbound option will probably connect to trails that descend into Cedar Canyon.

Exploring. Handlebar view of the trail descending to the flats.

The sink area across the ridge. From here, the trail veers northeast. 

Riding notes, clockwise loop:
0.0   East toward Ghost Flats from trail kiosk
        N37 41.413 W113 02.591
0.2   Fork L uphill on Lightning Switch
        N37 41.415 W113 02.418
2.6   Keep right to descend on Ghost Flats
        N37 41.677 W113 01.395
3.9   R to descend (L = Thor's)
        N37 41.370 W113 02.371
4.5   Back at parking
Getting there, Thunderbird TH:  When southbound on I-15, take the first Cedar City exit (the same one you'd use to head for Three Peaks) and turn left towards the mountains. The road will make a broad turn to the south to become Main Street in Cedar City. Turn left at 900 North (it will be just as you reach the cemetery on the right-hand side). When you reach the golf course buildings, the pavement ends. Keep straight ahead onto gravel road. Pass a couple of flood-control basins, driving 1.2 miles from Main Street. Park in the fenced white-gravel trailhead area and start your ride eastbound by the trail kiosk. The fork to Lightning Switch singletrack is 0.2 miles uphill on your left as you climb the broader trail.
Riding resources for this trail:
Single-page riding guide
GPS track files for this trail (right-click and "Save as..."):
     Loop ride track   Lightning Switch only
     Area GPX multi-track file 
High-res area trail topo for printing:   View topo map 
Lodging, camping, shops:   Links to Cedar City area resources

Camping: none at trail area
Water: none
Bathroom: none
Bike services: Cedar Cycles

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