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Red Mountain DH Trails

Red Mountain, just north of Vernal, has two DT trails that are usually ridden separately as advanced-technical shuttled downhills. You can, however, combine the trails to ride Red Mountain as a brutal loop. Another riding option is to substitute the Rojo Trail for a portion of Red Mountain West, either uphill or downhill.

View west from DH West, about 2/3 down. Photos June 15, 2010 by Bruce.

For the shuttled downhill, you'll leave a car at the bottom of either DH West or DH East, then park below the top of the mountain. Yes, below. You'll push your bike 500 vertical feet in 1/2 mile to reach the top.

Then you'll plunge downhill over countless ledges for 1700 vertical feet of elevation change. DH West is 5 miles long, DH East is 4.5.

View southeast on DH West, just above the top of Rojo. Lots of rock ledges.

Most of the riding surface is within the Chinle formation, including sandstone, clay, and the awesome Shinarump conglomerate. On the DH East, you'll also hit Carmel formation and white Navajo sandstone.

Desert trumpet (scarlet gilia) blooms along the trail.

Because ATVs use this trail, you'll need good loose-rock surfing skills. There are occasional stretches of ATV churn.

An XC bike is fine. I rode my 23-pound race bike, and didn't encounter anything where I wished for more suspension. Bigger tires, maybe.

Handlebar view on DH West, as we prepare to drop down a few rock ramps and ledges.

There are countless ledges and rock ramps. Mostly, you just roll on down. Some riding lines may require a short launch, but alternate riding lines are always available for those who don't want air.

Near the bottom of DH West, the trail comes close to Rojo. Far left is Rojo; at right is the Red Mountain Trail.

IMHO, if you have to pick only one route, the DH East is more fun and more varied than DH West. So if you have a shuttle vehicle (or can ride a loop), I recommend you descend Red Mountain East. If you're considering the loop ride (see below), DH West is more suited to climbing, but is still a bugger. 

For the Killer Loop, you'll have to climb DH West, aka, Red Mountain. This climb is Not Easy.

If you don't have a shuttle vehicle, you'd probably want to do Red Mountain West. It's four miles on road from the bottom of the DH West back to the starting point. And you can insert the Rojo Trail as part of the ride.

To descend the West DH, you'll first have a mile of slight uphill (after completing the push-a-bike from the upper parking). This view is looking west from the ridgeline near the start of the trail. Photo courtesy of Jared Payne, May 2005.

As you descend, there are frequent views south of Steinaker Lake and the valley surrounding Vernal. For the top two miles, the surface is sandy soil interrupted by frequent Shinarump outcrops. Tall longleaf pines surround the trail. At the bottom of DH East, you enter a world of steep white Navajo sandstone. Stay and play a bit. If you get lost, just go downhill anywhere and head toward the highway.

Cabin on DH East near the top of the mountain. Photo by Jared.

For the Killer XC-out-of-yer-league Loop, park at the bottom of DH West. Ride up 1/2 mile, then pop onto Rojo for 2.5 miles of rockin' rock. Then struggle up the last couple of miles on the Red Mountain DT at 500 vertical per mile. You'll reach the top around mile 6. Continue straight into DH East and enjoy your downhill.

How to get back to the west side after your bike arrives at the flats at the bottom of the East DH? You can either do the ugly road return (10 miles) or catch ATV track at the northwest corner of Steinaker and climb to DH West a mile from the bottom.

View northeast from the ridge, shortly after starting the descent down Red Mountain East. Photo by Jared.

Riding notes, Killer clockwise loop for XC riders:
0.0    Ride north on dirt road N40 32.678 W109 35.275
0.5    Find Rojo on your left across small wash
         just as you hit the edge of the mountain
         N40 33.024 W109 35.059
3.6    Left uphill on DT N40 34.263 W109 34.013
         DT forks and rejoins multiple times
6.0    Top of mountain
6.1    Pass ST for shuttle ride, enter DH East
         N40 35.619 W109 33.189
9.0    Fork R for classic, L = harder
         N40 33.896 W109 31.958
10.0  If you kept L, keep straight here N40 33.294 W109 31.484
         If you went R, fork L N40 33.321 W109 31.759
         then R at bigger dirt road N40 33.294 W109 31.484
10.5  At highway, head south (R) N40 32.867 W109 31.554
11.5  Stay on highway for roadie return N40 32.028 W109 31.337
         (R = Steinaker, find ATV track for return
         N40 31.930 W109 32.001)
13.7  R on 3300 North N40 30.256 W109 31.743
15.5  Follow road L
15.6  R on 2500 North N40 29.484 W109 33.463
16.7  R on 2500 West N40 29.505 W109 34.622
20.5  Back at car
Camping: On SR 44, Steinaker is just a mile from the bottom of the eastern DH; Red Fleet is about 6 miles north of Steinaker.
None at the trailheads.
Bring your own.
Bike services, maps, trail conditions:

Altitude Cycle, 580 East Main, Vernal. 435-781-2595

These mushroom rocks are about a mile down the Red Mountain DH East trail. Photo courtesy Jared.

Downhill navigation Red Mountain West DH:
0.0    First, get your bike up the steep ST from
         the upper parking area
         Turn hard right (west) on the DT
         N40 35.619 W109 33.189
1.0    Alternate paths fork and rejoin
         Up-and-down gives way to descent
1.9    Optional ST route on R
2.4    Option Rojo on your right (adds 1/2 mile)
         N40 34.263 W109 34.013
3.9    Keep R (L = connector to Steinaker)
4.4    Rojo joins DT from right N40 33.024 W109 35.059
4.9    At bottom parking N40 32.678 W109 35.275
Downhill navigation Red Mountain East DH:
0.0    First, get your bike up the steep ST from
         the upper parking area
         Keep left (eastbound) on the DT
         N40 35.619 W109 33.189
2.9    Route splits, R is classic, slightly easier
         Straight (L) optional.
2.3    Head toward highway after dropping off slickrock
4.0    If you kept L, keep straight here N40 33.294 W109 31.484
         If you went R, fork L N40 33.321 W109 31.759
         then R at bigger dirt road N40 33.294 W109 31.484
4.4   At bottom parking N40 32.867 W109 31.554
Getting there:  
While driving toward Vernal on US-40, crest the hill and pass the rest area just before town. As you encounter buildings, watch for 2500 West on your left. As of 2010, it's the 3rd street, but it depends on what you count as a street. Turn left on 2500 West.
Shuttle West or parking for Killer Loop:  Keep going north for 8 miles. At N40 32.678 W109 35.275, there's a parking area on your right. The trail is the doubletrack heading north.
Shuttle to Top: Continue north on 2500 West to around mile 13 from US-40. (The road turns to gravel around mile 12.) Spot dirt road on the right at N40 36.447 W109 33.865. Keep right at the fork and park at the end of the road. Start "riding" south on ST at N40 35.896 W109 33.293. The top of both trails is 0.4 miles and 500 vertical feet uphill. Good luck.
Shuttle East:  Go north a couple of miles on 2500 West as above, but turn right at 2500 North (just as it seems you're about to leave town). At the T intersection a mile later, turn left, then veer right. When the road intersects SR 44 two miles from 2500 West, turn left and drive 3.3 miles north. Turn left into a dirt road with an adjacent small parking spot at N40 32.867 W109 31.554. Now take your Top vehicle back to 2500 West and continue north as described above.

Riding resources for this trail:
Single-page riding guide
GPS track files (right-click and "Save as..."):
    Garmin     GPX 
Large-format topo including Rojo:   View big map
Lodging, camping, shops:   Links to Vernal area resources

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