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Sunshine Loop

The Sunshine Loop is a bike trail that you won't find in most guidebooks, but it's worth doing. It wouldn't be your FIRST choice among St. George area trails, but it's a nice peaceful ride with pretty desert scenery, away from civilization. Most of the ride is in Arizona.

Bruce and Jackie pause before plunging into the wash for the singletrack portion of the ride. Taken with a self-timer. July 24, 2001.

The trail (as described here) is 11 miles in length, with a slow elevation gain of 400 feet. I would rate it intermediate technical, easy aerobic. In the summer, this is strictly an early-morning ride. Because at least half of the ride is in the bottom of a wash, this isn't a ride you should consider on rainy days.

Begin riding by heading back on the road you came on. You may note "cheater routes" along Ft. Pearce Wash. You'll be going through the wash again, so if you want to ride the wash rather than the road, be my guest. The "official" route takes you through the fence, turning right onto the road at mile 0.2. 
Ride down the road to mile 0.8, where the road splits, with the left fork going up a steep hill, and the right turning into a gated fence. Go right, through the fence and start heading southwest. The road becomes narrow and rough as it dips in and out of a small wash. Sometimes the trail is the road, sometimes it's the bottom of the wash. (When in doubt about whether you should ride the wash or the road, stick with the road.) The riding surface is occasionally soft, requiring application of a little "sand surfing" technique.

View up the wash as the trail weaves in and out.

At around mile 2.5, the doubletrack trail climbs away from the wash onto a low mesa covered with volcanic rock. You're continuing roughly south-southwest.

After another mile, a signpost indicates the trail leaves the larger road to the right. After 150 yards, it will dump into a wash. Most bikers ignore this first trail, heading down the doubletrack until it reaches the wash, then turning right into the wash.

Cactus "trees" abound in the rolling desert of the Sunshine Loop. Here, the early morning sun silhouettes the cactus.

If your plan is to ride the short (official) loop, it's easy to miss the exit from the wash. It's about 1/2 mile up the wash and exits at the apex of a left turn, heading sharply up and over a rise. If you're taking straighter (singletrack) line shortcutting the wash bend, you'll cruise right past it and miss the carsonite sign. The official loop climbs up and across a hill, flirts briefly with another washbottom, then joins the long loop as it goes through a hole in the fence at around mile 5.

Another sample trail view. Options of washbottom, motorcycle "straight line" and ATV cheater route. May 2008.

If you're taking the long loop, you'll roll in and out of the wash, mostly staying in the bottom, for another couple of miles. You'll gradually gain elevation. Around mile 5.6, the wash virtually disappears in a braod flat area. You'll climb a small gentle hill, then turn to the west, dropping into a second wash that's heading downhill. This second wash will curve to the north.

Small bluff of Moenkopi mudstone, capped by a small bit of the Chinle formation.

At mile 6.2, the wash intersects a road. From here, you have options. You can take the motorcycle-race singletrack (see map), take the main roads back, or you can find the singletrack on your right at mile 6.6 to rejoin the official Sunshine Loop. This singletrack will join the smaller official loop 1/2 mile later.

The bluffs are formed from shales of the Moenkopi and Chinle Formations, dating to the Triassic Period (around 220 million years ago). Color varies with the amount of iron within the shale and mudstone. The appearance and depth of these strata can change greatly over several miles' distance.

A little riding buddy. Watch out on cool mornings as the early sun hits the trail. You wouldn't want to squish the local fauna!

If you're staying on the road, continue northwest as the road joins the big power line. At the next intersection, turn right on BLM road 1034, ignoring the two smaller roads on the left. Continue on the main road, generally downhill and northward, until you drop out into the flat valley where you started.

Veins of gypsum marble the mudstone along the walls of the wash.

Riding notes, clockwise loop:
0.0   Back N on dirt road
        N36 59.987 W113 28.167
0.2   R on road after cattleguard
        N37 00.133 W113 28.039
0.8   Through gate on R
        N37 00.004 W113 27.463
1.0   Fork R
        N36 59.959 W113 27.267
3.3   Fork R
        N36 58.418 W113 26.270
3.4   Enter wash
3.8  For traditional loop, R out of wash
        N36 58.053 W113 26.367

---    For longer loop (recommended), next panel
4.9   Through fence, fork R
        N36 57.392 W113 26.848
5.1   Straight (keep R)
        N36 57.452 W113 27.090
6.2   R on road
        N36 58.177 W113 27.485
8.6   Back at parking
3.8  For Long Loop, keep L in wash
        N36 58.053 W113 26.367
5.1  Stock pond, stay L in wash
        N36 57.095 W113 26.080
       (R=shortcut over moutain)
5.6  Wash tops out; over rise and veer R
        Into new wash heading downhill
6.2   L out of wash
        N36 56.927 W113 26.055
        R on larger road
        N36 56.921 W113 26.077
6.5   (option ST on L)
        N36 57.030 W113 26.435
6.6   Turn R off road under power line
        N36 57.081 W113 26.509
7.1   Keep straight (L)
        N36 57.392 W113 26.848
7.3   Keep straight (R)
        N36 57.452 W113 27.090
8.4   R on road
        N36 58.177 W113 27.485
10.8 Back at parking
Getting there: Head south on River Road in St. George. (River Road is reached by turning left at the St. George Blvd exit from I-15, then right at the light. From the Bluff Street exit, turn left and drive about 1/2 mile on Riverside Dr, turning right at the light where it intersects River Road.) Immediately after crossing the Virgin River, at 1450 South on River Road, turn left (east). About 2 miles later, the road turns 90 degrees right and becomes 3000 East. Turn left again immediately (there should be a "Warner Valley" sign here, but it's missing - summer 2001) on 3650 South. Head east almost to the hills. Turn right on KD-JO Lane (830 E). After 1/2 mile the road will turn left, then right again to head south. At mile 5.4 from River Road, keep straight past the gravel Warner Valley Road (on your left). The road will turn to gravel at a cattleguard. Around mile 9, follow the main road as it veers left (east). At 9.4, the road forks. Turn right, cross the cattleguard, and go through Fort Pearce Wash. At mile 9.6, the trailhead parking is on the left side of the road, just past the Arizona border. Start the ride by heading back up the road the way you came.
Riding Resources:
GPS Track File  (Right-click and "Save as...")
    Garmin      GPX 
Large-format topo map:    View map
One-page riding guide
Lodging, camping, shops:    Links to St. George area resources

Original trail review 2001. Updated 2008.
Copyright 2008 Mad Scientist Software Inc