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Wire Mesa

Wire Mesa lies just to the east of Grafton Mesa and a couple of miles northeast of Gooseberry Mesa. The Wire Mesa trail is an intermediate-level singletrack loop. The loop is 7.3 miles in length, but quicker rides can be done by using the mesa dirt road to bypass one side of the mesa singletrack loop. There's relatively little climbing, so the ride is easy aerobically.

Snowflake (a Rocky Mountain Blizzard snow bike) loves to play on rock and dirt near the north end of Wire Mesa. Photos by Bruce on November 18, 2016.

The riding season for Wire Mesa is year round, but winter access depends on recent weather. If the road is dry, the singletrack will be good to ride. The Smithsonian Butte Scenic Byway becomes a sea of mud after heavy rains or with late-winter thaws. Do NOT go into this area when the road is muddy.

The Wire Mesa jeep road, looking north.

Wire Mesa has a jeep road that spans 1.4 miles from the Smithsonian Butte Scenic Byway (the dirt road between US 9 and US 59) to the northern cliff edge. You can intercept the trail by pedaling to the end of the road, then walking 20 feet over the sandstone at the cliff edge to find the trail as it circles the end of the road. Or you can find the road for a quick return from the loop's midpoint.

Eastbound in terrain of Pinion pine, juniper, sage, and cactus.

The portion of the trail between the parking circle and the end of the mesa road is 4.1 miles long. That makes a "half-loop" using the mesa road 5.5 miles total. A bit of up-and-down riding makes 200 vertical feet of climbing for this half loop. This half of the loop contains most of the slickrock and tech riding. 

The western side of the loop is 3.1 miles long, with most of the elevation change near the southwest corner. This side of the loop is mostly dirt singletrack. If you do this "half loop" it will be a mile shorter, but will have about the same amount of overall climbing.

View northeast.

If you're taking the singletrack counterclockwise, here's how you can recognize the spot where the road will be just above you, to your left.
1.  your odometer says 4.1 miles from parking.
2.  the trail makes a slow left semi-circle turn, 
     with a cliff to your right and a big rock shelf to your left.
3.  if you find yourself southbound a canyon ahead to your right,
     you went past it.

Smithsonian Butte, backlit by almost-winter sunshine.

Wire Mesa offers a combination of riding surfaces. Most of the trail is dirt ribbon. There are some short stretches of slickrock, usually just 30 to 40 feet, but most of the rock is stuff you bang across. Overall, the trail is intermediate in tech requirement. It's significantly easier than Gooseberry, and will become a favorite of early-intermediates and mixed-ability groups.

Cruising along the cliffs heading northeast, with Wire Valley Knoll on the right. In a half mile, we'll be riding along the skirts of the Knoll.

In 2016, some of the trail surface is loose. Knowing the trail was new, I rode my fat tire bike (4.8-inch tires) and floated luxuriously where others had bobbled through slop. The fatty handled the rock challenges nicely. (My Rocky Mountain Blizzard has a front suspension fork, so it's a little more plush and controllable when the conglomerate gets nasty.) My only dabs were to stop and take pictures.

On the northeast corner of the mesa, we're looking into Zion National Park.

Climbs and descents are gentle and rarely sustained. There are a few wash crossing down-and-ups, but I found them very easy.

On slickrock areas, the trail is marked with white paint spots on the conglomerate. (November 2016: Marking is complete for about 3 miles of trail at the southeast side.)

Looking to the west as the trail follows the irregular outline of the mesa. That's the Pine Valley Mountains in the distance, still free of snow.

Looking northeast with the road from Rockville to Grafton
below us and Zion in the distance.

Nice riding and nice views along the eastern side of Wire Mesa.
Great trail for a fat bike.

For now, there are no trail forks you need to be aware of. Some alternate lines will be constructed. These will be short. On my ride, I encountered only one completed A/B trail split.

Not easy to spot in this photo, but here's an A/B alternate. The easy route is left of the bike (see the white paint spot next to the tree's shadow), and the hard line is on the rock at the cliff edge (note the red spots, which are ribbons tied to rocks).

Wire Mesa lies on Shinarump conglomerate caprock. This is part of the Chinle Formation from the Triassic Period. The skirts of the mesa are Moenkopi clays.

The quartzite pebbles on the dirt surfaces were river rocks that washed down from high mountains in western Utah. Mixed with sand, they became part of the Shinarump conglomerate. These pebbles are hundreds of millions of years older than the conglomerate they erode out of.

On the west side of the mesa.

The mesa is mostly juniper with an understory of gooseberry and brittle sage. There are occasional groves of pinion pine. To make things interesting, sharp spears of yucca and stands of prickly pear may attack if you aren't holding your line on the trail.

Looking east, heading counterclockwise on the west side of Wire Mesa.

 Wire Mesa on a counterclockwise loop...

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

Bottom Line:
Great riding, fun for all ability levels. Fantastic views. Very much worth doing. An excellent alternative to Gooseberry Mesa for "still learning how to be awesome" riders.

View into South Wash, which divides Grafton Mesa from Wire Mesa.

Riding notes, counterclockwise loop:
0.0   From circle, 0.1 mile down mesa road
        ST across mesa road to NE
        N37 07.990 W113 04.251
4.1   Skirt mesa DT road (bailout)
        N37 08.917 W113 04.509
6.7   Fork L (hard R = Undisclosed)
        N37 07.867 W113 04.516
7.3   Back at parking
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 drive south uphill on the dirt Smithsonian Butte Scenic Byway (may or may not have a sign). Zero your odometer. When the road seems to level out a little 1.5 miles uphill, pass the Big Fatty Mesa road on your right, then the Horse Valley road on the left. At 1.9 miles, watch for the Wire Mesa dirt road on your right. Keep left at the first fork (campsite on the right) and find the circle 0.1 miles from the Byway. Park here. Across from the northeast corner of the circle, on the east side of the mesa road, find singletrack heading northeast for the counterclockwise ride.

Camping:  Primitive sites, Gooseberry and Grafton Mesa
     (camping is allowed 1/2 mile away from the Smithsonian Butte road)
Water:  None
Bathroom:  Gooseberry Mesa

DIRT ROADS!  The Smithsonian Butte Scenic Byway will become a sea of mud after heavy rain and on warm days during a wet winter. Always check the weather (both recent and forecast) before driving into this area.

Getting there, from Hurricane: As you pass through Hurricane heading east on Highway 9, turn right at the Highway 59 sign. One block later, turn left and drive out of town. About 15 minutes later, you'll pass a gas station on the left-hand side, then some fields. Watch for a "Scenic Byway" sign, and turn left onto a dirt road (14.8 miles from the turnoff in Hurricane). Two miles later, just as you reach the mountain, the Gooseberry Mesa road turns off on your left. Keep straight on the Byway. The road changes direction from north to east and begins descending. At 2.9 miles from the Gooseberry turnoff, watch for a small dirt road on the left. That's the Wire Mesa doubletrack. (If you come to a larger dirt road forking away to the right -- the Horse Valley Wash road -- you've gone 0.2 miles past Wire Mesa.) Go 0.1 miles to the parking circle as above. 
Riding resources for this trail:
Single-page riding guide for printing 
GPS track files (right-click and "Save as..."):
     Wire Mesa loop      Wire Mesa area multi-track GPX file
     Grafton Mesa area file
Map for printing:   Grafton/Wire Mesa area topo
Lodging, camping, shops:   Links to St. George area resources

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