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Zen Trail

This trail is probably the most technical ride in the St. George area. It has quite a few little rock tricks that challenge the rider. I recommend it for advanced riders, or for intermediates with a good attitude and a sense of adventure. It doesn't take that long to walk your bike through a spot that spooks you. The ride has much to offer. It's much like Gooseberry Mesa, if Gooseberry were tilted onto a slope.

Ah, tech rock. We'll roll over a small drop, turn left and plunge down a steep narrow ramp, swing right, then pivot left and try to squeeze the bike through the "pedal scratcher" slot in the middle of the photo. Pix by Bruce on January 12, 2008.

The trail starts at 2700 feet, just left of the road to the northern Bearclaw Poppy trailhead, in the bottom of the valley. If you're riding counterclockwise, you can climb either of the first two doubletracks -- I strongly recommend the first DT. It's much more fun, and it offers some tech riding before the two routes join. 

We're nearing the end of the initial doubletrack climb, as chunky rock turns to slickrock.

Top altitude is 3450. There'll be about 1100 feet of climbing if you do the loop ride that returns by the lower singletrack. The loop is 6.2 miles if you use the singletrack return.

Bruce finishes "The Dip," a tricky down-and-back-up feature. Photo by Gene Poncelet, February 2011.

The Zen Trail offers many different experiences. There's the straightforward but fairly stiff one-mile climb to get to the "business area" of the ride. Nice aerobic workout. There are the technical challenges as you enter areas of pillow-shaped sandstone and hoodoos. There's the eye candy. The rock monoliths are so visually interesting, it's hard to keep your eye on the trail. Like scenery? There are expansive vistas. Want variety? One minute you power along snaking desert singletrack and the next you're route-picking over slabs of rock.

Jackie waits for the bike to start rolling again, as the trail threads through hoodoos.

At mile 1.8, you'll spot trails running everywhere. Keep left and drop straight across the small valley, then climb the big rock to a shelf on the other side. There are interesting nooks and hideaways in the hoodoos here, and that's the reason for so many trails. 

This ride is visually interesting. There are spacious vistas, colorful rock, pretty cactus. Some of the rock shapes are so unusual they look like abstract sculpture. Well, not THESE rocks. Watch on your right about a mile into the climb, and you'll see a couple of weirdly-eroded rocks that look too "posed" to be real.

Stop at the trail fork on the far side, drop the bike, and make a hard right. Walk about half-way around the little circle of cliffs, and you'll enter a deep grotto. Nice lunch spot on a hot day.

Jason Sparks hits a ramp in January 2010. This is the same ramp seen in reverse angle in the top photo.

After a switchbacked singletrack climb to the top of Bloomington Hill, you can look south over the Roller Coaster section of the Bearclaw Poppy Trail. The town of Bloomington is on your left. Stucki Springs is way off to your right.

Jake Weber ducks under an overhang during a January 2010 ride by Race Team members.

Shortly after the viewpoint, the trail forks, and you'll head east downhill. (The fainter fork heading south goes to a viewpoint 0.6 miles later, with little forks to two other overlooks. The drop to the bowl where you see the continuing trail is ugly, and I'm not sure you'd find the trip worth it.) Lots of adventure still to go, as the feel of the trail changes significantly here. Plenty of tech stuff, just not as tough as a mile ago. Plunge on downhill.

More typical trail. Around a rock, over a rock.

The lower route is a good option to close the loop, assuming you want to play some more. Soon after you drop into the wash, before it opens onto the valley floor, head for the left side and hug the wash edge. Watch for a fence post and a trail on the left heading into a short side-branch of the wash. 

Looking south, we're high above the Roller Coaster section of the Bearclaw Poppy. In the distance, that's Bloomington.

 The route will turn north and climb steeply up a rock slope. Once you're on the trail northbound, it should flow pretty well, but watch for spots where singletrack leaves DT. If you wind up in the valley, you missed something!

Looking to the north, we see the Pine Valley Mountains over northwest St. George.

If you're riding north-to-south on the lower singletrack, watch for bicycle tire tracks and small rockpiles. A couple of the spots where singletrack leaves doubletrack are fairly easy to ride past if you're not actively looking for branching trail.

There's a fair amount of slickrock riding. Here on the lower mountain, the path of the trail is shown by the dots.

 A ride on the Zen trail...

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

Riding notes, counterclockwise loop:
0.0   Cross to the left side of wash
        N37 05.412 W113 37.898
        Start up the DT, L of the canyon
0.8   Veer L onto ST, or keep on DT for view
        N37 05.044 W113 38.540
        ST and DT rejoin 150 yards
        Trail enters enters rock area
1.0   Just after steep ramp and pedal-scratch slot,
        Keep L uphill (R=more high-tech option)
        N37 04.902 W113 38.654
1.1   Routes rejoin N37 04.833 W113 38.660
1.2  "T" fork, go R uphill
        N37 04.747 W113 38.646
        (L=connector to DT)
1.3   Fork either way R=hill, L=flat
        N37 04.701 W113 38.66
1.4   Routes rejoin
1.8   Keep straight (R=into rocks)
        N37 04.311 W113 38.751
1.9   Fork L (hard R = trail to grotto)
        N37 04.278 W113 38.706
2.4   Finish climb, view of Roller Coaster
        N37 04.198 W113 38.776
2.9   Fork L (R=?)
        N37 04.021 W113 38.380
4.2   Exiting wash. N37 04.429 W113 37.823
        Keep L and turn uphill for ST
        Straight to return on DT
Returning via DT:
        Head for middle of valley, telephone poles
4.4   Turn L on DT under poles
        N37 04.524 W113 37.624
5.2   Retaining wall and construction
        N37 05.066 W113 37.653
        Find a way around it
5.8   Back at parking

Returning via ST:
        Hold L and watch for ST (at left end of fence)
        climbing sharply out of wash; follow cairns
+0.6   ST dumps onto DT
          N37 04.766 W113 37.995
+0.8   Fork L N37 04.860 W113 37.838
          Cross shallow wash, then quickly find
          continuing ST path on your right.
+0.9   Merge downhill
          N37 04.937 W113 37.855
+1.0   Watch for track
          N37 04.992 W113 37.823
+1.1   Veer L off DT onto ST near corner of power station
          N37 05.042 W113 37.773
+1.5   Cross DT
6.0     Back at parking (+1.7)

Getting there:  Take the Bluff Street I-15 exit in St. George and turn west. Immediately turn south (left) at the first light. Go over the hill and at the T intersection at the bottom of the hill turn right. Head northwest about two miles on Dixie Drive. Turn left at Canyon View Road, heading uphill toward the Green Valley Spa. (If you reach a "Green Valley Market" with gas pumps, you just passed it. Turn around and backtrack to the second road on your right.) Drive past the spa onto dirt at the end of the road. Turn right at the top of the mesa, then immediately left to drive down into the deep valley. Head for the big road that goes up the bluff, on the right side of The Gap -- the sandstone canyon. But just before that road starts to climb, mosey to the left and park where you can start riding up the doubletrack on the LEFT (south) side of the sandstone canyon.
Riding resources for this trail:
Single-page riding guide
GPS track files (right-click, "Save as..."):
   Garmin      GPX
St.George southwest, interactive map:  Load 
Lodging, camping, shops:    Links to St. George area resources

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