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Grafton Mesa DH
With connections to Wire Mesa and Big Fatty Mesa

Grafton Mesa is part of the same mountain as Gooseberry Mesa, located just west of Zion National Park. The official ride is the mesa road plus the old coach trail off the mesa. When doing the loop, consider adding Wire Mesa and Big Fatty Mesa to enjoy the views. Local riders often navigate some social trails on Grafton Mesa on their way to the downhill.

From the west side of Grafton Mesa, we're looking west at banded curtains of Moenkopi shale on Pastry Ridge. To the left is the north rim of Gooseberry. The Pine Valley Mountains are in the background. Photos by Bruce on March 18, 2008 and April 1, 2011.

The easiest ride option is out-and-back on the mesa doubletrack to a viewpoint overlooking the Virgin River valley as it rises into Zion Canyon. This is a nice ride, 4.2 miles total with 300 vertical feet of altitude change. It's OK for beginners.

The loop ride is 9.3 miles. It features a boring but strenuous climb and a terrifying technical descent. Altitude change 1100 feet, to 4850 at the top. Non-experts will walk much of the descent down the old coach road.

Climbing up toward the top of the mesa, we're looking at Smithsonian Butte. The white stuff is snow.

Side dishes: 
Nearby, there are shorter doubletrack rides to views on Big Fatty Mesa and Wire Mesa. On the way up for the loop ride, consider a short out-and-back (1.5 miles round trip) on the ATV track of Big Fatty Mesa. The ride is fairly flat and easy, with views over Wire Valley Wash on your left. At the end of the mesa, you can look across the valley at the entrance to Zion Canyon.

We're at the end of Big Fatty Mesa, looking east at Zion Canyon.

A bit further up the road, Wire Mesa is 3 miles round trip on ATV-track to a viewpoint over the valley. Elevation change is trivial, with gentle slope. If you're looking for a relatively easy singletrack ride, Wire Mesa added a nice riding loop in 2016.

Either of these dirt road routes are nice beginner rides. If you do out-and-backs on the Big Fatty and Wire Mesa roads, the loop ride becomes 13.1 miles. (Still pretty easy).

We're at the end of Wire Mesa, looking across the valley. The Slickrock Swamp (Rockville Bench) trail is on the ledge in the middle of the photo.


If you park at the fork for the simple loop ride (as per the directions below), you'll spend the first 4.5 miles climbing dirt road (1100 vertical). Then you follow the mesa doubletrack 2 miles to the edge of the mesa.

From the hill, there are views north into Zion National Park, and east toward Virgin.

To find the continuing trail, look at the cliff edge on the left side of the open area. That little passage around the tree is the trail. As you get closer, you can see the trail below the tree. Get ready for some serious bike-control issues. The trail here has been worked over recently (2008), so pretty much every inch is capable of being ridden. But it's steep, spooky, slippery, and bumpy.

View to the northwest, with Pastry Ridge in the mid-ground and the Pine Valley Mountains on the skyline.

The plunge off the mesa follows an old eroded coach road. You'll drop 600 vertical in 0.6 miles. That's a 20% down-grade. Loose slippery stuff, rocks to drop off or bang over -- it's a lot of work going downhill. To your side, the slope breaks away like a cliff. Crashing is not a good idea.

This is the viewpoint where the doubletrack ends. From here, you find the continuing singletrack plunging down on your left.

Arrive at the bottom with your triceps burning and your knees trembling, and hang a left on the DT heading down the valley. Or just for laughs, ride the wash-bottom of South Wash. When you reach the cemetery, turn right to close the loop. It's 1.5 miles back to the car.

Note: You may hear about singletrack on Grafton Mesa. As of 2011 that trail and the wash trail connecting Grafton to northeast Gooseberry is not sanctioned.

We're on the final descent. The bottom half isn't as gnarly as the first part. Here you can finally let it go. The first half is so steep, loose, and bumpy, it's hard to stop for a photo!

Clockwise loop ride, from Horse Wash:
0.0   Start up Scenic Byway 
        N37 09.090 W113 03.542
1.5   Big Fatty Mesa DT on R
        N37 08.047 W113 03.845 
2.0   Wire Mesa DT on R
        N37 07.881 W113 04.179 
3.8   R on DT (Grafton Mesa DT)
        N37 07.847 W113 05.894
6.0  Viewpoint on cliff      N37 09.432 W113 05.319
        ST on L on side of cliff, go steep downhill
7.3   L on DT near wash bottom
        N37 09.456 W113 04.977
7.7   Pass cemetery, R on Grafton Road
        N37 09.817 W113 04.826
9.3   Back at car 
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 park near the wash. Start riding south uphill on the Smithsonian Butte Scenic Byway (may or may not have a sign). If you're shuttling to the top, it's the last doubletrack (on your right) before the top of the mountain, 4.4 miles up, just after the road has turned south again. N37 07.683 W113 06.131.
Parking areas: Just to the northeast of the intersection of the mesa road with the Smithsonian Butte road, plus right along the trail on the next doubletrack.

Camping: Primitive along dirt roads, BLM land.
Water: none
Bathrooms: none
Bike services: Hurricane, Springdale

Getting to Grafton Mesa from Gooseberry: From the spot where the Gooseberry road leaves the Scenic Byway, proceed north 1/2 mile. Just after you start more steeply downhill, watch for the first doubletrack on your left. This intersects the trail, and can be a good parking spot. However, understand that the REAL Grafton Mesa road is found a bit further downhill around the corner, and is a much smaller road.
Riding resources for this trail:
Single-page riding guide
GPS track files (right-click and "Save as..."):
     GPX all area trails   Grafton DT Loop
Topo map for printing:   Grafton Mesa only    Grafton/Wire Mesa area topo
Lodging, camping, shops:   Links to St. George area resources

Copyright 2008 Mad Scientist Software Inc
Updated 2011

Grafton Mesa ST           Grafton Wash