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J.E.M. Trail

The J.E.M. Trail is found just west of the town of Virgin near Zion National Park. Named for trailblazers John, Ellen, and Mike, this trail offers high-speed desert cruising and a cliff-side ride along the Virgin River.  Except for one dangerous switchback (which you can walk), it's an easy technical ride.

View towards Gooseberry Mesa from the JEM Trail. July 7, 2001. Photos and review by Bruce Argyle

Important note!
Since April 2015, the upper portion of JEM is now one-way, downhill only. This is the section from the Highway 59 trailhead down to the Goosebumps/Dead Ringer connector intersection. When climbing to the Highway 59 trailhead, you must use either Dead Ringer or the JEM Doubletrack.
Most riders do JEM in one of three ways:
(1) Lariat. From the lower parking on SR-59, JEM uphill to the Dead Ringer fork at mile 5.3, up the hill on Dead Ringer, then down JEM back to the trailhead.
(2) Top to bottom with shuttle from the lower trailhead off SR-59 the upper JEM trailhead on SR-9.
(3) As part of the Goulds and Hurricane Rim loop ride, doing the 5 miles between SR-9 and the Hurricane Rim fork off JEM.

The lower part of JEM is very scenic. Here Bruce rides toward the SR-59 trailhead approaching the Virgin River gorge.

With the addition of new trails in the area, many riders now incorporate Goosebumps and Cryptobionic into a ride on the JEM trail.

Then there's the old classic JEM Loop, which is 12.9 miles in length with 800 feet of altitude gain. The first half of the classic JEM loop is uphill doubletrack; the last 6.2 miles is downhill singletrack.

View up the wash, about 2.5 miles into the classic loop ride. The wash here has a hard bottom, and is fairly easy to ride.

Aerobically, this trail is fairly easy. The first 300 feet of altitude gain is imperceptible as you ride the double-track towards the mesa. Once you reach the base of Gooseberry Mesa, there's a bit of up-and-down, but all doable in the middle chainring.

With the Pine Valley Mountains in the background, Bruce cranks up the lower two-way portion of JEM.

The trail is a fun ride, and definitely worth doing. The views into the chasm of the Virgin River are awesome, and the high-speed singletrack descent is a blast.

The "badlands" and the alternating bands of red and white of Gooseberry Mesa are mudstone of the Moenkopi Formation, laid down during the early Triassic (about 240 million years ago). As the ocean receded, gravel and shoreline deposits formed the hard Shinarump conglomerate, which begins the cap of the mesa.

Near the top of the ride, the trail passes by a fruiting yucca.

There are trailheads and parking at each end of the trail. The bottom end is just off Highway 9 on the way to Zion National Park. The top end is on Highway 59 just before Gooseberry Mesa.

The trail is well-marked with carsonite posts. Just follow the signs.

Near the top of the trail, looking north. We'll drop into the valley.


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

Classic JEM Loop clockwise:
From the lower trailhead off Highway 9 (see below GPS N 37 12.029' W 113 13.089', altitude 3320 ft.), backtrack 0.2 miles and turn right on the main gravel road. 

At 2.1 miles, you'll drop through a big wash. Just a bit further, at 2.3 miles, you turn left off the main road into a shallow wash, or the doubletrack 0.1 mile further on (GPS N 37 10.726' W 113 14.326'). The wash and road will cross a number of times, so it doesn't matter which one you take.

Jackie grabs a little bit of shade as I stop to take a trail photo.

A singletrack branches off the wash at 2.9 miles, dumping back onto an intersection of the road and the wash at 3.0 miles. You'll see an old corral and a gate just up the road. From here, I suggest you take the road, because the wash gets soft (hard to ride), with some confusing branches.

At 4.1 miles, the trail crests at the top of the big wash. (There are a few stock watering tanks here.) Drop down into the wash and head uphill. Follow the road as it dips into and out of the wash. At 4.4 miles, the road forks. Go RIGHT (west). At 5.25 miles, you'll encounter a gate as the road passes around a sandstone canyon on your right.

High-speed cruising on JEM's middle section, heading northeast.

At 6.7 miles, the singletrack branches off on your right (GPS N 37 08.637' W 113 14.511', altitude 4160 ft). A rockpile marks the trail. Kowabunga! It's cruising time. Except for a couple of short technical sections, from here you can fly through the desert at motorcycle speeds.

At 7.1 miles, the trail walks down the cliff with a steep technical switchback. There's some injury potential here. But it's just a short walk. At 8.4 miles, the singletrack crosses the main road.

At mile 11.4, the Hurricane Rim trail forks off on the left, N 37 11.261' W 113 13.862'. Keep right.

Jackie investigates the edge of the wash as it deepens to a 30-foot chasm. July 7, 2001.

At mile 11.5, the trail drops into the wash. Ride across the rock, and spot the continuing trail on the far side of a second wash. (If you're afraid of heights, you can bail out on the doubletrack road here to avoid riding along the Virgin River Gorge.) You'll ride a mile along the edge of the Virgin River, as it cuts a deep canyon. Then the trail takes you back to the parking area.

View into the Virgin River from the trail. The river is swollen with last night's rains.

Riding notes, Gould/JEM/ Hurricane Rim Loop:
Start from parking area on US-59 above Hurricane
0.0 R (downhill) on US-59
0.2 L uphill on DT
1.8 Top of DT climb
2.3 R off DT onto ST
      N 37 09.606 W 113 16.330 Alt=4000'
5.4 Trailhead, L on DT, head NE
      N 37 08.142 W 113 16.280
6.2 At corral, find ST rear on R
      N 37 08.310 W 113 15.649
8.0 ST comes in from R
8.3 US-59. For Big Loop, cross to DT
      N 37 08.096 W 113 14.564 Alt=4350'
      For small loop, head downhill on road
8.6   JEM Trailhead, cross cattleguard
        N 37 08.329 W 113 14.527
        Immediate R onto ST
9.0   Cross DT, descend toward cliffs
9.3   Keep R (L=More Cowbell)
        N37 08.863 W113 14.661
        Drop off ledge on switchback
10.0 Straight (R=Goosebumps, L=Dead Ringer)
        N37 09.119 W113 15.103
10.8 Keep R (L = China Wash)
        N37 10.541 W113 15.154
11.0 Cross Dead Ringer
        Cross Sheep Bridge gravel road
11.1 Cross Cryptobionic 
        N37 10.798 W113 14.354
14.0 Fork L to Hurricane Rim
        N 37 11.261 W 113 13.862 Alt=3650'
15.8 Virgin Dam trailhead
        N 37 11.781 W 113 14.109 
        (Cryptobionic start on L)
16.0 Keep L (R=Virgin Dam trail)
18.7 R across Chinatown Wash
        Straight = Chinatown Wash trail
19.6 Dam trail rejoins on R
20.2 Panorama Point
        N 37 11.169 W 113 16.179 Alt=3850'
21.5 Back at parking

Getting there: From I-15 north, take the La Verkin exit on UT-17. From the south, take the Hurricane exit on US-9 and go through Hurricane towards Zion National Park. At the junction of US-9 with UT-17, turn east towards Zion. 4.8 miles after the turnoff, turn right (south) on a gravel road signed "Sheep Bridge Rd." 0.5 miles later, you'll cross over the Virgin River. Just uphill is a cattleguard, then a doubletrack on your right 0.1 miles after the bridge. Take the doubletrack 0.2 miles to a turn-around overlooking the Virgin River. The singletrack is at the end of the turn-around. For the classic (old) JEM loop ride, head back on the dirt road. For the Hurricane Loop, ride up JEM to the Hurricane Rim trail.
Upper JEM trailhead: In Hurricane, turn south on US-59 (towards the Grand Canyon). Drive exactly 5 miles uphill. Turn left on cindered doubletrack right as you approach the base of Gooseberry Mesa. Drive another 0.3 miles to the parking area. N 37 08.329' W 113 14.527'

Other Resources for the JEM Trail:
One-page riding guides to:  Classic Loop   Hurricane Loop
Connecting trails:
     Hurricane Cliffs Trail Summary page   Gould's Connector
     Hurricane Rim Trail      Gould's Rim Trail     Goosebumps/Cryptobionic
     More Cowbell (beginner White Ledges loop)   Dead Ringer   JEM DT
GPS track files (right-click and "Save target as..."):
     GPX master file of area trails   JEM only
     JEM Classic (OLD) Loop track  
     From Sheep Bridge TH JEM - Hurricane Rim - Goulds - JEM
     Hurricane Hill TH Goulds-JEM-Hurricane Loop
Alternate maps (download to print):
    Large-format topo map of trail system 
Lodging, camping, shops:   Links to St. George area resources

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Updated 2011