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Little Creek Mesa

Little Creek Mesa is a flat-top mountain 18 miles east of Hurricane. It's just a few miles south of its more famous twin Gooseberry Mesa. Little Creek has a mix of singletrack, areas of open rock, and some tech challenges. I highly recommend it.

Chad Hunter pauses his K2 on the edge of the Shinarump caprock at the mesa's west end. To the north, Gooseberry mesa rises above the valley floor. Photo by Bruce Argyle November 11, 2001

The riding season starts around early April and lasts through November. Little Creek Mesa stays wet longer than other trails in southwest Utah. Pre-season riding or riding after spring rainstorms will damage the trail. (Little Creek is considered an environmentally sensitive area by the BLM.) To help keep Little Creek open to bike riding, go only when conditions are dry. Over the Edge Sports (76 E. 100 S., Hurricane) is happy to provide current trail conditions. Call  435-635-5455.

Typical singletrack trail section shows firm dirt base alternating with sections of rock, as the trail winds through pinion and juniper.

The singletrack portions wind through pinion, juniper, and gooseberry. The trail zigs and zags over small outcrops of rock, and is fairly (but not horrendously) technical.

The open rock is rolling sandstone and conglomerate of the Shinarump member of the Chinle Formation (Triassic Period, about 245 million years ago). This is great rock riding, without any long brutal climbs. There are a gazillion stunt opportunities.

Jon, Jamie, and Keith cross a typical section of Little Creek's rock in 2001.

There are two interconnected loops of about 9 miles each. The western side (Main Loop or West Mesa Loop) has more tree-lined cruising, while still offering plenty of tech stuff. The eastern half (North Point Loop, Eastern Loop) has more slickrock and more-difficult tech stunts. It's also more of a navigation challenge. When linked together at the midpoint, the two routes combine for 14 miles of advanced riding. 

Westbound, we arrive at the fork where the Magic Carpet Ride forks north off the Main (West Mesa) Loop.

The ride starts at 5600 feet elevation. There's little vertical change over the course of the trail. But constant up-and-down riding will add to significant climbing. The 14-mile big loop requires 1100 vertical feet of climbing.

Matt takes a little air, outbound on the West Mesa Loop.

In the slickrock areas, the trail is marked by cairns (small rockpiles). I've found the trail to be easy to follow at times, and difficult on other years. The West Mesa Loop (returning via Magic Carpet Ride) now seems to be consistently well-marked and pretty easy to follow. Just an occasional head-turn to spot the next cairn.

Not a cairn. Compared to other trails in the region, Little Creek has a lot of flora and fauna. This old guy refused to budge from the middle of the trail.

The slickrock areas on the eastern side of the North Point Loop can be very hard to navigate. If you don't know where you're going, you WILL get lost. A GPS track file, or an experienced Little Creek rider, is highly highly recommended. In some areas on the east side of this loop, competing routes, and cheater routes, and "fun add-ons" create a confusing sea of cairns.

An area of rain-soaked singletrack has been armored with rock slabs. Check riding conditions before going!

Little Creek's easiest ride is an out-and-back via Magic Carpet to the North Point. The West Mesa Loop (with return via Magic Carpet) is another popular and not-too-overwhelming option. These routes are fairly easy to navigate and can be done by newcomers with just a map and riding directions.

Chad takes a wheelie off a ledge.  November 11, 2001.

Most popular (and my favorite) is the BIG Loop, combining West Mesa with North Point for 14 miles. But be prepared for delays and head-scratching as you try to navigate southbound on the east side of this big loop. It's not unusual to finish with an extra 2 miles, spent riding in circles on the rolling sandstone looking for the way home. I strongly recommend following a GPS track.

Matt executes a bunny hop with a twist, with the cliffs of Zion National Park in the background. There's so much fun rock, it's hard to keep from playing around. Play on slickrock only -- on singletrack, stay on the trail.

Magic Carpet to North Point (out-and-back)
This ride is 9.2 miles round trip, mostly on singletrack. The trail forks are marked with signposts, so navigation is simple. The few areas of open rock are non-threatening and pretty easy to ride. This is the route I'd suggest for adventurous advanced-beginner  or early-intermediate riders.

Trail intersection between the West Mesa Loop and Magic Carpet Ride. The trail in the photo heads to the North Point and sandstone canyon rides.

Like all the Little Creek rides, the Magic Carpet to North Point route starts with 0.15 miles heading west on the same road you drove on. Turn right on singletrack at the rockpiles and head north through the trees. After 1/2 mile, you'll arrive at open rock with cairns turning you west (left). You may also see some cairns ahead on the right -- this is the return from the Big Loop. Go left. After another 1/4 mile, you'll come to a trail marker sign. Fork right and veer right again off the old DT after 0.1 mile.

The sandstone canyon. Plenty of room to play, but please don't mark alternate routes -- route-finding is confusing enough as it is.

After 1.3 miles of Magic Carpet Ride, fork right toward "North Loops." When you come to an open slickrock area 1/3 mile later with a trailpost in the middle, fork left and find continuing singletrack at the northeast corner.

After another 1/3 mile, you're at a slickrock ridge, looking north at a broad rock valley. Obey the signpost and keep left, finding the continuing singletrack in the trees. Now simply ride another couple of miles to the North Point.

View northwest toward the Pine Valley Mountains from the singletrack to the North Point.

West Mesa Loop
This 9.5-mile route is a favorite for intermediate riders. The tech challenges are manageable and there's a lot of nice cruising on tree-lined singletrack. The singletrack is interrupted regularly by rock outcrops that are fun playgrounds. It will arrive at the western cliffs for awesome views, then curve back to join Magic Carpet Ride for the return.

The singletrack is rarely "just dirt." Lots of sandstone.

Head west at the slickrock fork at mile 0.6, and keep straight at the next fork where Magic Carpet Ride heads to your right. Now just follow the trail until you come to the fork at the north end of Magic Carpet Ride. Turn right (south) and head home.

We're approaching the North Point. Ahead is Gooseberry Mesa. And below.. Really? A golf course?

At the Magic Carpet Ride fork, riders who are still looking for a whole bunch more can head left to do the Big Loop. Warning: those last 7 miles have many times the tech factor, and will take you twice as long as the first 7 miles.

Or if you just want a tiny bit more tech, you can go left toward the North Loops, but then keep right at the next fork in 1/3 mile. Drop into the slot canyon. You'll get more tech (but similar distance) by catching this eastern half of the main loop.

Chad, Mike, Dominic, and Matt appreciate a viewpoint along the east-side trail from North Point.

The Big Loop
This 14-mile route is for advanced riders, or for upper-intermediates who have a lot of time and a sense of adventure. Follow the West Mesa Loop to the Magic Carpet Ride fork, but go left (north) toward the North Loops. At the open slickrock area, go to the trail signpost and fork 90 degrees left. At the next open rock area, go to the trailpost and veer left to find singletrack in the trees. Follow this trail to the North Point.

View down from North Point.

Immediately after turning south from North Point, the trail gets rougher and many times more technical. Make your way south and enter an area of slickrock mounds. Some spots are tricky. Follow the cairns. As you reach the bottom of the broad slickrock area, ignore any cairns you can see in the far distance ahead. You need to cross the wash to your left and begin climbing east. You'll pass a "cheater route" joining you on the right from the last trail fork.

A spot you don't have to ride. There's an alternate line around this stunt.

At the top of the hill, turn south and navigate along the edge of the trees. As the treeline turns eastward (left), follow that curve and find the line of cairns on the far side. Don't be suckered into going up and over the ridge. You'll wind up back at the ridgeline trail fork.

The east-side slickrock between North Point and the Waterfall has the most-difficult riding of any trail segment.

Now continue south. The trail will turn west along the edge of a slot canyon. Follow it until you can ride across, then turn back east along the edge. Rock piles mark the spot where you must drop steeply into the slot canyon.

Now follow the slot canyon bottom. It will make a tight turn and drop over a rock ledge (The Waterfall). Continue straight through the main wash and climb the other side.

Chad drops six feet off the top of a cave. Don't try this at home.

As you arrive at the top of the climb, immediately fork right. (There are occasionally cairns marking an alternate route on the left. Many many riders -- including me, despite having been there before -- have gotten lost on this alternate route and wound up bushwhacking back toward the mesa road.)

Follow the trail a mile back to the first fork.

Mike slips through the slot and turns to the Waterfall.

Ride Notes, West Mesa Loop with Magic Carpet clockwise (easier), 9.5 miles:
0.0   Continue west on doubletrack from parking
0.2   R uphill on ST into trees N37 03.582 W113 13.664
0.5   Cross faint doubletrack, arrive at open rock
        Fork L at N 37 03.821 W 113 13.606, westbound
        (Straight = to North Loop)
0.8   Marked fork in flat washbottom
        Go straight N 37 03.737 W 113 13.994
        R = Return trail (Magic Carpet Ride)
3.6   Reach western edge of mesa, north along cliffs
        N 37 04.166 W 113 15.154
5.0   Trail veers eastward
6.0   Southbound
6.9   Drop into fork of Gould Wash briefly
        N37 04.701 W113 13.602
7.3   Trail fork, R to Magic Carpet Ride
        N 37 04.488 W 113 13.405
        (L = to north loops or larger loop, see below)
8.2   Trail crosses open rock canyon to your left
8.4   Join doubletrack, straight downhill
        N 37 03.797' W 113 13.792'
8.6   Back at trail fork (0.8) N 37 03.737 W 113 13.994
        L in bottom of wash, follow slickrock
8.9   Back at first trail fork (0.5), R on original path
9.5  At parking
*The West Loop has a fair amount of soft dirt surface. It's late to dry in the spring, and turns to slop with rainstorms. Do Not Ride it when wet!
Full Main Loop, clockwise (about same distance, but significantly harder), 9.6 miles:
        Follow West Mesa Loop (above) to mile 7.3
7.3   Fork L toward North Loops
        N 37 04.488 W 113 13.405
7.6   Open rock area, trail sign N37 04.552 W113 13.162
        R (straight) southeast
7.7   Trail drops steeply into bottom of rock wash
        N37 04.520 W113 13.081 (follow washbottom)
7.8   Waterfall, cross Gould Wash, steep climb out
7.9   Critical spot! Fork R just after finishing climb
        N37 04.418 W113 13.004
        (L = occasionally marked alternate routes)
8.4   Alternate rejoins on L N37 04.129 W113 13.271
9.0   Keep straight (L) at original trail fork
        N37 03.818 W113 13.599
9.6   Back at car
Big Loop clockwise, West Mesa and North Point (tough), 14 miles:
         Follow West Mesa Loop (above) to mile 7.3
7.3    Fork L toward North Loops
         N 37 04.488 W 113 13.405
7.6    Open rock area, trail sign N37 04.552 W113 13.162
         Fork R (northeast) find ST at corner of slickrock
7.8    Ridge, looking at slickrock ahead and on R
         N37 04.694 W113 13.046
         Keep L and climb into trees on ST
         (R = two shortcuts E and NE)
9.6    At North Point, trail turns south
         N37 05.697 W113 12.386
10.5  Trail more tech, harder to follow
11.4  L to cross bottom N37 04.787 W113 12.816
         Climb uphill east
11.5  Shortcut rejoins on L, stay straight and uphill
         N37 04.740 W113 12.767
         Turn 90 degrees R at top of hill
11.7  Confusion of cairns. Stay southbound near trees
11.8  Veer L and downhill N37 04.633 W113 12.949
         (R up = cheater route to fork at 7.8)
         Cross to opposite side along treeline
12.0  W along edge of slot canyon until it's shallow
          Cross over N37 04.531 W113 13.096
          After crossing, turn L (east)
12.1   Drop into slot canyon, follow bottom east
          N37 04.520 W113 13.081
12.2   Waterfall, cross Gould Wash, steep climb out
12.3   Critical spot! Fork R just after finishing climb
          N37 04.418 W113 13.004
          (L = occasionally marked alternate routes)
12.8   Alternate rejoins on L N37 04.129 W113 13.271
13.4   Keep straight (L) at original trail fork
          N37 03.818 W113 13.599
14.0   Back at car
North Point Loop counterclockwise (tough, harder to navigate), 8.7 miles:
0.0   West on doubletrack from parking area
0.2   R off DT onto ST N37 03.582 W113 13.664
0.6   DT then open rock, keep straight (R)
        N 37 03.821 W 113 13.606
        (cairns going L = to West Mesa Loop)
1.1   Fork at end of rock area, keep left
        N 37 04.157 W 113 13.255
        (R = "adventures in being lost")
1.6   Fork in trail, go left and downhill
        N 37 04.714 W 113 13.019
        (Right = another good way to get lost)
1.7   Up waterfall into canyon
        Climb steeply L out of slot canyon
1.8   Turn R through dip N37 04.531 W113 13.096
        (straight = to west Main Loop)
        Then R (east) to follow edge of slot
2.0   Large open rock area, follow contour north
        (Cairns are often confusing)
        Avoid shortcut on L at N37 04.633 W113 12.949
2.5   Turn left and drop west into slickrock canyon
        N 37 04.719 W 113 12.754
        Left and up = shortcut to return loop
2.6   Across wash then right
4.3   North Point N37 05.697 W113 12.386
6.0   Open rock, keep L and south
        N37 04.694 W113 13.046
        (R = shortcuts to outgoing trail)
6.3   Cross open rock, R after ledge
        N37 04.552 W113 13.162
        (L = shortcut to slot canyon, Waterfall)
6.6   L on Magic Carpet Ride
        N 37 04.488 W 113 13.405
        (R = West Mesa Loop)
7.5   Trail crosses open rock canyon to your left
7.7   Join doubletrack, straight downhill
        N 37 03.797' W 113 13.792'
7.9   Trail sign N 37 03.737 W 113 13.994
        L in bottom of wash, follow slickrock
        (R = West Mesa Loop)
8.2   Back at first trail fork (0.5), R on original path
8.7  At parking
Out-and-back to North Point via Magic Carpet Ride (easiest), 9.2 miles:
0.0   Continue west on doubletrack from parking
0.2   R uphill on ST into trees N37 03.582 W113 13.664
0.5   Cross faint doubletrack, arrive at open rock
        Fork L at N 37 03.821 W 113 13.606, westbound
        (Straight = to North Loop)
0.8   Marked fork N 37 03.737 W 113 13.994
        R on Magic Carpet Ride
0.9   Veer R off DT
2.2   Trail fork, R to North Loops
        N 37 04.488 W 113 13.405
2.5    Open rock area, trail sign N37 04.552 W113 13.162
         Fork R (northeast) find ST at corner of slickrock
2.8    Ridge, looking at slickrock ahead and on R
         N37 04.694 W113 13.046
         Keep L and climb into trees on ST
         (R = two shortcuts E and NE to eastern trail)
4.6    At North Point, trail turns south
         N37 05.697 W113 12.386
        Turn around, backtrack to start

Getting there:  On Highway 9 at the east end of Hurricane, turn south on US-59 and zero your odometer. One block later, turn left (east) and begin climbing up out of the Hurricane Valley. 13.2 miles later, turn right on gravel road. 14.1 turn right; 14.9 keep right; 16.0 keep left; 16.4 keep left; 18.5 continue straight across cattleguard; 19.5 turn right (critical turn where corral is on your left, leave the main road); 20.1 bear left. At 21.0, cross 3rd cattle guard; 21.5 road reaches slickrock, park here (GPS N 37 03.586' W 113 13.528'). Begin the ride by heading down the road (the singletrack forks off on the right 0.2 miles later).

For printable one-page riding guides:
      West Mesa Loop and Main Loop clockwise
      Big Loop (West Mesa and North Point)
      Magic Carpet / North Point out-and-back
      Sandstone Canyon (East) Loop counterclockwise

      North Point Loop counterclockwise

Riding resources:
GPS track files (right-click and "Save as..."):
    Area file (all tracks):    GPX 
    Individual courses:  West Loop  -  North Point Loop  -  Small East Loop
                                             Big Loop (Mesa + Point)  -  Point out-and-back

Topo map for printing:    High-res view
PDF map (courtesy Charles Carlin):   View
Lodging, camping, shops:      Links to St. George area resources

Copyright 2001 Mad Scientist Software Inc
Latest update 2011