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Whirlwind Loop

The Whirlwind Loop is part of the Horsethief Area mountain bike trail system along Highway 313 northwest of Moab. The Whirlwind trail must be reached via other area trails. The top of the loop is at 5700 feet altitude with a usual riding season of March through November. The lariat-loop itself is 2.4 miles long.

Looking east from the spot where the Mustang Loop and the Whirlwind Loop join. Photos and ride review by Bruce on October 28, 2015.

At the top, the Whirlwind Loop shares a short section of trail with the Mustang Loop. Most riders will enter the Whirlwind Loop from here.

At the bottom of the main Whirlwind Loop, a 0.2-mile spur connects Whirlwind to the 7-up trail. If you were to start your ride eastbound on 7-up from its top at the Bull Run trailhead, it's 3.1 miles to Whirlwind. 7-up also ties the bottom of Whirlwind to the downhill ends of the other Horsethief trails Wildcat and Hildalgo.

Looking north as the northern limb of the Whirlwind Loop heads away from Mustang. This is what you'd see if you're riding Whirlwind clockwise.

On the Entrada sandstone, the Whirlwind trail is marked with purple stripes. Where Whirlwind and Mustang share a common trail for around one-tenth mile, the trail has both yellow and purple markings.

Heading south on the short portion where the Whirlwind Loop and the Mustang Loop share a common trail.

The loop can be done in either direction. When riding counterclockwise, you'll pass the trail fork for the Wildcat trail about 0.1 mile downhill after you leave the combined Whirlwind/Mustang segment.

Looking east, near the Wildcat trail fork.

There are frequent views of the Monitor and Merrimac area to the northeast, and of the La Sal Mountains to the southeast. The trail is surrounded by a scrub forest of juniper and pinion pine, with occasional sage and bitterbrush.

View to the northeast at Monitor and Merrimac buttes.

I'd estimate the trail to be about 70% slickrock, alternating with hardpack dirt. There will be some up-and-down riding in both directions. The climbing rate is reasonably gentle, with 350 vertical feet of elevation change over each side of the loop.

Slickrock sample. Smooth Entrada without a lot of ledges and bumps.

The riding surface is similar to the Mustang Loop -- a solid intermediate-level ride. I don't recall any tricky spots. It's exactly one mile from Mustang to the bottom of the loop (and the 0.2-mile spur to 7-up) by either side of the loop, so the rates of climb and overall difficulty are similar whether you go clockwise or counterclockwise.

Descending toward the bottom of the loop on the southern half (counterclockwise).

By connecting to 7-up downhill, you can make other loop options. For example, you could head east to Hildalgo or (via the 7-up singletrack option) to Wildcat for a bigger loop ride.

Beginning the climb back up toward the main loop from 7-up.

My recommended ride for intermediates is the "Horsethief Tour." See the track file below. It does the Mustang Loop clockwise, hitting the campground trails then the Whirlwind Loop counterclockwise before hitting the Wildcat-Hildalgo lariat. This ride is 14 miles with around 2000 vertical feet of overall climbing. See the track file below.

Winding uphill on the northern limb of the loop, as dirt ribbon alternates with sandstone.

Bottom Line:
Not a "destination ride" by itself, but a very nice add-on loop to the Mustang trail. Well-designed and fun to ride.

We're approaching the junction with the Mustang Loop (the dirt trail in upper left) as we finish the counterclockwise ride on Whirlwind.

Riding notes, Mustang to Whirlwind from Chisholm:
0.0   East from 313 (Chisholm) TH
        N38 34.866 W109 47.857
0.5   L on Mustang Loop
        N38 35.088 W109 47.586
1.3   Keep R (L = Whirlwind  joins)
        N38 35.501 W109 47.388
1.4   Downhill L on Whirlwind
        (R = Mustang continues)
        N38 35.499 W109 47.308
1.5   Keep L (R = Wildcat)
        N38 35.574 W109 47.234
2.4   Fork R (will return here)
        N38 35.920 W109 47.300
2.6   7-up, turn around
        N38 36.019 W109 47.225
2.8   Back at fork, go R
    
    N38 35.920 W109 47.300
3.8   Join Mustang, keep L
       
N38 35.501 W109 47.388
3.9   Keep R this time, Mustang
       
N38 35.499 W109 47.308
5.1   Keep R (L = toward Getaway)
        N38 34.909 W109 47.267
5.7   L on Chisholm 
        N38 35.088 W109 47.586
6.2   Back at parking
Getting there:  From I-70 and Crescent Junction, drive south on US-191 for 20 miles (about 9 miles north of the Colorado River if you're driving out from Moab) to Highway 313. Drive uphill 11 miles.
Horsethief Campground:  On your left at mile 11.8 from Highway 191. Use this trailhead only if you're camping. There is no general trailhead parking here. After claiming your camp spot, pedal to the east end of the eastern camping loop and fork south on the Chisholm Trail.
Highway 313 (Chisholm) Trailhead:  At mile 12.5, spot the trailhead kiosk on the left side of the road. Turn into parking. Pedal east (away from the highway) on Chisholm to intercept the Mustang Loop in 0.5 mile.
Gemini Bridges Road (Getaway) Trailhead:  For longer rides of the area trails. At mile 12.9, turn left at the Gemini Bridges sign. About 200 feet from the pavement, spot a small parking area on your left with the Getaway Trail just east of parking. Mustang forks away from Getaway 0.6 miles from the trailhead.
Bull Run Trailhead:  Drive 1.1 miles down the Gemini Bridges dirt road, then turn right into the trailhead. Start your ride to the Horsethief Area trails by heading left on 7up.

Riding resources:
   Printable one-page ride summary
GPS track files (right-click and select "Save Target as..."):
      GPX multi-track, area trails  
      Mustang plus Whirlwind from 313 (Chisholm) trailhead  
      Whirlwind plus Wildcat from Chisholm (9 miles)
      Horsethief Tour from Getaway (14 miles)   
Topo map for printing:  View Horsethief Area Trails topo 
Lodging, camping, shops:     Link to Moab area resources

Bathrooms:  Horsethief Campground
Water:   Horsethief Campground
Camping:   Horsethief CG, nightly fee

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