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Windmill Trail on Gooseberry Mesa
 Includes Bowls and Ledges loop

Gooseberry Mesa has a lot of awesome riding. The Windmill Trail runs from the Windmill Trailhead out to the cliffs, then west down to the North Rim Trail. Windmill itself is only 1.6 miles, but connects to other trails to yield satisfying amounts of riding. Most of the trail is intermediate technical, with a few challenges thrown in.

Looking north from the rim on the Windmill Loop. Original review and photos July 11, 2001 by Bruce Argyle, with latest update 2017.

 

The trail is an intermediate aerobic because there's almost no altitude gain. On the slickrock sections, you'll need quick power for ledges and bowls, but there are no prolonged grunt climbs. 

A cap-rock of hard Shinarump conglomerate of the Chinle Formation resists erosion, letting the softer layers below erode steeply.  In the distance, you can see the skirts of Moenkopi Formation clays.

There are some very close cliff exposures, so you might want to reconsider before taking your stupid dog, reckless teenager, or clumsy neighbor on the Windmill Trail. It can be managed by early-intermediates, but riders need good bike-handling skills and the common sense not to push beyond their ability level while on the edge of a cliff.

Bruce launches the lip of a rock hump.
The cliff is 15 feet behind the camera.

Windmill Loop

The Windmill Loop is a short quick sampler of the mesa's types of terrain. There's sage cruising on double-track, technical slickrock, undulating technical singletrack, and a cliffside cruise. It can be connected to the Bowls and Ledges loop for a longer ride.

The doubletrack skirts the windmill, then heads west through sage, juniper and pinion pine.

The Windmill Loop starts at the Windmill Trailhead (GPS N 37 09.090' W 113 09.973', altitude 5140 ft). From the windmill, you ride west on doubletrack. Stay on the main dirt road, which is usually the straight-ahead option -- there will be several side-roads. At 0.9 miles, the track forks. Keep right as you turn toward the north. 

Almost to the rim on the doubletrack.

When you arrive at the edge of the cliffs at mile 1.1 from the trailhead, turn hard to your right and find the paint spots on the sandstone near the edge. You should now be heading east.

We've just reached the rim and have turned to the east.

Now simply follow the trail east along the north edge of the mesa. It's a quick ride. Most of the riding is fairly flat, but there are a few short downhill spots.

After just over a mile on the singletrack, you'll reach a trail fork marked by a carsonite post. The trail that continues straight east goes to a viewpoint, then to the Yurt area. It will connect to The Gander on Gooseberry's northeast rim.

The trail snakes through the junipers near the cliff edge, sometimes coming as close as two or three feet.

Turn to the right and head south 0.4 miles to the Windmill. The entire loop is just 2.4 miles. It can be done (assuming you don't get lost) in around 1/2 hour, so it makes a good "just got here" late-afternoon ride for those who are staying on the mesa.

There are smooth areas of fun cruising.

 The short Windmill Loop, clockwise...

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

Windmill Plus Bowls and Ledges

At the western end of the Windmill Trail, it hits the junction of the North Rim Trail and the Bowls and Ledges Trail. Looping around Bowls and Ledges yields a nice lariat-shaped ride of 4.7 miles.

Typical riding surface for Gooseberry Mesa is white sandstone undulations, with patches of broken rock and hard-pack dirt between.

Navigation of the Bowls and Ledges loop can seem more like a maze. The Slickrock 101 alternate trails merge and branch off. There are connectors to the road and to North Rim. And the few carsonite trail-posts aren't particularly helpful in pinpointing your location and destination. 

Handlebar view on the Windmill Trail in 2001. This particular spot has been bypassed in favor of a safer line away from the cliff.

Let me simplify the navigation for you. Once you reach the carsonite sign that says "North Rim," decide which direction you want to ride the loop -- clockwise or counterclockwise. Take that fork. Which way did you turn? You'll now fork the OPPOSITE direction at EVERY trail fork until you return to the sign.

Bruce navigates a smoother section of Bowls and Ledges.

OK, say you turned left (as I do in the Bowls and Ledges trail video). Now, fork to the right at every trail fork. Right at Slickrock 101. Right at the White Trail connector. Right at the North Rim. And the next fork you'll come to is where you entered the loop. Go left to exit.

"Bowls." Dropping to the bottom of a large bowl.

If you want to test the other trails in the area, I've provided GPS waypoints for you. By matching the waypoint to the trail fork and consulting the map, you can know where you are.

"Ledges." Entering a sharp dip by rolling off the ledge.

From the spot where Windmill hits North Rim (N37 08.812 W113 11.008), it's 0.6 miles clockwise to Slickrock 101 (N37 08.662 W113 10.633). You'll note another fork to your left, which is the split between the easy and tech routes heading east.

Go to your right on the broad slickrock and climb gently west.

Arriving at Slickrock 101. (Camera facing north.)

The next trail fork comes after another 0.6 miles. At this fork (N37 08.508 W113 11.078), you'll again fork to the right. (The left fork goes 100 yards to the mesa road -- the White Trail. So if you wind up on the mesa road, you blew past the trail fork without seeing it.)

Heading west on open rock.

In 0.3 miles, you'll encounter the next fork. (This fork at N37 08.553 W113 11.251 can be subtle, and is a common cause of lost bikers.) The left fork is the westbound North Rim trail. You want the eastbound North Rim, so you'll fork to the right.

Reaching the top of a steep ledge.

The north side of the Bowls and Ledges loop -- the North Rim
trail -- is significantly more technical than the Windmill Trail.

There will be some steep ups and tricky downs, but it's all
rideable for an experienced upper-intermediate.

It's another 0.6 miles now to go east and return to the original fork where you entered the loop. Keep straight (left) to return via the Windmill Trail.

Or, go right to repeat the loop or reach one of the trails that forked off the loop.

Heading east on the North Rim trail, almost back to the Windmill Trail.

 Windmill plus Bowls and Ledges clockwise...

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

Getting there -- North: As you approach Zion National Park in Rockville, turn south (right) on Bridge Road. After crossing the Virgin River, the dirt road winds up the mesa. Keep left at the fork at 1.5 miles. Continue to a total of 6.2 miles, where you turn right at a sign "Gooseberry Mesa." Another 3.6 miles after the turnoff, take the right fork as you pass the outhouse. One mile later, you'll see a windmill on the left side of the road. Turn into the parking area at the windmill GPS N 37 09.090' W 113 09.973'.
Getting there -- South: As you pass through Hurricane heading east, turn right at the Highway 9 sign. (If you start exit town without making a right-turn, you went past it.) One block later, turn left and drive out of town. About 15 minutes later, you'll pass a gas station on the left-hand side, then some fields. Watch for a "Scenic Byway" sign, and turn left onto a dirt road. Two miles later, just as you reach the mountain, the Gooseberry Mesa road turns off on your left. Another 3.6 miles after the turnoff, take the right fork as you pass the outhouse. One mile later, you'll see a windmill on the left side of the road. Turn into the parking area at the windmill GPS N 37 09.090' W 113 09.973'.

Riding resources for this trail:
Single-page trail guide
GPS track files and waypoints (right-click and "Save as..."):
  "The Works" includes "Harris Secret Trail"and South Rim / North Rim trails.
      Garmin       GPX
   Tracks for Windmill, Bowls & Ledges area only.
      Garmin      GPX

Interactive Gooseberry track map:  Load
High-res topo for printing:  View 
Lodging, camping, shops:      Links to St. George area resources

Copyright 2006 Mad Scientist Software Inc
Updated 2010, 2017