This trail is probably the most technical ride in the St. George area.
It has quite a few little rock tricks that challenge the rider. I
recommend it for advanced riders, or for intermediates with a good
attitude and a sense of adventure. It doesn't take that long to walk your
bike through a spot that spooks you. The ride has much to offer. It's much
like Gooseberry Mesa, if Gooseberry were tilted onto a slope.
Ah, tech rock. We'll roll over a small
drop, turn left and plunge down a steep narrow ramp, swing right, then pivot left and try
to squeeze the bike through the "pedal scratcher" slot in
the middle of the photo. Pix by Bruce on January 12, 2008.
The trail starts at 2700 feet, just left of the road to the
northern Bearclaw Poppy trailhead, in the bottom of the valley. If you're riding counterclockwise, you can
climb either of the first two
doubletracks -- I strongly recommend the first DT. It's
much more fun, and it offers some tech riding before the two routes join.
We're nearing the end of the initial
doubletrack climb, as chunky rock turns to slickrock.
altitude is 3450. There'll be about 1100 feet of climbing if you do the loop
ride that returns by the lower singletrack. The loop is 6.2 miles if you
use the singletrack return.
Bruce finishes "The Dip," a
tricky down-and-back-up feature. Photo by Gene Poncelet, February 2011.
The Zen Trail offers many different experiences. There's the
straightforward but fairly stiff one-mile climb to get to the
"business area" of the ride. Nice aerobic workout. There are the
technical challenges as you enter areas of pillow-shaped
sandstone and hoodoos. There's the eye candy. The rock monoliths are so visually interesting, it's hard to keep your eye on the
trail. Like scenery? There are expansive vistas. Want variety? One minute
you power along snaking desert singletrack and the next you're
route-picking over slabs of rock.
Jackie waits for the bike to start
rolling again, as the trail threads through hoodoos.
At mile 1.8, you'll spot trails running everywhere. Keep
left and drop straight across the small valley, then climb the big rock to
a shelf on the other side.
There are interesting nooks and hideaways in the hoodoos here, and that's
the reason for so many trails.
This ride is visually interesting.
There are spacious vistas, colorful rock, pretty cactus. Some of the rock
shapes are so unusual they look like abstract sculpture. Well, not THESE
rocks. Watch on your right about a mile into the climb, and you'll see a
couple of weirdly-eroded rocks that look too "posed" to be real.
Stop at the trail fork on the far side,
drop the bike, and make a hard right. Walk about half-way around the
little circle of cliffs, and you'll enter a deep grotto. Nice lunch spot
on a hot day.
Jason Sparks hits a ramp in January
2010. This is the same ramp seen in reverse angle in the top photo.
After a switchbacked singletrack climb to the top of
Bloomington Hill, you can look south over the Roller Coaster section of
the Bearclaw Poppy Trail. The town of Bloomington is on your left. Stucki
Springs is way off to your right.
Jake Weber ducks under an overhang
during a January 2010 ride by UtahMountainBiking.com Race Team members.
Shortly after the viewpoint, the trail forks, and you'll head east
downhill. (The fainter fork heading south goes to a viewpoint 0.6 miles
later, with little forks to two other overlooks. The drop to the bowl
where you see the continuing trail is ugly, and I'm not sure you'd find
the trip worth it.) Lots of adventure still to go, as the feel of the trail changes
significantly here. Plenty of tech stuff, just not as tough as a mile ago.
Plunge on downhill.
More typical trail. Around a rock,
over a rock.
The lower route is a good option to close the loop, assuming
you want to play some more. Soon after you drop into the wash, before it opens
onto the valley floor, head for
the left side and hug the wash edge. Watch for a fence post and a trail on
the left heading into a short side-branch of the wash.
Looking south, we're high above the Roller Coaster section of the Bearclaw
Poppy. In the distance, that's Bloomington.
The route will turn north and climb
steeply up a rock slope. Once you're on the trail northbound, it should
flow pretty well, but watch for spots where singletrack leaves DT. If you
wind up in the valley, you missed something!
Looking to the
north, we see the Pine Valley Mountains over northwest St. George.
If you're riding north-to-south on the lower singletrack, watch for bicycle tire tracks and
small rockpiles. A couple of the spots where singletrack leaves
doubletrack are fairly easy to ride past if you're not actively looking
for branching trail.
There's a fair amount of slickrock
riding. Here on the lower mountain, the path of the trail is shown by the
A ride on the Zen
If the above video does not appear on your
browser/device, you can watch it on YouTube by clicking
Riding notes, counterclockwise loop:
0.0 Cross to the left side of wash
N37 05.412 W113 37.898
Start up the DT, L of the
0.8 Veer L onto ST, or keep on DT for view
N37 05.044 W113 38.540
ST and DT rejoin 150 yards
Trail enters enters rock area
1.0 Just after steep ramp and pedal-scratch slot,
Keep L uphill (R=more high-tech
N37 04.902 W113 38.654
1.1 Routes rejoin N37 04.833 W113 38.660
1.2 "T" fork, go R uphill
N37 04.747 W113 38.646
(L=connector to DT)
1.3 Fork either way R=hill, L=flat
N37 04.701 W113 38.66
1.4 Routes rejoin
1.8 Keep straight (R=into rocks)
N37 04.311 W113 38.751
1.9 Fork L (hard R = trail to grotto)
N37 04.278 W113 38.706
2.4 Finish climb, view of Roller Coaster
N37 04.198 W113 38.776
2.9 Fork L (R=?)
N37 04.021 W113 38.380
4.2 Exiting wash. N37 04.429 W113 37.823
Keep L and turn uphill for ST
Straight to return on DT
Returning via DT:
Head for middle of valley,
4.4 Turn L on DT under poles
N37 04.524 W113 37.624
5.2 Retaining wall and construction
N37 05.066 W113 37.653
Find a way around it
5.8 Back at parking
Returning via ST:
Hold L and watch for ST (at
left end of fence)
climbing sharply out of wash;
+0.6 ST dumps onto DT
N37 04.766 W113 37.995
+0.8 Fork L N37 04.860 W113 37.838
Cross shallow wash,
then quickly find
continuing ST path
on your right.
+0.9 Merge downhill
N37 04.937 W113 37.855
+1.0 Watch for track
N37 04.992 W113 37.823
+1.1 Veer L off DT onto ST near corner of power station
N37 05.042 W113 37.773
+1.5 Cross DT
6.0 Back at parking (+1.7)
Getting there: Take the Bluff Street I-15 exit
in St. George and turn west. Immediately turn south (left) at the first
light. Go over the hill and at the T intersection at the bottom of the
hill turn right. Head northwest about two miles on Dixie Drive. Turn left at
Canyon View Road, heading uphill toward the Green Valley Spa. (If you reach
a "Green Valley Market" with gas pumps, you just passed it. Turn
around and backtrack to the second road on your right.) Drive past the spa
onto dirt at the end of the road. Turn right at the top of the mesa, then
immediately left to drive down into the deep valley. Head for the big road
that goes up the bluff, on the right side of The Gap -- the sandstone
canyon. But just before that road starts to climb, mosey to the left and
park where you can start riding up the doubletrack on the LEFT (south)
side of the sandstone canyon.