The Lightning Switch trail is located just uphill from the Thunderbird
Gardens trailhead one mile east of Cedar City. The trail forks off the
Ghost Flats trail just 0.2 miles from the trailhead, then climbs to meet
the Ghost Flats trail uphill just below the ridgeline. Lightning Switch
itself is 2.4 miles, and with Ghost Flats as a downhill the overall ride
will be 4.5 miles.
View to the west down the canyon early in the ride. Photos and ride
description by Bruce on April 27, 2017.
More trails in this area are under development, with 50
miles of planned interconnecting routes. See the Red
Hollow and Thor's Hideout pages for
information on other completed trails.
Lightning Switch is a relatively stiff climb, best done by
strong experienced riders, but can be managed by intermediates with a few
rest stops and short hike-a-bikes. As the name would imply, there are a
lot of switchbacks in the trail.
Bruce grunts uphill on his Rocky Mountain Element.
You'll gain 1000 feet of altitude -- from 6000 feet to 7000
-- but the overall climbing will be 1300 vertical because the route
frequently takes a downhill break as you climb. The average pitch is 10%,
but there will be a few tough grunts to make up for the times you coasted
Most of the switchbacks are ready to rail. A few are
tight, needing a bit of tweak excavation or a lot of riders wearing in the
The terrain is pinion pine mixed with juniper. The spacing
of the trees means that you'll be almost entirely sun-exposed for the
A few bits of sage fill the open spots, but for the most part you're
surrounded by rock and dirt. The soil color alternates between salmon and
View south to the Thor's Hideout
area. Note that we've already climbed significantly higher than the Thor's
ride. (The trail can be seen lower right. This will be our descending
route on the loop ride.)
There are frequent and changing views west over the valley
as you climb higher. You'll have a look down into the canyon behind The
Plenty of climbing.
Most local riders are doing Lightning Switch as an
out-and-back, rather than a loop. Unless Ghost Flats sees some TLC, I'll
probably do it that way myself next time.
Getting closer to the top, another view west over the
Cedar City area. The Thunderbird Gardens trailhead parking lot is the
white spot just to the right below center.
At mile 2.6 from the trailhead, Lightning Switch ends on the
Ghost Flats trail. For the loop ride, keep to the right and head downhill
though what looks like a small wash. The "wash" is the severely eroded trail,
which will become obvious after heading 100 yards downhill.
(If you head to the left instead, you'll reach another fork in about
100 feet. Here the left -- uphill -- fork takes you over the ridge then down
through thick pinion forest to the flats, a grassy sink area. The right
fork continues east, but I haven't followed it to see where it winds up.)
Lightning Switch is not all climbing. There will be
some flat cruiser spots and short gentle downhills. But you'll make up for
it with stiffer climbing later.
Ghost Flats Trail
Ghost Flats will be your route downhill for the loop ride. I recommend
it only for expert riders at this time, because there's a lot of chunk and
rough spots on relatively steep sections of trail. Intermediates will
manage but probably won't think it's fun.
As mentioned, the
downhill starts as essentially a wash. After about 100 yards, it's more
obvious that it's a viable trail. But it will, periodically, turn into a
wash side-walling adventure as you dodge rocks.
A fun flow section of Ghost Flats. More chunks and
washbottom riding coming up.
The trail will drop about 600 vertical feet over the first
mile. Not a bad rate of descent, but loose angular boulders throwing my
bike around made it seem steeper. Technically, you could climb Ghost Flats
for a counterclockwise loop, but it's likely you'll have several longish
After this first mile of descent, Ghost Flats flattens for a while
before taking a quick drop down to the junction with the Thor's Hideout
Descending a smoother section of Ghost Flats.
To complete the loop, turn to the right (north) and descend
the combined Ghost Flats - Thor's Hideout trail.
A quick out-and-back to Thor's Hideout is an option here, as you're
already done most of the climbing for that ride.
Almost down to Thor's. Handlebar view as the
ridgeline trail drops to the west.
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Notes on trail extensions: This area is being
developed by the BLM as a multi-user trail system with over 50 miles of
trail options. So connections and alignments will change over the next
couple of years. For now, continuing further uphill from the top of
Lightning Switch will take you into some rough trail that's hard to ride.
The northbound trail climbs over a ridgeline then descends through tall
pinion forest to the flats shown below. Nice spot for a picnic and a
turn-around. The eastbound option will probably connect to trails that
descend into Cedar Canyon.
Exploring. Handlebar view of the trail
descending to the flats.
The sink area across the ridge. From here, the trail
Riding notes, clockwise loop:
0.0 East toward Ghost Flats from trail kiosk
N37 41.413 W113 02.591
0.2 Fork L uphill on Lightning Switch
N37 41.415 W113 02.418
2.6 Keep right to descend on Ghost Flats
N37 41.677 W113 01.395
3.9 R to descend (L = Thor's)
N37 41.370 W113 02.371
4.5 Back at parking
Thunderbird TH: When southbound on I-15, take the first Cedar City exit (the same one
you'd use to head for Three Peaks) and turn left towards the mountains.
The road will make a broad turn to the south to become Main Street in
Cedar City. Turn left at 900 North (it will be just as you reach the
cemetery on the right-hand side). When you reach the golf course
buildings, the pavement ends. Keep straight ahead onto gravel road. Pass a
couple of flood-control basins, driving 1.2 miles from Main Street. Park in the fenced white-gravel trailhead
area and start your ride eastbound by the trail kiosk. The fork to
Lightning Switch singletrack is 0.2 miles uphill on your left as you climb
the broader trail.