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Moab mountain biking on the edge

Moab, Utah, is fascinating for mountain bikers. The gritty trails, oceans of sandstone and the exceptional physiography make for some of the most astonishing riding experiences on earth. In short, this place is surreal.

When it was decided that a singletrack would be added to the Amasa Back trail network to alleviate congestion between mountain bikers and motorized vehicles, a star was born. The 2.3 mile Hymasa Trail meanders up Amasa Back - a giant and featured island of sandstone. Its rugged beauty is overwhelming, and the biking is fantastic for most intermediate skill levels, and very engaging for advanced riders.

"The true beauty of that area is that you drive to one spot,” said Gary Dye of Chili Pepper Bike Shop in Moab. “It's close to town, and it's chock full of awesome moves. If you're an advanced rider, you're going to have a really good time there.”

Once on top, the options are many. You can return down Hymasa, which makes a perfect downhill according to Dye, or take the famous rider-built flow trail, Captain Ahab. For a dose of spicy adventure and a bit of solitude, Jackson Trail is a favorite. Once Hymasa ends, a spur will lead you the multi-use Cliffhanger, a mile or so segment where challenges ramp up with striking views. Be aware, it earns its name.

After Cliffhanger you'll find easier riding, yet options remain for Pothole Arch and Rockstacker, both rigorous trails.

At 5.7 miles, you arrive at Jackson Trail, named for a rancher who found an unlikely shortcut over Amasa Back. This is the stuff mountain bikers dream about. Incomparable views peppered with vertigo, freedom and joy, challenges bested and fears overcome. It's also about as real as it gets. There is severe exposure in places where a fall would almost guarantee wrapping things up for good. But the real difficulty follows the exposure.

“You really only have to get through the switchback areas and you can ride just about everything in there,” Dye said. You can always walk it, too.

Once you've made it out in one piece, sand and stone give way to a flood plain of grasses along the Colorado River, a rare treat in Moab.

The trail leads to a creek crossing where a sandy slope climbs the opposite bank. Kane Creek can be flooded in the spring, or after heavy rains, hence a network of trails that may or may not lead other crossings during high water. Once across the creek, look for a short steep trail that leads up to the parking area.

~B. Mathis

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