Hurricane, UT: Part 2, Jem Trail
***Disclaimer: This report summarizes some adventure shenanigans from November, 2019. We hope this three-part article provides a little mental escape during these crazy and uncertain times. Thanks for reading and please stay safe out there…
Hurricane, Utah is fast developing a reputation as an American MTB destination thanks in part to a really eclectic mix of trails, and utterly jaw-dropping scenery among other superlatives. Located in the southwest part of the state, “Hurkin” as it’s known locally, lurks in the shadow of nearby Zion National Park. It’s also a mandatory stop on the way to the iconic Red Bull Rampage just down the road in Virgin.
We stumbled upon the Jem Trail system almost by accident. Rolling into Hurricane, we knew there was only one place to get the full rundown on camping and riding, and that, of course, is the LBS (local bike shop for those not in the know). The LBS in this case, being none other than Over The Edge, Hurricane. These guys are a wealth of knowledge, and as I’d come to find out later, are pretty handy on bikes too.
Anyway, the Jem Trail is situated a few hundred vertical feet above town, in the Hurricane Cliffs area. Views of Zion National Park and Gooseberry Mesa (more about Gooseberry in installment number 3) are simply indescribable — we were treated each evening to a light show that puts anything Vegas has on offer to shame. The unfiltered nighttime view of the almost-full moon bathed the mesa and surrounding cliffs in a purplish hue that felt otherworldly. Oh yeah, there’s also some damn fine mountain biking up there.
The Jem trail network, so named for John, Ellen, and Mike who were instrumental in building these trails, is a great starting point for anyone who’s new to western riding. Elevation gain and loss are minimal, and there are no features or sections of trail with a pucker factor greater than about 3 or 4 on a scale of 10. If you’re accustomed to the tacky loam of the Northeast, the square edges and sometimes slick ledge in the desert southwest can make for a tough transition. But the mostly rolling terrain is inviting to the newer rider, and straight up giggle-inducing for those prepared to let off the brakes.
On the eastern side of Sheep Bridge Road, which bisects the network, you’ll find swoopy, flowy, and insanely fun trails that offer wide-open speed and, yes, kickass views. Have I mentioned the views already? The trail builders have done a phenomenal job of maximizing the natural potential of the terrain while keeping things interesting with directional changes, and all sorts of b-lines and side hits (my personal favorite).
The northwestern side of the network runs along Hurricane Rim and offers up a very different flavor of riding than the trails nestled into the book cliffs on the east side of Sheep Bridge Road. Although elevation gain / loss is minimal, the ledgy terrain on this side will keep you on your toes as it’s interspersed with flowy, loose-over-hard singletrack.
We spent a few nights in the dispersed campsites located right in the heart of the trail network, and actually circled back to this same spot later in the trip. The ride-in / ride-out option is something we both quickly got used to. The spaces are far enough apart to offer a sense of peace and quiet you most definitely will not find down the road at Zion National Park.
The Jem Trails are not in and of themselves a destination in the same way that say 18 Road in Fruita are. But they’re a great way to start or end a trip if you want some fun, low impact mileage that’s right at your campsite.
Ready to get rowdy? Next stop: Gooseberry Mesa…