Mountain biking the Good Water Rim Trail

The San Rafael Swell in central Utah isn’t exactly a mountain biking destination. Old jeep roads winding through abandoned uranium mines is the norm in these parts. But with new mountain-bike specific singletrack being cut like the phenomenal Good Water Rim Trail, the San Rafael’s pedaling potential could be limitless. The ride follows the edge of Good Water Canyon, a side drainage of the Little Grand Canyon near the Wedge Overlook. It features 15 miles of twisting singletrack, peppered with some of the most spectacular views of any mountain bike ride in Utah.

Jared Anderton rides on the edge on the Good Water Rim Trail in the San Rafael Swell.

Good Water Rim Trail is a fairly new ride, built over the course of five years by a local who wishes to remain anonymous. Utahmountainbiking.com gave the trail its moniker to protect the man’s wishes. Despite his reluctance to step into the limelight, the mystery builder’s fun, curving singletrack is quickly becoming the de facto ride in the San Rafael Swell. Watch this video and you’ll see why:


Good Water Rim is an unusual trail in that it has no official beginning or end, has no destination, no uphill sections, and no sustained descents. The entire ride requires constant pedaling over rocky slabs, occasional dips and countless, tight turns that never let up. It’s a conundrum in that the trail is easy enough for beginners, but will slap riders down for inattentiveness or fatigue. Good Water Rim is a true “cross country” ride.

 

A bike ride with a view.

The trail begins at the Little Grand Canyon Overlook and follows the edge of Good Water Canyon as it snakes around the labyrinth of side drainages that spill into the main gorge. The ride is fast and fun as you pedal through pinyon pine forests broken up by open spaces that reveal endless views of the canyon below. A ride on the Good Water Rim Trail can quickly become a full day as you stop to take in every view that reveals itself along the way. The constant stopping for pictures will make the ride seem endless, but so will the trail as it keeps going forever on the flat rim.

Stopping for the view is a frequent problem on the Good Water Rim Trail, as it make a long ride even longer.

Dirt roads, side trails, and even the occasional campsite intersects with the Good Water Rim Trail, which can make navigating a bit confusing. As a general rule, staying right will keep you on the correct path. Any trail that veers left tends to go back to the road or someone’s campsite. Keep an eye out for cairns that will show you the way at forks in the road, and when in doubt, keep hugging the canyon rim.

The trail is typically done as a loop that starts and ends at the parking lot of the Little Grand Canyon Overlook. After riding the 16 miles of singletrack, a quick, 6-mile return on dirt roads brings you back to your car. But the nice thing about Good Water Rim is that you can pretty much start the ride from anywhere along the trail as there are several side-roads and camp sites along the way. A good idea is to stay the night, and use your campsite as the beginning and end of your ride, cutting out the need to drive to the overlook.

Mountain bikers have lunch at one of the best viewpoints along the Good Water Rim Trail.

So if you’re in the San Rafael Swell and are looking to do something different than the usual four-wheeling or hiking, then a mountain bike ride on the Good Water Rim Trail is in order. There aren’t many good bike trails here, but the Good Water Rim Trail is worth the trip, and hopefully, it’s the beginning of a new singletrack revolution in the San Rafael Swell.

To get to the Good Water Rim Trail, drive to Price and exit onto highway 10, going southbound for 28 miles to Castle Dale. Just before town, there’s a dirt road that goes east with a sign that says “San Rafael Access.” Drive down this road and follow the signs that directs you to the Wedge Overlook. At the overlook, turn left and follow the road a 1/2 mile to the Little Grand Canyon Overlook. You can begin the ride here, or find a campsite and start from there.

To get there from the south, take I-70, and exit on Ranch Exit #129. Drive a dirt road north and follow the signs to the Wedge Overlook.


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