I have never been to another place anything like Virgin, Utah. It’s a quiet and quaint little town, home to an old book store, a single tradepost, and a buffalo burger that is to die for. I’ve now been to Virgin more times than I can count, and yet, if it weren’t for freeride mountain biking, I would have never stopped, and probably would have never even known it was there. Nestled outside of Zion National Park, this small town is a rare gem of freeride mountain biking. Along both sides of S-9, you’ll see massive red and white striped sandstone cliffs, formed over millions of years by our earths constant change. An awe to take in, even when you aren’t thinking of riding a bike down it.
I remember waking up to the sandstone cliffs my first morning ever in that red desert. The sun slowly crept down the mountain towards camp, as the frost from the cold night steamed away as the warm rays met it for the first time. The valleys and ridges cast shadows on each other, creating a puzzle like effect to the gorgeous cliffs. The beauty of it all took my breath away, and left me stopped in my tracks, unable to give attention to anything except the dazzling geography around me.
It was nearly impossible at first to comprehend how anybody could ride a bike down this stuff, and I searched the ridges for some kind of evidence. Yet hidden all along each ridge and valley, nearly invisible to the untrained eye, lie some of freeride’s biggest stepping stones. Virgin, Utah is the birthing place of a riding style completely unique from other disciplines of mountain biking. A riding style so skillful, so talented, so ballsy, and so independent of any others, it stands high above the crowd. The riding you see in Virgin, the style of riding that lives there… you will never see it anywhere else.
That riding style needed its own event then, of course. Cue Redbull Rampage. The gnarliest, hugest, most insane mountain biking event in the world. Every year, the worlds best freeriders make their way to this desert, and shape her ridges and valleys into something they’ve been dreaming up and training for all year. And boy, let me tell you, what an experience. A week of digging with your good buddies, bringing to life a dream just crazy enough it might work. Hmm, It’s almost as if that could be the motto for Rampage.
Of course this wild event full of such talented bad-asses has called nowhere else home except Virgin, Utah for 13 years of competition. 13 years, and there is still no better place in the world for this unbelievable event, and no better place in the world for this gnarly style of freeride mountain biking than Virgin, Utah.
The spirit and style lives on sporadically throughout the year as athletes visit to train, build crews go get their fix of freeride, and some of the most determined fans go to practice, aiming to ride at the elite level. From all around, they return to the desert in the off season to ride some of the best lines out there. So many riders with so much knowledge and riding experience have crafted these trails and big hits (and combinations of the two) into the sheer cliffs surrounding Virgin, Utah. Some of the best riding I have ever been able to do has been here in this desert, and there’s even something more to it that, though hard to describe, that keeps you dying to come back again and again.
The people are humble and kind, though their speed is generally set a bit slower than mine is even on vacation. So if you’re in a hurry, try somewhere else. I recommend slowing down to their speed though, maybe you’ll catch something you might have missed. Maybe you’ll meet somebody you’ll be glad to know. There’s a sweet serenity in slowing down, and taking the time to take it all in. I can say first hand, after being in the hustle and bustle most of the year, I always find great relief in the slow pace, and gentle nature of this lovely little town.
There are plenty of areas you can legally camp out there, and there’s something to offer for everybody. I’ve camped in Virgin in my own company, as a couple, as a group, and as a family. Every time was different and equally incredible in it’s own way. If you don’t have to spend your time in a hotel here, don’t. Be prepared however, as the weather can be unpredictable some times of the year. The sights, smells, and views you will take in outside of a hotel will make up for the cold mornings and campfire coffee. That’s not even mentioning the experiences and memories you’ll gain along the way.
So, to wrap it up, GO VISIT VIRGIN. It’s one of my favorite places that I have ever been. You will not be disappointed, I promise. Have fun, slow down, and enjoy everything there is to offer. I can’t tell you all the secrets, but I can tell you that if you hang around long enough, you might pick up on the spots where the locals go, and everyone knows those are always the best. Send a postcard when you go, and seriously, try the buffalo burger.
|Location & Accessibility||6/10 – Far from town, with rough access roads. No entry fees, park where you can, no transit, 24/7.|
|Trails & Features||9/10 – Amazing variety of DH & FR lines, most require adv. bike skills. Some mild riding at BMX track andon top of Gooseberry Mesa.|
|People & Vibes||10/10 – Kind and quaint town home to Redbull Rampage. No bad vibes. Get ready for a good time.|
|Overall Rating:||8.3/10 – Out of the way, but worth every mile. The history thrives and the riding here can not be beat. May leave you wanting to relocate your life to this freeride paradise.|