Planned Spontaneity

by Glyn Phillips June 17, 2019

“What about Hurricane?”

“Where’s that?”

If you're curious, please check out this video from Kitsbow Ambassador Jeff Kendall-Weed:


One of the perks of sharing your life with a teacher is having a reason to continue celebrating the Spring Break “holiday”. This year, the week came early and I knew we had to find a place that weather would not wreak havoc on our plans. That narrowed it down to somewhere in the Southwest, but I kept coming back to Hurricane, Utah. 

Hurricane and nearby St. George are tucked in the Southwest corner of Utah nestled between red rock cliffs, towering Alpine peaks, and bisected by the Virgin River. In addition to drooling over the videos and photos of the riding, I found myself dreaming of exploring the canyons and trails in Zion National Park just down the highway. I’m a sucker for towering sandstone cliffs.


It wasn’t too hard to sell Ana on my vision of our next adventure which meant it was time to get down to some serious planning. While nothing surpasses exploring new places and trails, I always enjoy the planning phase of any big trip. Researching the places to go and ride, finding people with local knowledge and picking their brain, and hunting for those off the beaten-path experiences that make a trip particularly memorable. Admittedly it does dial down the spontaneity level a bit, but I manage to restrain myself from printing out color coded itineraries.


In the midst of my planning to the endless rhythm of the rain, we got the opportunity to inject some spontaneity back into the trip. Kitsbow was kind enough to offer the Kitsbow Sprinter Van for our trip. We jumped at the opportunity to live the #vanlife for a week. No tent to deal with, the ability to bring our trusty co-pilot Siren, and the flexibility of being self-contained made it a no brainer.  

After a stop at the North American Handmade Bicycle Show in Sacramento, we were on the road to Utah when we found our first diversion. Ana vaguely recalled long ago boating to a hot spring on the Colorado River downstream from the Hoover Dam. Skirting the edge of Las Vegas, we pulled off the highway and set off down a desert wash in search of the springs. My flawless navigation only resulted in a brief swim in the Colorado River before we found our destination. Rejuvenated, we made the trek back to the van and on towards Utah.


Our first few nights were spent up on Gooseberry Mesa. We woke up to the sunrise and were greeted to a breathtaking view after setting up camp in the dark.



What Gooseberry may lack in elevation, it makes up for in physicality.  During my research I came across the phrase “mesa miles”, and they weren’t kidding.  Tight, twisty slickrock with punchy climbs, ledges, and drops, those trails will give you a workout. This was especially true given how little we’d been on our mountain bikes due to the particularly rainy winter in Northern California. The riding was super fun and rewarding, the views were incredible, and it was great to be off the grid and relax.  

Next on my totally unplanned completely spontaneous agenda was heading into St. George and checking out the Bearclaw Poppy trail network and Zen trail.  Both of these trails came highly recommended and they did not disappoint. The sun was shining like salami and we were happy we remembered our summer gear.  We packed way more gear than we needed and I assumed the Delta tee and Mescal Ventilated Shorts were going to stay tucked in the bottom of the bag which only reinforced my penchant for overpacking.  



Riding these two very different trails back to back provided a fantastic juxtaposition on the variety of riding this area has to offer. Starting from the Bearclaw Poppy trailhead. We were treated to a groomed, gentle, directional climb, with the flowy, pumpy downhill specific trails paralleling our progress and making us look forward to the ripping descent back. Zen Trail couldn’t have been more different: raw, rugged, exposed, and providing countless consequences for the rider that lets their attention wander. Zen rewarded our focus with some of the best chunky, full throttle descents I’ve had the privilege of riding with a healthy dose of technical features to remind us to keep things in check.


Even though we were starting to feel like Jeff Kendall-Weed the video above, we took the next few days off from riding to go hiking with Siren, explore Zion, and to avoid the rain that followed us from Santa Rosa. The morning of our planned trip to Zion brought a sharp drop in temperature, driving rain, and fresh snow on the high points in all directions. Given the conditions, we questioned our decision to persevere, but it ended up being one of the best choices of the trip. The rain scared the hordes of tourists away and left the park relatively empty for us to enjoy with the ephemeral waterfalls falling from the towering sandstone canyon walls.

Fun Fact: Zion National Park is the 4th most visited National Park in the United States, seeing more people even than Yosemite and Yellowstone. Surpassed only by Great Smoky Mountains, the Grand Canyon, and Rocky Mountain National Parks, there are over 4.3 million visitors a year. To manage this many visitors, private vehicles aren’t allowed in the canyon, you need to ride a shuttle.  So on a nice day, skip the shuttle and ride your bike!



With the storm drenching the trails the day before, we stopped in at Over the Edge Sports in Hurricane. We hoped to get some local intel on how well the trails could manage all the rain. We were directed to the Scout trails, a little network that ended up being one of the unexpected jewels of the trip. Adventure Scout Trail features a technical climb that would challenge a mountain goat. This was followed by one of the most creative descents I'd ever ridden. This trail made full use of the terrain and had us laughing with joy. These trails are not to be missed. They could be included in a larger ride if the connector trails aren’t soaked or as an addition to another ride at one of the other trail networks nearby.  




The week came to a close before we knew it. Thankfully, we were able to sneak in one last rip around Zen before hitting the road.



Where to camp:


Selected Rides:




Glyn Phillips
Glyn Phillips

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