Volunteers scout locations for the Spring Hollow trail network on the side of the Pine Valley Mountains above St. George. (Photo: Courtesy Kevin Christopherson)
A local trail building organization could get the green light in coming months to build more than 60 miles of new mountain bike trails on the flanks of the Pine Valley Mountains above St. George.
If all goes to plan, those trails would include a new racecourse for local high school mountain bike teams, a jump line built in conjunction with Red Bull Rampage athletes and a “premier” 12-mile downhill run unlike anything currently in Washington County, according to Kevin Christopherson, president of the Trails Alliance of Southern Utah.
“It’s an ambitious project, for sure,” Christopherson said.
The trails are currently being considered by the U.S. Forest Service’s Pine Valley Ranger District, and if approved, Christopherson hopes the trail alliance could start construction as soon as December.
The largest segment of trails would start above 7,000 feet in elevation on a volcanic bench overlooking St. George and Zion National Park. Those trials would wind along the rims of volcanic cones on that bench, continuing down rugged terrain for approximately 2,000 feet.
That rugged terrain makes for great riding, Christopherson said, but it also makes for costly trailbuilding. That’s why the trails alliance, formerly known as the Dixie Mountain Bike Trail Association, plans to enlist a small army of volunteers (guided by professional trail builders) to build the trails in phases over several years.
60 miles of trails proposed in two networks
In total there will be two new trail systems in the mountains above Washington County.
The largest of the two, which Christopherson said is currently being called Spring Hollow, would feature about 45 miles of trails situated on the east-facing flank of Signal Peak overlooking St. George and Zion National Park.
The second trail system, dubbed Grass Valley, would include 15 miles of new trails above the town of Pine Valley.
Both trail systems will top out above 7,000, hopefully extending the mountain bike season into the hot southern Utah summers.
According to Christopherson, the more than 12-mile downhill from the top of the Spring Valley network to the edge of the Forest Service land thousands of vertical feet below would be the centerpiece of the project.
Riders would be able to connect that trail, which will likely be called Fire Ball, clear to St. George by way of the existing Ice House trail, a popular 7-mile (mostly) downhill run that cuts through the Red Cliffs National Conservation Area.
Despite the detailed plans, neither trail network has been given the green light from the U.S. Forest Service’s Pine Valley Ranger District, which holds domain over the land both Grass Valley and Spring Hollow have been proposed on.
The project’s recently released scoping report is currently in a 30-day public comment period and experts are currently reviewing the environmental impact of the trails.
If approved, these will be the first purpose-built mountain bike trails in the Pine Valley Ranger District.
“The proposed action addresses the current and expected future demand for single-track trail opportunities for recreational non-motorized mountain bike use near St. George, Utah,” that scoping document reads. By designing and designating mountain bike trails, the Forest Service is responding to the to the growing number of mountain bike users and providing recreation opportunities that do not conflict with other user groups.”
The public is currently being asked to comment on the project. Those comments can be submitted via an online form or by mail. Letters should be addressed to Pine Valley District Ranger Nicholas Glidden at 196 E. Tabernacle Street, Suite 38, St. George, UT 84770.
New high school racecourse, plus lines built by the pros
Christopherson and the trails alliance have enlisted the help of several professional mountain bikers living in the area to help build the 1.8-mile jump trial and features on the enduro-style downhill run — including several locals known for their aerial antics at the famed Red Bull Rampage event in Virgin.
”It’s like having Arnold Palmer design your golf course,” Christopherson said. “It’ll be fun to bring those guys in and have them put their touches on it.”
Those more technical trails will likely be directional and feature “A” and “B” lines to cater to beginner through advanced riders, according to the scoping report.
The current plans being considered in the scoping report call for one new trailhead built off forest road 901 to serve as the Spring Hollow main trailhead. That road would be widened and improved and would serve as a close access point to State Route 18 through Diamond Valley.
There are also plans to build a special event area near that trailhead with a designated start and finish line.
Christopherson said this venue is designed to accommodate races, including enough space to accommodate Utah high school mountain bike league races.
High school racers in St. George lost their racecourse in Green Valley last year to a housing development, and one of the several race loops proposed at Spring Hollow would be built with them in mind.
Christopherson hopes to engineer that race loop as the “perfect venue” with planned start and finish lines, plus easy access for course marshals and rescue vehicles.
“There’s no trails out there at all, so we were able to design from the ground up,” he said. “It was kind of fun to engineer something specifically for competition.”
Sam Gross covers the outdoors and development in Southern Utah for The St. George Spectrum & Daily News. Support his work by subscribing to TheSpectrum.com.
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