Amasa Back parking lot near Moab, Utah is used to access the Hymasa/Captain Ahab mountain bike trail loop
Trails,  Travel

Mountain Biking in Moab: 3 Great Trails for Different Skill Levels

Deciding where to ride in Moab can be daunting especially if you’re going to be riding with a range of skill levels. Before our last trip to the area, my wife Heather and I spent large amounts of time researching rides that we, and the other riders we were with, would enjoy.  Now I’ve had the chance to ride those trails and I can share them with you. Here are three of the best mountain biking trails in Moab, for beginner, intermediate and advanced riders:

    • Rodeo
    • Alaska
    • Captain Ahab

There are few places on earth that are as synonymous with mountain biking as Moab, Utah. It’s been a mecca for mountain bikers for decades now. Warm weather and generally dry conditions in the spring and fall mean that riders from all over the northern hemisphere leave their less-than-ideal climes and flock to the area in an attempt to extend their riding season.

” I’m going to go beyond the more famous trails, such as Porcupine Rim and the Slickrock Trail.”

Because Moab is so popular there is no shortage of blog posts, videos and message boards offering advice on the best trails to ride, and how to ride them. I’m going to go beyond the more famous trails, such as Porcupine Rim and the Slickrock Trail, and introduce a few of the other great rides the area has to offer.

Rodeo – a great introduction!

Rodeo is a great loop located in the Horsethief riding area. I’ve included it in my best trails to ride in Moab for different skill levels because it is accessible for most people, and a great introduction to mountain biking in Moab. And, unlike the other trails described here, it is a loop. This means there is very little route finding involved.

See the Trailforks Rodeo trail map and information below.

Rodeo on Trailforks.com

How difficult is it?

Rodeo is rated intermediate (blue) by Trailforks. I feel it leans a little bit toward the easier side of the intermediate spectrum.

What’s the riding like?

The terrain is generally rolling and there aren’t really any long climbs or descents. There are some moderately technical sections, but none that are long or sustained. This makes Rodeo a good place to practice your skills before moving on to more difficult trails.  If you’re a more advanced rider, you can add it in to your trip between more difficult days, as a bit of a rest. This means that, to me, Rodeo checks all the boxes and is my pick for one of the best trails in Moab for different skill levels.

Heather on Rodeo getting acquainted with the famous Moab slickrock. (Luke Marshall/RideSphere)

Rodeo can also act as a good introduction to riding in Moab in general. If you’re like me and you spend much of your time riding over more roots than rocks, you may want some time to adjust to the area’s terrain.

On Rodeo, you can adjust to the Moab’s rocky topography while having fun, and not have to worry about getting lost in the process.

Alaska – find true north!

If you’re looking for something more challenging than Rodeo, try Alaska. This trail is located at the northernmost edge of the Klondike Bluffs riding area. Alaska has some great views, and the riding is challenging, but not intimidating.

Alaska itself isn’t a loop, nor is it accessible directly by bike. It needs to be linked together as part of a larger collection of trails.

Check-out my reference to the Trailforks route ‘Baby Steps to Alaska Loop’ below, as a suggestion for a good loop to follow. I rode this route in a counter-clockwise direction and found it to be quite straightforward.


How difficult is it?

Alaska, along with most of the rest of my suggested route, is rated intermediate (blue) on Trailforks. Just to spice things up, there is a section of advanced (black) trail thrown in, where you follow Mega Steps for short while.

What’s the riding like?

Generally, the loop consists of a gradual, but sustained climb over Baby Steps and Mega Steps trails. Before you reach the end of Mega Steps, the grade mellows out into somewhat of a traverse, which continues along through the first part of Alaska.

If you are riding this loop counter-clockwise, watch for great views to the right as you ride along the traverse! Once the traverse ends, you are on to the rolling and very fun descent!

Captain Ahab – a white whale within reach!

Captain Ahab is one of the crown jewels of Moab. For me, it’s the epitome of mountain biking in Moab. Located in the Amasa Back riding area, this trail is perfect for the advanced rider looking for some of the best that Moab has to offer.  Captain Ahab itself is actually a descent, and consists of two separate trails: upper and lower Captain Ahab.

” Even if climbing isn’t your thing, I encourage you to make the effort as the descent is well worth the trouble!”

The Hymasa trail climb is used to access upper Captain Ahab. (Luke Marshall/RideSphere)

To access the top of upper Captain Ahab, you will need to climb up the Hymasa trail. Hymasa is a great, but somewhat steep and technical climb. Don’t let this deter you, it should all be rideable for an advanced rider. Even if climbing isn’t your thing, I encourage you to make the effort as the descent is well worth the trouble!

See the Trailforks Hymasa/Captain Ahab Loop route map and information below.


How difficult is it?

Trailforks rates Hymasa and upper Captain Ahab as advanced (black) and lower Captain Ahab as expert (double black). This is the center of some controversy as there is disagreement over whether or not lower Captain Ahab should be rated expert.

I don’t want to drift too far into the weeds here, and trail ratings are somewhat subjective, so I’ll just give you my opinion: As a climb, Hymasa is solidly black. Upper Captain Ahab is also solidly black, and probably at the more difficult end of the scale. Personally, I find upper and lower Captain Ahab to be quite similar in difficulty.  I would probably rate both the upper and lower sections as high on the advanced scale.

What’s the riding like?

If I had to sum it up in one word, I would describe the riding on the Hymasa/Captain Ahab loop as big. Big chunky rocks, big drops and big ledges. This goes for both the climb and the descent, but all of it is built in a way that makes the trails flow together nicely. It may not be one of the best trails in Moab for all skill levels, but it is one of the best for those with an advanced skill level.

Essentially, the loop consists of a long continuous climb up Hymasa to the top of upper Captain Ahab, followed by a long continuous descent from the top to the end of lower Captain Ahab.

There are great views along the length of the whole loop, so try to stop and take a look around every once in a while!

One of the many great views along the Hymasa/Captain Ahab Loop. (Luke Marshall/RideSphere)

There are many more trails to explore!

This is a very short list of trails and by no means exhaustive. There are endless options for mountain biking in Moab. These three are my picks for the best trails to ride in Moab for different skill levels. All of them are in different riding areas and all three trails have other great rides nearby, leaving room for further exploration.

If you’re looking to expand your rides into other areas, I would suggest pairing these three trails with some of the more famous ones in the area and you’ll have yourself a great starting list for a week of riding in Moab.

Interested in riding in Moab, but not sure what time of year is best to go? Check out our article: “5 Awesome Winter Mountain Bike Destinations in the USA: When to Visit!”. We help you plan your escape from winter with a discussion on when to visit some of the biggest mountain biking destinations in North America.

What are your thoughts?

Trail ratings can be very subjective, and there are lots of other great trails in Moab, so I’d like to hear from you! Please let me know what you think of these trails. Or, if you have your own suggestions that might help others have a great experience in Moab, leave a comment below!

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