It's all downhill from here. But that's really not so bad. It means if you can keep a bicycle upright in a parking lot then you can bike along the mountain trails.
It means you can ride uphill if you want or simply keep the bike on a steady descent. It means if you're fit you can finish a ride in an hour and be looking for more places to ride, or if you're in a family you can take the day, pack a lunch and actually see some of the scenery.This is country made for mountain biking. Located on the Markagunt Plateau, the land is like a tilted but weathered tabletop - always sloping down, in some areas a little more than in others, with only an occasional rise requiring some uphill pedaling.
Several national biking magazines, in fact, have tagged Brian Head as Utah's "other Utopia," the first one being the earlier discovered Moab area.
As Red Oelerich, executive director of Bicycle Utah, pointed out, Brian Head has yet to be discovered, "but someday it will."
For now, it's a quiet little community of 95 voting residents with lodges, restaurants, service stores and bike shops that are skis shops in the winter.
There are hundreds of miles of biking trails in the area. Twenty of the trails are mapped out in the Brian Head Hiking & Biking Guide. Greg Bromka, in his book "Mountain Biking Utah's Brian Head and Bryce Country," discusses 41 charted routes and an assortment of informative details.
Popular in the Brian Head area, says Clark Krause, marketing manager for the resort, are the shuttle-served runs. For these runs, bikers ride downhill and are then driven by van back uphill to the resort area. Sev-er-al of the shops offer shuttle service, along with bike rentals for a reasonable fee.
One such ride, held during the Brian Head Bash Mountain Bike Festival, called the "Left Fork of Bunker Creek," started from a point near Brian Head Peak, at about the 11,000-foot elevation, and finished near Panguitch Lake, a drop of about 2,700 feet and a distance of about 12 miles.
It begins with a short climb, then flattens out and begins a gradual descent along the tabletop plateau. Several places along the way, the trail cuts by the edge of the plateau, opening up spectacular views of far-reaching green forests interrupted occasionally by the red limestone formations common in this area.
Along on this ride were members of a Cedar City biking club organized by Ron Rodriguez, forest/wildlife manager for the Dixie/Fishlake forest.
It was, he said, one of a long list of weekly rides the club holds, "but certainly one of the more popular. This is, as you can see, spectacular country to ride in."
Having this country so close to home is one of the reasons for the overall success of the club, Rodriguez said. When he first con-sid-ered the idea of a biking club, he said, "I felt we would be lucky to have 15 or 20 members. There are 115 members now and we're still growing. Our members range in age from 8 to 73. Our strength is the diversity of riding we have . . . and being able to offer rides such as this one."
The longest ride is the Virgin River Rim Trail, which covers 32 miles, but rises and falls no more than 1,500 feet anywhere along the route. This one also requires a shuttle back home.
Being able to offer mid-summer riding is yet another advantage Brian Head has. Moab is limited in the summer because of the heat. So are other areas of the state. Brian Head's high altitude (9,600 feet at the base) keeps daytime -and riding - temperatures comfortable. Having the ski area on-site to offer lift-served mountain-bike riding also is an advantage.
Each year, said Krause, more bikers visit Brian Head, especially out-of-state riders. Each year the word spreads, but more so now as "just another Utah utopia."