1 of 12
Brian Nicholson, Deseret News
Trina Cook, Debbie Hage, Randy Dunn and Matt Jenkins examine the view.

Moab —

Words like "grueling," "very steep" or even "extremely difficult" might strike fear in the average mountain biker. And obstacles named "Faith in Friction" or "Testosterone Poisoning" may have many thinking twice about taking on a particular trail.

But it was just such a trail, and the associated obstacles, that brought fame and fortune to the sport, and to a small town in southeastern Utah.

Nearly 20 years after the rise of mountain biking, the Slickrock Trail east of Moab still maintains its mystique for die-hard bikers and beginners alike, both from within the state and from all over the world.

Like twins, the popularity of the sport and the famous Slickrock Trail grew rapidly side by side and, as a result, changed the once little-known city into one of the west's most popular adventure towns.

With a thick accent, Gordon Rayner of New Zealand, who describes himself as a "Recession Refugee," says it's one of the "must do" things in the U.S.

"It's one of the most well-known trails in the world. It's so unique," he said while on a 5½-month escape from the professional world with his family.

With the blessing from the BLM, the Slickrock Trail was mapped out in 1969 by Dick Wilson for use by motorcycles. He marked the route the same way it's marked today, with short, white painted lines. It basically contains two loops in a figure eight pattern, the smaller, two-mile section is called the practice loop.

Part of the fascination with Slickrock may be the fact that it's no beach-cruising special. It's a treacherous 10-mile course (or 12 if you do both loops), none of which is flat. That is, except the occasional patch of loose sand that will endo the most expert of riders.

"It gives you a good burn to the legs. Because of the grip, you can go up stuff you normally couldn't," explained Matt Jenkins, from North Carolina, who rode the practice loop with a group of friends.

Recreation tech Kathy Parent, who escapes once a week from her work as a nurse to staff the booth at the entrance, describes the trail as a five — on a scale of one to five for difficulty.

At the same time, she gives it a five for level of enjoyment.

"The Navajo Sandstone grips like sandpaper and you can get away with a lot more on the trail," she said. "You should trust your tires and bring plenty of water," stating that the trail may only be 10 miles long, but it's a tough 10 miles.

Once a resident of Denver, Tom Dillon, a small business software developer, came to Moab for first time 15 years ago for the sole purpose of riding the famous petrified sand dunes. "My wife was a beginner rider and I was intermediate; it basically kicked our butts," he explained. "There were so many things that were unexpected."

The Dillons fell in love with the trail and the city, bringing several friends to experience it on the following trip, and began looking for a way to move to Moab.

His efforts were rewarded with a job at Footprints Inc. They now call themselves residents.

Dillon is also a member of the group Trail Mix, a committee comprised of volunteers dedicated to the preservation and development of trails and pathways throughout Grand County.

The work of Trail Mix has been instrumental in the creation and maintenance of several trails — among them, the M.O.A.B. Brands trail system, which is made up of the Bar-M, Circle-O, Rockin-A and Bar-B.

Although Slickrock is Dillon's first love, the Moab Brands are currently the most likely place to find him. Sort of like his flavor of the month, the relatively new Moab Brands offer lots of variety.

"There are four distinct trail types in the Moab Brands," he said.

According to the website, discovermoab.com, the trails are rated like this: Moab Bar-M is an easy 8-mile family ride on a dirt road with some rocky sections. The Circle-O trail is a more difficult 3-mile course. Rockin' A is shorter and bumpier, and Bar-B is a 2.5-mile single track offering slickrock and dirt. Another of the Moab Brands is the Killer-B, which is only one mile and recommended for serious, hardy riders only.

There is no doubt Moab offers the mountain biker an enormous range of options, difficulties and terrain.

Utahmountainbiking.com lists 45 separate trails to be exact. The addition of so many trails, many of which are easier than Slickrock, have been a huge benefit to the area.

One benefit is making the overall experience safer for cyclists, mainly because beginner riders are finding other options.

The Slickrock Trail, a legend in the mountain biking world, should be on the list of "musts" for the outdoor enthusiast.