I saw an incredible photo of the Thunder Mountain Trail on a Biking Utah website and decided I had to ride it. The trail descriptions I’d read later did nothing to change that thought. It was going to be a long drive from the Super 8 in Cedar City … but it turned out to be well worth it.
On Sunday I sent Jens an email telling him I was going to do this ride on Monday, our last day in Cedar City. I had thoroughly enjoyed riding Three Peaks the day before with Jens and his wife Catherine. I was pretty sure they had not ridden the Thunder Mountain Trail and I thought they would enjoy it. I had a bike rack for three, and the perfect shuttle person (Cindy). I was going … so they might as well come along.
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Jens responded right away. He said he would very much like to join us but Catherine had made other plans. I totally understood Catherine’s regrets, as I had given little lead time with my invitation.
Jens said he would meet us at 9:00 in the Super 8 parking lot (they gave us a Jacuzzi Suite for only $69.99 because we were staying there a whole week). He would bring his National Park pass in case we wanted to visit Bryce Canyon after the ride. Cindy and I had already been thinking of going to Bryce so that was perfect. I could hardly sleep that night … all keyed up in anticipation of a great day.
Jens was, of course, early. As I exited the hotel at 8:40 (to put a few things in the car) I found him already waiting in the parking lot. A few minutes later we had the car loaded, bikes on the rack, and were cruising southeast up Highway 14. We stayed on Highway 14 until we made a left onto Highway 89, which took us through the small town of Hatch to Highway 12.
Two miles on Highway 12 brought us to the base of some mountains where we knew the Thunder Mountain Trail ended.
After surveying the area we decided we would meet Cindy at the Red Canyon Visitor Center, a mile or so up the road from the Thunder Mountain Trail exit.
She was going to check out the Visitor Center and then take a hike that began (and ended) there.
We drove south on Highway 12 (a mile or two) and turned west when we saw the Thunder Mountain Trail sign.
A dirt road lead to the Coyote Hollow Trailhead, which was at 8,105 feet in elevation. The visitor center was at 6,842 feet, so we knew this was going to be an easy downhill run.
Cindy took pictures of us, and then we started down the trail. It felt good to be riding after driving in the car for over an hour.
We had barely gone 300 yards down the Thunder Mountain Trail before we came to a tree … blown down across our path. It seemed odd to see a downed tree in an area so dry.
Like riding on the fingers of a giant hand … palm down … fingers splayed … the trail would angle down the inside of one “finger”, flatten out where the fingers met (the web), and angle back up the inside of the next finger … toward the tip.
Once on top of the tip “nail”, the whole pattern would repeat … angling down that finger toward the “hand”, flattening and turning at the web, then climbing diagonally up the next finger toward the nail … etc. We must have done this 8 times. Jens was not happy as he had anticipated all downhill. He also suggested they make the turns (at the web) more rounded so we could get a run at the next finger.
The soil was pinkish-brown, dry, and dusty … and the trail was surrounded by a sprinkling of trees. Distant views were attractive, but the trail itself was not spectacular.
Less than a half mile down the Thunder Mountain Trail we came across a couple of bikers along with their dog, all three grinding up the trail. They stopped and so did we.
To find out more about these riders, click Thunder Mountain Trail (page 2))