Thunder Mountain and the Virgin River Rim Trail

>words and photos by Sharon Bader and Lee Lau unless otherwise noted.


Gooseberry Mesa
Frog’s Hollow 25 Hour Race Course
Rainbow Rim Trail
Hike in the Grand Canyon
Thunder Mountain
Scenic Drive Through Utah – Zion – Bryce – Scenic Hwy 12
Virgin River Rim Trail
Rides in Grand Junction and Fruita
Flowing Park – Colorado

We have been to Bryce Canyon before. Pretty cool. The last time we were there we heard there was good riding near here, but the info was pretty sparse. This time there was actually a map you could get at the Red Canyon Visitor’s Center and the area is a lot better signed. We were finally able to hit up Thunder Mountain – A MUST DO RIDE before you die! This trail travels through the Claron formation, sedimentation from an ancient lake.

We opted to take the paved path along Hwy 12. Amazing that they would put in a bike path here! Really great. The climb up was nice, gradual and only took an hour.

Once at the top the first section of trail takes you through a series of gullies where you go down, then up repeat. Once through this series of gullies, its mostly downhill. The final section of trail is really fast! Then you’re back at the road!

Other trails across the road are also an option, but these trails are also used by ATV’s and horses so are quite a bit more sandy.

Martin Cuma’s Thunder Mountain Ride and other rides in the surrounding area – Losse and Casto Canyon – which he described as loose and wide due to the trail being shared with horses and ATV’s.

Climbing up the trail.

One of the last steep climbs.


Typical trail through the gullies.


The views were spectacular!

must be at elevation

Ancient gnarled pine tree!

Part way up was a ‘rest area’ with a bathroom! As this area is also used by horses this is probably a good stopping point for them.

our steeds.

The classic rock formation on Thunder Mountain.

Another cool pine tree with views!

Then the trail opens up along ridges and over valleys.

can you see lee?

Thunder Mountain, Red Canyon, Utah from Lee Lau on Vimeo.

Virgin River Rim Trail.

After we finished riding Thunder Mountain and playing tourist at Bryce Canyon we met up with Kevin Foote to do some more high riding near Brian Head. Navajo Lake actually and the Virgin River Rim Trail. This area is on one of the higher plateaus in the region. We were camped at Navajo Lake at 9100feet. The ride would take us up to 9700feet at the top of Navajo Peak. For us Canadian flat landers to be riding in the trees at this elevation is something!

Martin Cuma’s maps, pictures and tracks of the Virgin River Rim Trail – East from Navajo Lake as a loop, West Loop from Navajo Lake and Around Navajo Lake,

We booked a cabin at Navajo Lake since it got really cold at this elevation in the last week. In fact it snowed here the previous Wednesday. Unfortunately this cold snapped killed most of the Aspens so the leaves had all fallen off and we missed the fall Aspen colours.

Cozy cabin at Navajo Lake.

Sorry, had to give an update on how Lee’s leg was healing.

not so bad!

The Navajo Lake Lodge provides a great rustic experience for this part of the trip.

getting cold!

We drove up the Strawberry Point road and started the VRRT at this point. You can go further but since this section of trail is also popular with ATV’s we figured the trails wouldn’t be much better then if we started here. Plus the elevation is high for me so the ride we’re planning from here will be enough!

The mighty volvo!

This section of trail is also criss crossed with roads, but the trail is really well marked.

Kevin on the Edge!

Sections of the trail offer great views off Cedar Breaks – another part of the Claron formation prevalent in this area.

Is Lee giving me the death grip? Or am I cold?

Even Lula appreciates the views! She joins us at Cow Lake near Cascade Falls.

Don’t fetch Lula!

Past Cascade falls we are pretty much paralleling Navajo Lake. Other options in this area would be to create loops with the trails that connect the rim to Navajo Lake.

Lodge Trail! This one is ours!

Google Earth Image of our route. The big land area is ‘cow lake’ near Cascade Falls. Lots of people drove up to this point to take in the view and to hike to Cascade Falls. The Falls are created by water coming from Navajo Lake. The white in this image is the pink cliffs of the Claron formation.

Oooo, lots of climbing!

Google Map image of our track.

Maps from Utah Mountain

Our original plan was to start heading back to Vancouver after riding the VRRT. While staying with Kevin at Navajo Lake he talked us into spending another week in Grand Junction since JD, who we knew from Fruita who has since moved to California, was coming out the following weekend to ride! So after much deliberation, like 5 minutes, we decided it was a good idea to head to Grand Junction!

But first the drive.

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