2015 Summer Journal

Biking the Whole Enchilada Moab

The “Whole Enchilada” ride has been on the top of my mountain biking bucket list since visiting Moab for the first time in 2014. Over the last couple of years, I’ve talked to several experienced and well-traveled riders who speak of the WE as the holy grail of mountain bike rides. I wasn’t able to fit the ride in during our first few visits to Moab, because we were always there either too early or too late in the season. Moab is accessible to riding almost year round, but the La Sal mountains (where the trail begins) which rise up to over 12,700′ above sea level are blanketed in snow into summer and then again early in the fall.

 

The view from the climb above the Hazard County trailhead.

The view from the climb above the Hazard County trailhead.

This year we planned our trip into Moab in early October for the AXS 24 hour Moab finale. We were there for about a week before the race preparing for the event and a week or so after just to enjoy the perfect fall weather and get some more activity in. The first week we were in town began with some rough weather. It rained for several days and left the La Sals with enough snow that the shuttle companies stopped taking bikers all the way to the top of the ride. Fortunately for me, the weather warmed up again and the snow slowly disappeared over the next week. By mid-week after the AXS race, the shuttles were running again and the ride was open. I started to get some ideas about how I could make it all happen.

Alyssa had some mountain biking lessons scheduled for the upcoming weekend, and had already told me that she wasn’t interested in getting on the Enchilada this season. Luckily, I knew that I could almost certainly talk my friend Brooks into driving out from Boulder for a weekend of riding. To make matters more urgent, the forecast was calling for snow in the La Sals on Saturday and Sunday, so it looked like Friday might be the last day in the season to make the ride. On Thursday morning I explained our situation to Brooks and he was in Moab by that evening, ready for some of the best mountain biking that the West has to offer.

On Friday morning we woke up early to eat a solid breakfast and organize our gear before heading into town. With tires pumped, chains lubed, and snacks in our packs, Brooks and I loaded our bikes onto his rack and pulled away from our campsite. The plan was to meet the Coyote Shuttle at Chile Pepper Bikes at 8:00. The shuttle ($30/person, reserve the day before) would take us all the way up to Burro Pass, the proper beginning of the Whole Enchilada. We’d start our ride there and be able to take the trail all the way back down to town.

We arrived at the bike shop at around 8:05 to complete chaos. Several shuttle vans were parked in the lot with their drivers standing on the roof racks shouting out names and loading bikes up. Brooks and I scrambled to pull all of our stuff together and hurried over to the shuttle, waiting for my name to be called so we could get loaded up. After a couple of minutes, my name still hadn’t been called so I spoke up. They didn’t have me on the list and this was going to be a full shuttle. No! Fortunately, the driver called back to the office and sorted everything out with the staff there. They found my reservation and we got loaded onto the bus. Minutes later, the van was ready to go and we were headed off towards Burro Pass.

Brooks and I at the Burro Pass trailhead ready for an epic ride!

Brooks and I at the Burro Pass trailhead ready for an epic ride!

After an hour drive and a significant amount of elevation gain, the van pulled into the Burro Pass trailhead. The driver pulled our bikes off, we gave him money for the ride (plus a little tip), snapped a quick photo, and were on our way. The ride starts at about 10,300′ and continues on rolling terrain for about a mile before pitching up and climbing to the real pass at 11,200′. Because several shuttle companies, each with several vans, all dropped off riders at about the same time, the trail was pretty crowded for the first part of the ride. As expected, everyone started to spread out quickly, especially with the big climb early on. By the time we were up and over the pass Brooks and I were pretty much on our own.

Brooks enjoying some great riding on the descent off of Burro Pass.

Brooks enjoying some great riding on the descent off of Burro Pass.

In stark contrast to the sandstone and dust of Moab, we were immediately plunged into a steep alpine descent, complete with rocks, roots, and creek crossings. It felt like we were right back in Colorado as we descended through pine forest past some lingering snow and into huge a aspen grove. After a quick climb into the aspens, we pulled off to the side and refueled with some Enduro Bites – an tasty snack, especially when you’re getting sick of bars!

Back on the trail again, we finished our climb into the aspen grove and started another incredible flowy descent down to the Hazard County trailhead. Once Burro Pass is snowed in for the season, this becomes the shuttle dropoff for the Whole Enchilada. With ~6 miles and ~2,000′ of alpine descending already under our belts we were pretty stoked to have had the opportunity to ride from the top.

Brooks crushing the climb up from the Hazard County trailhead.

Brooks crushing the climb up from the Hazard County trailhead.

From Hazard County we climbed through some drier, scrubby brush while enjoying some excellent views of the peaks we had just descended from. As I was taking a few photos, a solo rider pulled up behind us. Brooks, always the one to make friends, started chatting up the guy (Dan from Salt Lake City) who decided to ride along with us for a bit. We hit the trail together, finished the climb we were on, and started another descent. This time, we weren’t losing too much elevation, but were able to keep good speed through banked turns and flowy straights.

This section of the trail brought us down to the top of the Porcupine Rim. Just like that, we were back in the typical Moab environment. After a couple of miles descending on a dirt road, we popped out along the rim and had another snack while enjoying a pretty epic view of the Castle Valley. We worked our way through the fun rolling slickrock of the UPS and LPS trails, finding some challenging technical sections and good drops that kept us grinning the whole way down.

The amazing view over the expansive Castle Valley. Check out those towers!

The amazing view over the expansive Castle Valley. Check out those towers!

At the bottom of LPS, the true Porcupine Rim trail starts. I had heard that this was a great section of singletrack, but wasn’t fully prepared for just how awesome the riding would be. UPS and LPS are fun trails, with some real challenges and decent flow. When we hopped onto the Porcupine Rim trail, it was time for speed, flow, air, and lots of techy rocks. We continued along the rim for quite some time enjoying the speed and finding lines through some of the technical steeps. Brooks and I really appreciated our tubeless setups, especially after Dan got his second pinch flat with miles still to go.

Taking a moment to enjoy one of the MANY ledges on the Porcupine Rim.

Taking a moment to enjoy one of the MANY ledges on the Porcupine Rim.

Another Porcupine Rim ledge!

Another Porcupine Rim ledge!

As we got down closer to Negro Bill Canyon and the end of the singletrack, the trail became steeper and we rolled into some even more incredible technical sections. We cruised through the last of the technical riding hooping and hollering the entire way, but slightly relieved that it was all over. 27 miles of hard singletrack had left all of our hands pretty raw from holding onto the bars.

Back at the trailhead, we hopped on the paved bike path and cruised for the last 8 miles back into town. Brooks and I said goodbye to our new friend Dan before beelining it to the Moab Brewery for a well deserved beer.

Overall, I’d have to say that the Whole Enchilada is the best ride I have ever been on. In a single ride, you can experience the full spectrum of top notch alpine riding all the way to the best desert singletrack there is. Best of all, you do about 8,000′ of descending in 26 miles. Not bad! My favorite section was, by far, the Porcupine Rim. Even if I don’t have the opportunity to do the Whole Enchilada, I’ll definitely be getting back on the PR next time I’m in town.

The Strava profile of the ride. Not bad!

The Strava profile of the ride. Not bad!

 

GEAR FEATURED IN THIS POST:

Yeti Cycles SB5 Carbon X01

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Bell Super 2R MIPS Helmet

Two helmets in one with MIPS technology for the best protection you can get.

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Patagonia Fore Runner Vest 10L

This pack has quickly become our go-to daypack for all summer activities.

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  • Dale Borgeson

    Great photos Will, thanks for the post.