On July 13, my buddies and I loaded up for a road trip to Brian Head Resort for the opening of their new mountain bike trail, "Color Flow" and the first annual Classic Rock 'N Ride Festival. Good times were had and trail was shredded, check out the video and full trip recap below!
Athletes: Adam Fehr, Justin Morgan, Melissa Warren, and Catherine Warchal
Camera and Edit: Tim Roberts
Music Licensed by The Music Bed: "Slow Down" by Jack Earls
We’re entering the dog days of summer. The last full week of July is historically the warmest week of Utah summers before temps mercifully begin cooling and we start the slow march towards winter. With another few months of heat ahead of us, it’s important to plan escapes to cooler climates. Luckily, the 11,000 foot peaks of the Wasatch Mountains offer a sanity-maintaining reprieve from the urban heat island surrounding Salt Lake City and the Wasatch Front. The local ski resorts thrive during the summer months for this reason as locals religiously look to the mountain towns and resorts for a break from the heat. This is my go-to as well, however I recently discovered a bold new strategy:
If you’re looking to escape from the dog days of summer, I have a counterintuitive suggestion for you: Head to Southern Utah.
Are you still there? Good. Now hear me out.
I recently had the opportunity to join some members of the Ski Utah family for a road trip to Brian Head Ski Resort, near the town of Cedar City in southern Utah. The resort organized their first annual Classic Rock ‘n Ride MTB Fest, a weekend-long mountain biking festival featuring lift-served biking, shuttle rides, bike demos, BBQ, beer, vendor villages, and live music. It sounded like the perfect excuse to road trip with friends, so I recruited Justin Morgan, Melissa Warren and Cat Warchal to join us.
This was my first time visiting Brian Head, and, honestly, I had no idea what to expect. I started packing my bags with desert clothes, recalling previous ill-advised July road trips to Moab or Zion. Luckily, a quick weather check showed high temps of 64 degrees, lows of 50, and a 60% chance of thunderstorms. In fact, flash floods had just closed the road between Parowan and Brian Head. Needless to say, I hastily repacked my bags.
Our Brian Head road trip left Salt Lake after work on Friday. Quick stops at the gas station/petting zoo in Scipio in 95-degree heat, food in Fillmore, and an easy 250 freeway miles later, we arrived at our accommodations for the weekend at the Cedar Breaks Lodge, sitting 9,600 feet above sea level. We hopped out of the car and were greeted with 50-degree temperatures and a slight drizzle, our first taste of non-summer in weeks, maybe months. We settled in our room, got our bikes set up for a day of riding, played some board games, enjoyed some cocktails, and proceeded to stay up a couple hours later than we should have.
Saturday morning kicked off with a pancake breakfast, pour-over coffee from the Backcountry.com tent and a quick trail map study session with our tour guide Trace Whitelaw. By 9 am, we were on our way up the Giant Steps Express to check out the newly redesigned Color Flow Trail The previous day’s rain made for a little mud and some greasy corners, but the trail was a blast. Plenty of flow, lots of speed, fun drops, smooth berms, and minimal pedaling. I don’t know what the old Color Trail rode like, but the new trail is a ton of fun. Lappable for riders of any ability level.
We moved up to the intermediate Timberline Trail, which quickly became my favorite trail at Brian Head. Technical sections up top, some fun bridges, and some manageable airs at the bottom, this trail is definitely more of an advanced-intermediate, a thought I had verbally confirmed by an intermediate-rider that took a spill trying to keep up with his advanced-rider buddies.
A quick lightning hold coincided with a much-needed lunch and beer break outside the Giant Steps Lodge and Last Chair Saloon. As a classic rock/reggae band cranked out the hits, we enjoyed some incredible pulled pork sandwiches, veggie burgers, and beers from local Utah breweries. Temperatures were perfect for an outdoor lunch and a little dancing, with periods of sun occasionally interrupted by clouds.
The lightning hold was lifted and we made our way back up the Giant Steps Express to take on Lil Gritty, an expert downhill trail that definitely tested our post-lunch-and-beers biking abilities. We all survived, but we were more than happy to go back to Color Flow and Timberline for the remainder of the day… which was abruptly cut short by an afternoon thunderstorm that closed the lifts, washed out the vendor village, and sent everyone scrambling for the nearest sheltered aprés-bike spot.
We wound up at a cozy a-frame across the street from the lifts, right in the middle of “town.” A few hours sharing road trip stories and aprés-bike beverages, we found ourselves at Pizano’s Pizzeria, celebrating a fun day with slices, salads, calzones, and a couple pitchers of beer. After dinner, we made our way back to Giant Steps Lodge for a rowdy classic rock themed party with fellow mountain bikers, Brian Head locals, California and Nevada tourists of all ages, and a rocking cover band from Vegas. After a full day on the hill, followed by aprés-biking and a dance party, we were all happy to be in bed by 11 pm.
The crew started off Sunday morning with some sightseeing at nearby Cedar Breaks Monument, followed by a trail drive up to 11,300ft Brian Head Peak. The scenery around Brian Head is absolutely breathtaking, classic southern Utah red rock, fins, and hoodoos straight out of posters of Zion, Canyonlands or Bryce National Parks.
After an incredible breakfast burrito from the local Thai food restaurant, we spent a few more hours riding bikes, lapping a much drier Color Flow Trail and revisiting some of our favorite features on Timberline Trail. Another afternoon lightning hold signaled our time to start the drive back to Salt Lake City. We said our goodbyes to the Brian Head staff, made plans to come back this winter or sooner, and hit the road. A quick pit stop at some hot springs and dinner in Fillmore perfectly split up the 250 freeway miles back to Salt Lake City and the near-triple digit temperatures. We were all exhausted, but exhilarated from making the most of every hour of the whirlwind weekend.
I just checked the Brian Head forecast again. Highs of 70-73-75-76-78 for the rest of the week. That’s 25 degrees cooler than highs in Salt Lake City during the hottest week of the year. So like I said, want a reprieve from the heat this weekend? Head to Brian Head in southern Utah. Ride some mountain bikes, go for a drive, or just hang out in the mountains for a couple of days. I promise you’ll come back worn out, yet rejuvenated, ready to take on the next few months leading up to ski season.