Get Rolling: Beginning Mountain Biking in Utah

By Local Lexi Jul 11, 2019
New to mountain biking? Consider some tips and tricks and then hit the dirt with these great trails in Utah for mountain bike beginners.
Get Rolling: Beginning Mountain Biking in Utah

Mountain biking is certainly one of the more intimidating alpine sports for the uninitiated to consider adopting. However, once the snow melts, mountain biking is a fantastic way to remain fit, enjoy the mountains, and even improve your split-second decision making with line choice, which can translate to better skiing and snowboarding. Grab a bike and begin your next love affair with these helpful tips for beginners. The dirt in Utah is fine and with countless trails to explore, you won't be so upset when the snow melts each spring. Scroll to the bottom to find a few trail recommendations for novice riders in Utah.

Get Fit - For a Helmet

Don't even think about heading out for a mountain bike ride without a properly fitting helmet. This is especially important for kids and you should never consider using a helmet that isn't rated or certified for biking. While many helmet styles are available, it's best to opt for a model specific to mountain biking that features ventilation, rear coverage and a secure fit. Many downhill mountain bikers opt for a full-face helmet that also protects the face and jaw.

When trying on a helmet, the fit should be snug. If you suddenly jerk or tilt your head, the helmet should remain on your skull while unbuckled. Ensure that the helmet is sitting level on your head with the front less than one inch above your brow line. Gently push the helmet from the sides as well as the front and back, if the helmet can easily be shifted, it's likely too big. We at Ski Utah love the styles and fit from Smith. They make some mighty fine sport shades as well, which stay in place with no slippage as you descend the trails. 

Know the Code

Just like skiing and snowboarding, there are a few general rules of trail etiquette that every biker should memorize and observe to keep the trails a nice and pleasant place to play. As recommended by IMBA (The International Mountain Biking Association), please observe the following guidelines. For more info, click here.

Respect the Landscape
Practice Leave No Trace principles and minimize your impact when visiting the trails. Pack out your trash, carpool, leave the music and headphones at home, and most importantly don't ride when the trails are wet or muddy. Riding muddy trails causes rutting, it widens the trail, and creates maintenance headaches. If you encounter standing water, slowly ride through it, not around it and ride or walk technical features, not around them.

Share the Trail
Many trails are multi-use so a standard procedure for yielding has been adopted: mountain bikers are responsible for yielding to both horses and foot traffic. Descending riders should always yield to climbing riders to help them preserve their upward momentum. As a golden rule, just be nice and say hi! When passing an individual or group on the trail, it is polite to let them know how many additional riders are behind you. 

Ride in Control
Because you may encounter riders, horses, or hikers on the trail at any point, it is imperative to remain in control to avoid injury and accidents. Even better, equip your bike with a bell and give it a ding anytime you approach corners or would like to signal a slower rider that you're interested in passing whenever it's convenient for them to pull over. Please leave the headphones and music at home as they drastically impact your awareness and can be a detriment for others who are trying to enjoy nature sounds. 

Respect the Animals
Give animals, especially moose, a wide berth. Respect your distance and if necessary, wait until the trail is clear to proceed. If you're bringing Fido along, be sure to check leash laws prior to riding. Ensure your dog is obedient enough to avoid harming or bothering you, your group, wildlife, and other trail users. And please pick up your dog's poop. There's nothing quite so gross and riding near, by, or accidentally atop an abandoned poop bag! 

Pack for Success

There are a few critical items you'll need to bring along to make the most of your ride. You'll find countless styles of packs available and many are specifically designed for biking. We recommend a pack with ventilation channels on the back panel, an integrated hydration bladder, and lots of pockets. Here are a few essentials for your pack:

  • Spare tube, tire lever, multitool, zip ties, patch kit and a portable bike pump
    These tools will come in handy for any repairs and the inevitable flat tire.
  • Snacks and water (duh)
    Don't skimp on plenty of fuel; hanger or bonking can ruin a ride faster than anything. Ditto on the water.
  • Lightweight and packable rain layer or windbreaker
    The weather shifts QUICKLY in Utah's mountainous terrain. Don't get caught unprepared. 
  • Spare chain link 
    Hopefully you'll never have to use this, but you'll be mighty glad to have one if your chain should break. 
  • Emergency contact details
    Add this info to a card and stash in your pack in case of emergency.  
  • First aid kit
    No need to go overboard, a small, simple and lightweight kit with an emergency blanket is never a bad idea. We like the kits from Uncharted Supply Co.. They make everything from survival bags to small first aid kits. 

Start Slow - Then Take it Up a Notch

Know that trail rating systems for one network of trails can wildly differ from another trail network. The variation between trail ratings often catches new riders off guard. To avoid bad times, always start on the easiest rated trail to get the feel for a new zone. You can always level up to a more difficult trail once you can confidently navigate the easier terrain.


Consider investing in a chamois right away. This accessory will make mountain biking infinitely more comfortable. A chamois is a moisture-wicking, padded pair of shorts meant to keep your sensitive bits comfortable, prevent chafing, and pad your sit bones. Avoid the classic beginner's mistake of wearing underwear underneath your chamois. In order to perform properly, your chamois should serve as your next-to-skin layer, topped by a pair of mountain biking shorts. 

Stay Loose

The fear of falling while mountain biking is a common emotion. You're not alone. Stay loose, stay relaxed, and avoid tensing up your muscles. Injury is far more likely to occur if you are tensed up and flexing your muscles. If something looks scary, walk it out, there's no pressure! Take a look at the feature, size it up and feel no guilt if you need to skip it. By taking a good look, you'll be more prepared to conquer that feature on your next ride.

Book A Clinic

Many of the technical skills that a mountain biker must acquire are not all that intuitive. A series of lessons or a clinic can massively fast track the confidence of newer riders. You'll find lessons and clinics offered at Deer Valley, Brian Head, and Sundance.

Recommended Beginner Trails

  • RTS Loop, Utah Olympic Park
    The RTS Loop just north of the Utah Olympic Park is perfect for first-time mountain bikers. The trail is easy, short, and will provide a great first ride for someone unfamiliar with mountain biking. The loop is approximately 2.5 miles in length and will wind through scenic aspen groves and wildflowers, only gaining about 200 feet in elevation. The trail can be ridden in either direction and will provide a good intro to the fun sensations of mountain biking with a smooth and wide dirt trail and generously curving corners.

  • Round Valley, Park City
    The Round Valley trail network near Park City features a ton of green and blue rated trails that are ideal for beginning riders. Expect fun flowy trails, gentle undulating hills, and a wide variety of options. It is possible to link singletrack trails with a few doubletrack options to keep things mellow while adding milage. There is also a new beginner downhill trail at Round Valley called Downward Dog, this flow trail is very fun and approachable for newer riders looking to gain experience and confidence to navigate bigger features and more difficult trails. Catch the PorcUclumb trail, an uphill only trail, to reach Downward Dog.

  • Cotton Tail Loop, Dutch Hollow Trail Network, Midway
    Near Midway, Utah lies the popular Dutch Hollow trail network. With this trail system, you can link up various trails and create an endless combination of options. Note that you will need to pay a fee as Dutch Hollow lies within the Wasatch Mountain State Park, so bring some cash. The easiest trail at Dutch Hollow is the Cottontail Loop, which can be ridden in either direction.

  • Additional beginner terrain can be found on Park City's Mid Mountain Trail, the Road to WOS loop and Bob's Basin.

Thanks for tagging along. You might find Park City's Top Trails and Getting Your Family Bike Ready helpful too. And, for other mountain biking content, visit our dedicated MTB page.