Flying Monkey Trail
Recommended Users: Mountain Bikers, Hikers
Length: 1.6 miles
Management Area: Smith Mesa
Managing Agency: BLM
Access: From St. George, Utah, travel north on I-15 and take Exit 16 (Hurricane). Continue to State Route (SR) 9 and travel east for approximately 17.3 miles through Hurricane and La Verkin. Turn left on Mesa Road (1250 West) in Virgin, and follow this paved, narrow, winding road up the hill for about 3.3 miles. At the top of the mesa, you will that the road forks in three different directions: towards the left, straight ahead and to the right. Here, follow the main, wide dirt road that curves to the right (east) and follow it for approximately 0.3 miles to a prominent dirt road on the right (east).
Turn right onto this road. Consider parking your vehicle and hiking or biking from this point on, as the dirt road narrows and begins to cover more difficult terrain. Continue on this southeast route until you are eventually heading east, following the southern rim of Smith Mesa. Approximately 1.1 miles after the turn off from the main dirt road, you will encounter rock cairns marking the beginning of the Flying Monkey Trail on your right along the rim.
UTM: 306033E 4123804N
Degree, Minute, Second: Latitude: 37° 14' 26.082" N Longitude: 113° 11' 12.326" W
Description: From the trailhead, the trail immediately drops down a steep, rugged slope and careens toward the cliff edge on your right. Follow the narrow, winding track southeast as it traverses the crumbling layers of sandstone, siltstone, and mudstone below the mesa rim.
Expect a steep, rocky descent along the entire trail, with sharp turns, sudden drop-offs and precipitous exposure. Keep in mind that entire sections of the trail may be washed out in places due to its location on a steep, eroded slope. The trail becomes braided in several sections, allowing users to choose one of several interconnected paths on their descent.
If you have time to look up, you’ll be rewarded with dramatic vistas of colorful badlands in the foreground, Gooseberry Mesa to the south, the craggy peaks of Canaan Mountain Wilderness to the southeast, and the majestic West Temple of Zion National Park to the east.
While keeping your eyes on the trail, you will experience a speedyride-through tour of local geology. The trail begins in the Chinle Formation of the Upper Triassic Age atop the mesa; then, descends quickly through the Moenkopi layer of the Lower Triassic, a blur of red sandstone under your tires. Soon after, you are plummeting through talus from the Holocene to upper Pleistocene Age before revisiting the Moenkopi Formation near the bottom of the escarpment.
Once the trail drops to rolling lowlands and levels out, find your way back to SR 9 near Virgin by following the well-traveled dirt road south.
Note: This trail should only be considered by expert mountain bikers. Throughout its length, it features narrow tread width, widely variable and unpredictable tread surfaces, 20% or more average trail grade, jumps, unavoidable obstacles, loose rocks and extreme exposure. There are no convenient places to stop or turn around and the cost of a mistake in many places could result in serious injury or death. Use extreme caution, always wear a helmet, and ride at your own risk.