Handle bars of a mountain biking looking over the whole enchilada trail

The complete trail guide to Moab's The Whole Enchilada

Overview

Moab’s The Whole Enchilada could be the most classic technical mountain bike ride in the country. No matter how you slice it, The Whole Enchilada is a big, spicy, undertaking and it never gets old. It’s a trail we’ve ridden dozens of times and never questioned returning to. There’s always another feature to clean, time to beat, and friend group to ride it with.

It’s not called the Whole Enchilada for nothing. This thing is big and it’s nasty (in a cool way). While plenty of beginner riders give it a shot and hope for the best, it’s better suited to intermediate to advanced mountain bike riders with capable mountain bikes. Yes, we used to ride it in the 90’s with fully rigid bikes and toe clips. But a better, more modern bike will make the experience a lot more fun. 

Best Times To Go

The best time to ride the Whole Enchilada is between September to the middle of October. The scorching heat of summer has slackened and the winter snow has yet to close the upper sections of the trail. While Moab might be in the low desert, the Whole Enchilada tops out at over eleven thousand feet in elevation. It’s not uncommon for an October winter storm to close Hazard country and Burro pass for the remainder of the season. The shuttle companies will continue running into late November, but will drop you at one of the lower trailheads (Kokopelli, UPS, or LPS). 

Spring can also be a great time to ride the Whole Enchilada. Shuttle companies start running in March each year even though the top of the trail, Burro Pass, is closed until July 1st. That means you’ll get dropped off at the lower trailhead. Don’t take the lower trailhead lightly – you’ve still got a big day ahead of you. The Kokopelli trailhead to Moab town proper is 23 miles and drops 5,000 feet through chunky, rocky, technical terrain.

Could you ride the Whole Enchilada in the middle of summer? Yes, but don’t. It’s just too dang hot. Temperatures jump over the 100 degree mark regularly, and there aren’t water refills along the route. If you’re determined to ride that sweet Moab Sandstone during the summer months, try checking out some of the other local, less committing trails. Captain Ahab is another one of our favorite moab mountain bike trails that’s techy, challenging, and just plain fun. Just get an early start.

What to Bring

The Whole Enchilada is not the trail to skimp on gear. This ride covers the full spectrum of trail conditions from high alpine riding to scorching desert slick rock. An average rider can expect to complete the trail in 5 to 6 hours. But as we’ve learned over and over, be prepared for 8 hours.

1. Appropriate clothing:

Two men wearing the bolo bike shirts

Burro Pass tops out at over 11k feet, and mornings can be frigid. But you’ll be sweating by the time you hit the kokopelli trailhead. Bring both a light jacket and a versatile base layer. We recommend the Badland Breeze Ride Shirt – the recycled polyester wicks moisture and the mesh side panels breathe in a big way. Plus you’ll look good when you hit Milts for a well deserved post ride burger (more on that below).

Shop the shirt

2. Spare tube and bike repair kit:

The Whole Enchilada is a rough trail. You or someone you’re with will get a flat. Don’t get caught without either a spare tube or patch kit. Actually, bring both. And tire plugs if you’re running a tubeless setup. It’s a long walk back to town.

3. Offline map

Cell service on the trail is spotty at best. If it’s your first time riding the trail, bring an offline copy of the trail map. We’ve created a free caltopo map for you to download and bring with you. You can use either the caltopo app on your phone or avenza. We’ve also added lots of hard-earned notes and tips to make your day a breeze. 

4. Cell phone or inReach

The Whole Enchilada is a gnarly trail and crashes happen. We’ve all donated skin to that trail more than once. If one of your crew goes down and can’t walk out, be sure you have some way to get in touch with 911. We bring an inReach mini with us on all of our adventures, but a cell phone can work in a pinch.

5. Lots of water! Like more than you think

This is the desert, it’s hot and there is no water available on the trail. Bring enough water for 5 - 6 hours, think 2 - 3 liters. We’ve learned the hard way that one bottle is not enough.

The Ride  

 

Burro Pass/ Hazard Country

 10 Miles, +1200’, - 3400’

Burro pass is where your day on the Whole Enchilada begins during the summer and fall. Commercial shuttles drop riders off at the Geyser pass trailhead. From here, head to the north of the parking lot between the toilets and the trail sign to join the “Geyser to Burro” trail. This is a relatively mellow trail with a few rocks and tree roots. It eventually connects to the Burro pass trail where the real work begins. 

While the Whole Enchilada is famous for being a downhill trail, Burro pass contains a short, but difficult climb. From the intersection of “Geyser to Burro” to the top of Burro pass is about 800 feet and 1.2 miles. You’ve got a long day ahead. There’s no shame in pushing your bike, even before the trail hits 20% grade. Burro pass is your first big milestone of the day. There aren’t any major climbs from here, only small hills and plenty of descending.

The top of Burro pass is where the real fun begins.The descent from the saddle is a series of tight switchbacks with loose rocks and roots. After a couple of miles the trail levels out and winds through a series of meadows and alpine forest. Keep an eye out for the start of the Hazard country trail. The trail is marked with a “WE” to denote the Whole Enchilada.

At hazard country, the Whole Enchilada trail transitions from high alpine riding to the desert slick rock you would expect to find in Moab. This section also has a series of gap jumps that will appeal to the downhill riders in your group. All the features are optional (there are easier go-around lines). It’s worth scouting the jumps before hitting them. Some of the gaps are big (6 - 8 feet). Hazard country eventually spits you out at the top of the Kokopelli trailhead.

Kokopelli trail 

1.8 miles, +64',  -607'

The Kokopelli section of the Whole Enchilada is a quick two miles. This section is a fast double track with loose rocks and dirt. Most riders will bomb through this section without much trouble. During peak season, this trail can get busy, so keep an eye out for other riders on the trail. During the spring and late fall, when Burro pass is closed, this will be one of the potential drop off points for shuttles.  

Riders who prefer single track can also choose to take Jimmy Keen instead of Kokopelli. It’s a beginner/Intermediate singletrack that winds for about 7 miles before meeting back up with the Whole Enchilada. This route adds about five miles to your day and requires more pedaling. Both routes will land riders at the start of the UPS.

UPS/ LPS

4.13 miles, +86’, -1055’

View of the castle valley from the whole enchilada

UPS is where the Whole Enchilada gets good. The trail quickly climbs up to the canyon rim, where riders are treated to the spectacular views of the Castle Valley. This is a good point to stop and grab some photos with your crew. The rim drops 1500 feet to the valley floor and makes for a great backdrop to nearly any photo. It’s a great break spot to rest the hands.

UPS is also where the famous Moab slick rock is exposed. The features in this section come in all sizes, from small punchy rock gardens to four foot drops. A word of caution. If it’s your first time riding this trail or you haven’t ridden it in a while, take a moment to scout the features before sending them. Many of the slick rock formations end in smooth ramps, some end with sheer drops. This is not the trail to huck blindly. It's a long walk out if you crash.

UPS is a short trail segment and you’ll flow into LPS without noticing. The Lower porcupine single track looks like the upper section, just bigger. Features become longer and drops get bigger and more consequential. This is also home to the Whole Enchilada’s most notorious feature, the Snotch!

How to ride the Snotch like a pro

The infamous S-Notch (“Snotch”) is the most technical feature on the entire Enchilada, and you’ll know it when you see it. It’s a double black diamond. Most of the time, you’ll find the vast majority or riders carefully walking their bikes down the two big, tight rocky switchbacks. 

To ace it, you’ll need to walk it first and scope your line. There aren’t many riders in the world that could ride it cleanly blind. 

The trick is to carry speed throughout the first right hand turn and through the straight techy section immediately afterward to the beginning of the second turn. Once you get to the top of the second turn, you’ll need to creatively pivot-hop or nose-pivot to get pointed toward the exit ramp. It takes immaculate balance and control. Practice pivot hopping in a circle and trackstanding before your first attempt. 

From there, let off the brakes and let your wheels roll over the ramp and upcoming rocks. Keep your eyes up and on the exit. 

Some riders find success in breaking the Snotch into two sections. Once they have each piece dialed, they’ll connect it all into one section.

"There are two cruxes – carrying enough speed after the first corner and then setting up your drop in position on the second without putting a foot down. If you can dial in your balance and the pivot move, you've got this" said Bergen after cleaning it for the second time.  

Porcupine Rim

11.26 miles, +221',  -3042' 

Porcupine Rim is the very last section of the Whole Enchilada and in our opinion, the most fun. The top of Porcupine Rim is also your last chance to bail to Sand Flats road. Once you drop in, you’re committed until you hit the Colorado river and the Grandstaff Canyon Trailhead. 

Porcupine Rim is both the most fun and the most technical section of the trail. There are slow speed drops, technical, punchy rock features, challenging corners, and some exposure. Many of the features have easier options, but not all of them. There also continue to be amazing views all the way to the valley floor. 

You’ll be tired by this point no matter how fit you are. Take it easy. 

Once you hit the valley floor, a short tunnel takes you under the road and to the Grandstaff Campground and Porcupine Rim Trailhead River Parking Lot on the other side next to the Colorado River. From here, a bike path along the river takes you all the way back to town. Ride through town and end at Milt’s. 

Milt’s Stop And Eat

Guest essay by Quincy Snowdon

In Moab, all roads lead to Milt’s Stop And Eat. 

Whether by land (see: The Whole Enchilada) by sea (see: the mighty Colorado River, or, well, close enough) or by air (see: Steph Davis’ Instagram) a rollicking day of desert-based romping in San Juan County isn’t complete without pasting one’s dusty paws of the matted astroturf of the area’s most venerated cathedral of calories. 

A fixture since 1954, Milt’s is where all manner of locals and vacationers suck down Dixie cups of fancy sauce and vociferously regale one another on the day’s warm(ish) weather exploits. There may be a whisper of mud clanging in the Fisher Towers. That could be followed, in certain months, with murmurs from goggle-tanned ruffians returning from earning turns in the La Sals. And, of course, that could be, and often is, summarily followed by hair-raising tales of an interloper whose four-wheeled “brap” machine made that one turn on just that one tire for a few seconds longer than anticipated.

The place oozes a nostalgia that is hard to come by in this year of our lord: swiveling stools at a lunch counter surrounded by that sweet, sweet sizzle of high-grade beef on a stove top that looks like it has — and just may have been granted — a key to the city. That it’s flanked by walls of wingate and serves as the ideal terminus for trails like Slick Rock and The Whole Enchilada has solidified Milt’s as the modern town square — or Newspaper Rock, for those of a certain disposition — where legends are aggrandized and cotton-mouthed maws are sated. 

And the shakes. Heavens to Murgatroyd, the shakes. With gobs of flavors to mix and match as the sun finally retreats behind the horizon, those frozen buggers have been used as prize, reward and consolation for umpteen dust-drenched hooligans going on three quarters of a century. 

Something is always likely to be sore, blistered or bruised as you step under those neon lights, whether it be from swimming up splitters, pedaling past precipices or simply slamming down the accelerator on your Cruise America child-hauler. For those lucky enough to stop through Abbey's old haunts, Milt's is there, offering a respite of salty salvation. With tots. Always order tots. 

Shuttle Companies

Here are a few bike shuttle companies we recommend: