Yeah, it’s July and it’s hot, but you can still enjoy an early-morning or breezy-evening bike ride on the Moab area’s newest trail: Nome. Best post-summer-solstice bet? Do a climb-and-cruise through Nome’s spectacular slickrock in the cool of sunrise.
Named after a small gold rush town in far western Alaska and part of the North Klondike Trails system, the Nome Trail rewards locals and visitors with the vistas and physical thrills you’d expect to find on the Salt Valley anticline just west of Arches National Park.
When the Trail Mix crews started following the trail scout’s flags to build the Nome Trail loop, the south-facing claret cup cacti were just starting to thrust their scarlet blooms into the spring air. Accessed at the Mega Steps Trailhead and a loop off of the Alaska Trail, the Nome Trail offers bumps and flows, racy straight-ons, and technical mini-jumps and angled grinds for experienced intermediate and expert riders. Trail designer and biking guide Brooks Carter says, “Whether you want a fun, short loop, or a few extra smiles just off of the Alaska Trail, head up Nome for some flowy singletrack and some fun, big rollin’ on the camel humps. And be sure to save the food in your pack for the spectacular, scenic lunch spots!”
To keep bikers on the dirt and slickrock and to protect cryptobiotic soils, trail crews define trail boundaries with rocks, dead juniper branches, and paint stripes: the Alaska Trail is Kelly green, the Nome a bright Bering Sea blue.
But Nome is more than just a trail name to me. In the mid-1990s, I lived in Nome, Alaska, with my family, homeschooling my sons while my husband managed an environmental cleanup. Just below the Arctic Circle, Nome hugs the southern coast of the Seward Peninsula (a peninsula the size of Pennsylvania) and sits on the gold-rich beach sands of the Bering Sea. A gold rush in 1899 put this tiny Inuit village on the map, and the Great Serum Run of 1925 put Nome into the history books.
Nome is not Moab’s Sister City (that honor goes to Rossland, British Columbia, the Mountain Bike Capital of Canada), but Nome has ravens as Moab has ravens. Nome has about 3,600 people; Moab has about 5,000 people. Both are remote small towns and both have obscure name origins: Moab is likely named for the Bible’s Kingdom of Moab, and Nome most likely began as a cartographer’s notation, “Cape name?” Both have been the settings for John Wayne movies, and both are famous for trails: Nome as the finish line for the Iditarod sled-dog race and Moab for world-class mountain-biking trails.
To get to the Nome Trail: Go north on Highway 191 from Moab about 20 miles (and 4.7 miles north of the airport), and turn west at the brown “North Klondike Trails” sign onto the Copper Ridge (“CR”) 4x4 Road (about mile 148 ½). Cross the railroad tracks, pass the Dinosaur Tracks road that turns off to the north, continue on the CR through the scrubby hills and occasional knot of cattle, pass the southside post-and-cable parking lot for the Agate and Jasper Trails, and stop at the parking lot for Mega Steps (about 2.3 miles from your 191 turn-off.) Bike up Mega Steps to the Alaska Trail, and then turn onto the second Nome Trail loop entrance. Trail experts Carter and Scott Escott recommend going clockwise on the Nome, and Geoff Freethey’s color-coded maps are posted at intersections along the way. The dirt singletrack portions of the trail will be a bit loose until we have a few rain-and-ride cycles, but after burn-in they should be cement hard. We’re also working on other trails in the area.
By the time we opened the Nome Trail in May, the claret cup blooms had withered into blood-red crepey fingers, but pinky barrel cactus blooms, lupines, buttery bottlebrush bee plants, and those Beehive State divas the sego lilies were bursting on the scene. Whether to view wildflowers or bike or hike our new trail, I extend a special invitation to the citizens of Nome and Rossland. Just remember to be safe, fill up those Camelbaks, and honor the altitude (about 5,000 feet) as you see for yourself that there’s no trail like Nome.
Kathy Grossman lived in Nome, Alaska, with her family 1994–1995, and her column, “At Home in Nome,” appeared in the weekly newspaper, The Nome Nugget. Kathy now writes, paints, and builds mountain bike trails in Moab. She is the Trail Mix Secretary and edits the “Trail Happenings” column.