For most of the cyclist that ride the Whole Enchilada Trail, especially the those that go in the spring, start from the La Loop Road. This cuts out the upper alpine sections that are covered in snow. Even though you have lost a few miles it will still be an epic ride.
Most riders opt to go straight to the Porcupine Rim area but I always detour and take in the more cross country Jimmy Keen Trail through the shrub oaks. This trail will add about 5 miles to the overall distance.
This is my favorite section of the entire Whole Enchilada trail. I just love the way the sandstone blends with the last few large pine trees before the junipers take over completely. This area is one of the first sections of single track off of the gravel road and is known as UPS. On a clear day the views of Castle Valley are outstanding. On this day the views were diminished due to wildfires burning near Salt Lake City.
I took this picture the first time I road this trail. The views along Porcupine Rim into Castle Valley are out of this world. Every time I see the Priest and Nuns and Castle Rock I think about the Road Runner and Wile E Coyote chasing each other around. Through the single track gets close to the edge you never really get close enough to worry about falling off.
For your first time on this trail, I would recommend riding with an experienced group if you can find one. Since the trail is so popular you are bound to find a group to fall in with. There are lots of drop offs and you can't really see what is at the bottom of the ledges. This forces you to stop riding and look to make sure there are not rocks that will crash you just out of sight. All of this stopping kills your momentum. However, if you are following someone's line that knows the trail you can just let go at every ledge and jump off. This make the trail the ultimate ride vs a ride seems like it will never end.
This is the most difficult portion of the trail and is known as The Notch and unless you are an expert just plan to get your butt dirty as you slide down on your bottom. You will need a friend to hand your bike to.
I have seen people ride this spot completely but it requires you to make a complete stop and turn your bike 180 degrees, I was very impressed to say the least. As always things never seem as steep in photos as they are in reality.
The lower portions of the Whole Enchilada trail will alternate between single track and an old Jeep road. The jeep road is actually really cool because of all of the jumps it contains. However, I just love the beauty of a single track trail cutting across the landscape. This photo is near the bottom of the trail, you will be able to see the Colorado River just around the corner and may even encounter a few hikers coming up. By this point your confidence may be building but don't get carried away, there's still at least two obstacles that can reach out and bite you.
Eventually the trail will end with a pass under UT 128 in a large culvert. From here it is still several miles back to town. You will be on a paved path most of the way back that follows the Colorado River and is neat enough in it's own right. The closer you get to Moab the more bike traffic you will encounter, take your time and watch out for small kids on bikes. If you have a sharp eye you can spot a natural spring to refill you bottles just before Lion's Head Park.
The starting point for this trail is weather dependent. The earlier in the season the lower you will have to start. This is not open to interpretation but is published by the National Forest Service. The best way to know is to call a local bike shop in Moab, they will be more than happy to assist you. For the sake of this article, the Lower Whole Enchilada is from La Sal Mountain Loop Road back to Moab via the Colorado River Trail.
If you are considering a Moab bike adventure we would recommend checking out the town homes at Moab Adventure Condo. We stayed with them and it was so nice to have room to relax and not be stuck in a cramped hotel room. They also had large double garages so we could securely store our bikes at night out of our bedroom. Most of their condos have bike repair stands and tools to keep your bike in working order while on your trip.