Now celebrated on its own weekend, the True Grit Gravel Epic has become a highlight for cyclists aiming to conquer the wild backcountry of Southern Utah and a beacon for gravel enthusiasts looking for a challenge that will push their limits. Our team considers it to be one of the Best Gravel Cycling Events in the Southwest and Utah.
Produced by GRO Races, a producer many best in class events, the True Grit Gravel Epic, with under 200 participants, gives racers embark on an exhilarating journey through the desert landscapes of Colorado Plateau, the Mojave Desert, and the Great Basin. The event, sprawling across two weekends and including the sister mountain bike event True Grit Epic MTB taking place the weekend prior, beckons riders worldwide to challenge themselves amid the beauty of the Southwest.
Event & Course Info
The event offers a long, grueling ride through rugged and stunning desert landscapes, covering 84 miles and surpassing two mountain passes. Cyclists can choose to tackle this event as a standalone challenge or as part of the broader Extreme Grit Stage Race (gravel and mountain) event.
The "Tough Stuff" course ensures 80% of your journey is off-road, combining for a total of 84 miles and an awe-inspiring nearly 7,000 ft of climbing. The course design and terrain truly embody the spirit of the True Grit title, promising a day filled with pure gravel bliss. The True Grit Gravel Epic starts at the Santa Clara town hall, easing riders into the challenge with a 7-mile escorted neutral start through St George, eventually leading to the start of the dirt on Navajo Dr. As riders proceed west on Curly Hollow Road and take the left fork at Bloomington Cave Junction, they are met with challenging steep pitch climbs, culminating at Hard Rootbeer Hill at mile 21.
The course then intertwines with Joshua Tree Road/BullDog Pass road, offering a few more steep climbs before a rewarding descent through the Beaver Dam NCA to the Joshua Tree Basin. The breathtaking scenery through this remote area of the high desert is sure to captivate, but riders must stay focused and maintain a firm grip on their handlebars.
At mile 32, the course reaches SR Old Hwy 91, allowing riders to catch their breath and spin up the tarmac to Lytle Ranch Road at mile 35 for the second feed zone. The course continues to challenge riders with a series of rollers known as the "Rollers of Doom" and sandy sections, leading up to the intersection with Motaqua Road at mile 52.
Riders must stay vigilant, as taking a wrong turn at this point could lead them towards Nevada. At mile 59, the course heads east, offering a fun and fast 10-mile descent. The final stretch includes a ride through the Santa Clara River Corridor, with the last feed stop before pushing on the pavement to the finish line in Santa Clara.
The event features five feed zones, each manned by enthusiastic volunteers and offering a variety of treats to fuel riders through the race. Additionally, there are mechanical and sag support available, ensuring that every participant has the support they need to complete the challenge.
The True Grit Gravel Epic has set three crucial cut-off times at Feed Zone 1 (12:15 PM), Feed Zone 2 (2:15 PM), and the finish line (6:00 PM). Riders must finish by 6:00 PM, with sunrise at 6:32 AM and sunset at 6:55 PM, ensuring a full day of adrenaline-fueled adventure.
For those seeking a slightly shorter challenge, the "Sweet Stuff" 64 course offers a modified version of the True Grit Gravel Epic with 5,300 ft of climbing. This route skips the journey to Curly Hollow and instead takes riders on a climb up Utah Hill to Feed 2, before rejoining the main course. There is an open start window for Sweet Stuff Riders, with timing focused on Segment 2, allowing for a more flexible and personalized race experience. Be sure to check out the official 2023 Rider's Bible for all of the details.
Extreme Grit Stage Race: For all of you fit and crazy people looking to make your suffering dreams come true...Stage 1 = the TG 50 Marathon Epic course, Stage 2: Self-Supported Ride the day before the Gravel event course TBC, Stage 3 = True Grit Gravel Epic Tough Stuff course.
Upon completing the True Grit Gravel Epic, every rider earns a finisher prize, a tangible reminder of their accomplishment and the epic journey they undertook. The event also features raffles with four prize baskets full of goodies from sponsors, ensuring that the celebratory spirit continues even after the race is over. Participants receive three raffle tickets at packet pick-up, adding an extra layer of excitement to the post-race festivities.
The Grit Expo weekend is an excellent multi-weekend jamboree bringing the Gravel and Mountain Bike communities together for their tough races and a world-leading stage race combining the two disciplines in fashion. With top logistics, food trucks, drinking options, a fair-style expo, and riding your bike, the True Grit Epic is one of the best mountain bike festivals in the world.
Whether you are an experienced gravel grinder or looking to challenge yourself like never before, the True Grit Gravel Epic in Santa Clara, UT, stands as a must-experience event on the cycling calendar. With its stunning desert landscapes, challenging terrain, and vibrant cycling community, this event promises a gravel grinding adventure like no other. Prepare to push your limits, embrace the rugged beauty of Southern Utah, and earn your stripes at the True Grit Gravel Epic.
Area Accommodations & Things to Do
The True Grit Epic MTB is held in Santa Clara which is near St. George, UT. The area often referred to as Greater Zion, is situated just beyond the reach of regular snowfalls, resulting in a temperate climate and an extended growing season. Uniquely positioned at the convergence of the Mojave Desert, the Great Basin, and the Colorado Plateau, this area boasts a unique blend of flora and fauna not found anywhere else in the world. The landscape is a captivating mix of sandstone formations, rock outcroppings, uplifted terrains, and remnants of ancient volcanoes, all carved by the meandering Virgin River. St. George, the heart of this region, is a bustling town of 80,000 residents, bordered by expansive public lands. This offers its inhabitants an unparalleled outdoor living experience.
The host hotels include Budget Inn and Suites or the Inn Santa Clara, Freedom Vacation Rentals, and Paradise Village at Zion in Santa Clara. There is limited onsite camping at the venue that can be reserved when you register. Alternatively, Snow Canyon State Park is located 8 miles from the venue, while Gunlock State Park, Quail Lake State Park, and Sand Hollow State Park are all within 15 Miles of the Venue. Primitive camping can be found in Green Valley, near the back side of the race course. Primitive Camping can be found on BLM Land west of the Bear Claw Poppy Trail Head or near Hwy 7 & River Road. There are also plenty of vacation rentals that would suit a variety of needs.
The culinary scene in St. George, Utah, is a blend of traditional American fare and international influences, with a growing number of local eateries emphasizing farm-to-table offerings and regional specialties set against the backdrop of the city's stunning desert landscapes. From casual diners to upscale restaurants, St. George offers a diverse range of gastronomic experiences reflecting its evolving cultural tapestry. Local favorites include Wood Ash Rye, Angelica's Mexican Grill, and Xetava Gardens Cafe.
Santa Clara, nestled comfortably near the bustling city of St. George in the southwestern corner of Utah, offers a myriad of outdoor opportunities, especially in March when the mild weather creates a perfect atmosphere for exploration and adventure. Just a stone's throw away from Santa Clara is the Snow Canyon State Park, a haven for hikers and nature lovers. In March, the temperatures are ideal to explore the park's over 38 miles of hiking trails. Wander through the Petrified Dunes, discover the secrets of the Lava Flow Trail, or challenge yourself with the Hidden Pinyon Trail. Each route provides a unique perspective on the park's vibrant geology, from towering sandstone cliffs to ancient lava tubes. Don't forget to bring a camera; the colorful mix of vermilion, white, and pink hues set against a clear blue sky is nothing short of breathtaking.
March in Santa Clara is a climber's dream. The cooler weather ensures the sandstone grips remain crisp, and the sun bathes the rocks in a gentle warmth. Two favorite spots for climbers in the area are Pioneer Park and Chuckwalla Wall. While Pioneer Park is perfect for bouldering and offers climbs suitable for all skill levels, Chuckwalla Wall is particularly popular among sport climbers. With over 80 bolted routes ranging from easy to challenging, Chuckwalla offers something for everyone. The nearby Turtle Wall is also an excellent spot for those seeking less crowded climbs. The awe-inspiring views from the top, encompassing the vast desert landscapes, will make every ascent worth the effort.
The True Grit Gravel Epic's sister mountain bike event taking place the weekend prior, True Grit Epic MTB, is considered one of the Best Mountain Biking Events in the Southwest and is part of the National Ultra Endurance Series (NUE). GRO Races also produces 25 Hours in Frog Hollow, unPAved (one of the Best Gravel Events in the Mid-Atlantic for 2024), 6 Hours in Frog Hollow, and HRing taking place in 2024 in Iceland. For those crazy enough to take on the Triple Challenge, by racing True Grit Epic MTB, True Grit Gravel Epic, and the 6 hours in Frog Hollow, this is how you kick your race season off with a bang!
Another great gravel event taking place in Utah in the Spring is the Belgian Waffle Ride Utah in early April in Cedar City. This is the 5th annual BWR Utah, part of the North American Belgian Waffle Ride Series and the second leg in the Tripel Crown of Gravel Series. A great summer option is Crusher in the Tushar from Life Time Events, part of their Life Time Grand Prix Series. For multi-sport athletes looking for in-state events to round out their calendar in Utah, be sure to check out Road cyclists will want to add the Utah-Cache Gran Fondo to their list, which is a GFNS Partner Event and a UCI Worlds Qualifer, as well as Gran Fondo Moab from the TransRockies team and part of their Race Series. Our team considers all of these to be some of the Best Road Cycling Events in the Southwest.