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Utah 4Wheeler Trails - Into The Labyrinth - GPS Trail

Posted in Events on December 1, 2000 Comment (0)
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The Labyrinth Canyon region of Utah consists of rugged and rolling bench- lands cut by the winding, steep-walled sandstone canyons of the Green River and its branches. Along its 46-mile length, from Bull Bottom southward to Canyonlands National Park, the precipitous rock walls are embellished with alcoves, caves, and a variety of textures and rich colors. Spectacular scenery exists throughout this vast, remote, and geologically fascinating area. Roads built decades ago for uranium mining, petroleum exploration, and cattle ranching currently allow motorized and mechanized recreational users to reach secluded vistas and historical sites along the canyon rims and the shores of the river. There are exceptional opportunities for the four-wheel-drive enthusiast to enjoy solitude and travel on these primitive back- country roads.

However, as a result of their recent wilderness re-inventory, the Utah Bureau of Land Management seems intent on closing access to virtually all existing roads and trails in this region, except for a few suitable for automobiles. Particularly targeted for closure are those that lead to overlooks at the rim; the spectacular views would consequently be cut off to a large segment of the public.

Bob Telepak, Arne Gjerning, and myself, dubbed the Tres Amigos by the New Mexico 4-Wheelers, have made numerous trips to southeastern Utah. We are particularly fascinated with an area along the Green River known as Junes Bottom. Strips of land exist in several places adjacent to the river and the deep canyon walls, the largest of which the pioneers named bottoms.

The eastern Labyrinth Canyon area is accessible from Moab. To reach the overlooks of Junes Bottom, take Blue Hills Road west from U.S. 191 near the Moab airport to Levi Well Road, then turn left on Duma Point Road and head straight on the well-defined Ten-mile Point Road. Trin Alcove Point Road travels west from Ten-mile Point Road. Near the western end of Trin Alcove Point Road on a recent trip, we took a spur to the left and approached a slickrock climb. The route passes by a survey marker as it twists up the sandstone slope. Bob warned us that when we reached the top we had to make a hard left turn. Indeed, at the crest is a cliff with a 300-foot drop. Taking in the magnificent panoramas, our attention was drawn to obvious man-made rock work on the cliff walls on the far side. What we saw was a road that was built by June Marsing in the '30s. It leads into the canyon now known on maps as Junes Bottom. With binoculars, we observed how extensive his rock stacking and road stabilization project was. A steam boiler and the remnants of structures were also distinguishable.

The main road to Trin Alcove Point ends high on the slickrock at the narrow neck of a peninsula. The Green River surrounds it in a tight loop known as Trin Alcove Bend. From here, hikes can be taken to view the river at each side and out to the end of the point. Colorful agatized rocks litter the ground here. Many of the rock specimens are quite large, and the long hike back to the parked 4x4s ensures that few will be collected.

The western Labyrinth Canyon region is accessible by taking the Green River Road south from the town of the same name or by taking the Hans Flat Road east from Utah Highway 24. The historical route to Junes Bottom has become a favorite of the Tres Amigos. About 1 mile east of Green River Road on Loop Road is the start of this trail. While we have driven it in every season of the year, some ice and snow in the canyon shadows was encountered in the winter, and it was prudent to stop just short of reaching the bottom. Junes Bottom Trail is moderate in difficulty, but it should never be taken lightly. Only experienced four-wheelers with well-equipped vehicles should tackle this one. If you have a breakdown or an emergency, you will be many miles from help. Self-reliance is a requirement, and using a GPS receiver is a great aid.

The first segment is a two-track road - very straight and smooth for several miles. Then a sudden left turn downhill will surprise you. At this turn, watch out for the gully to the right; sliding into it at speed will ruin the day. Stay left at the Y and continue on while the road winds its way up and down some small hills and through a small drainage to the top of a long climb. Suddenly an engaging panorama will open ahead of you. Much slickrock lies to the north, as does Trin Alcove Point and Entrada Gap in the distance. Portions of the Labyrinth Canyon can be seen to the northeast.

A mixture of slickrock patches and firm sand sections now make up the route. Those readers who have traversed large expanses of slickrock know that the route can sometimes be difficult to follow. In the case of Junes Bottom, just keep traveling in an eastward direction, avoiding the deep cracks and steep drop-offs. Stay close to the reddish Entrada sandstone outcropping to the right (south) as you poke along, observing occasional small cairns (rock piles). To the east of the reddish sandstone is a critical turn to the left (north), which is marked by a rather large rock cairn.

Here, the route proceeds down a couple of steep, tricky ledges onto the next lower level of slickrock. A number of other rock cairns are visible now as you travel eastward toward the Green River. The trail continues to drop in elevation where it heads steadily toward the canyon. Where the road begins a much steeper descent, you will approach the first of several sections where the roadway was stabilized and protected from erosion by the considerable stacking of rocks.

During Prohibition, in the '20s and early '30s, this and other Labyrinth Canyon locations were used by moonshiners. Access was only by river at that time and the remoteness made this a safe area for such pursuits. Another common use of the land in this region was cattle grazing. In about 1933, June Marsing (his first name was possibly shortened from Junior) was given permission by Andy Moore to establish a ranch in the canyon bottom along the Green River. June built a rock-walled home into a hill and a second rock structure nearby. A nearby spring served as a source of water for his family. The Marsings took care of Andy's cows and did some farming along the river. June improved a game trail to move cows into nearby Three Canyon and created access points to other springs to bolster the supply of drinking water.

Early on, cars were parked above the canyon wall, and the descent was made with the use of ropes. Then, June built this fantastic road. The dugway and the meticulously arranged rocks that delineate this roadway are still in remarkable shape after more than 62 years.

June burned oak and brush in a boiler to generate steam to pump water from the river for his farm. This old boiler and assorted components, such as an old axle and wheels used for the pulleys, still remain today. As you might imagine, the irrigation enhanced the farming endeavors and vegetables grew very well here. However, this was during the Depression, and transporting the produce was extremely difficult. Ultimately, the farm failed and the Marsings moved to work at another ranch in 1937.

The current trail narrows beyond this rock work, where it then crosses a slickrock saddle and continues down the sandstone hill. Next, the trickiest section of the trail is encountered. Get out and walk this section to become familiar with what lies ahead. First, a lefthand turn is made while dropping off a big ledge. The vehicle quickly takes a nose dive while the right front tire tracks uncomfortably close to the edge. If you take a line too far to the left, as most longer wheelbase 4x4s must do, things can feel very tippy. Some air under the left rear tire during this off-camber maneuver is likely. The route continues downward and across another off-camber, narrow slickrock shelf that borders a small amphitheater. From here, the road's surface is dirt and decomposed rock, the downhill side eroded by time. This section is very intimidating, but it can be driven safely if dry.

Almost at the bottom of the canyon, the remnants of an old gate and fence are passed. Despite their condition, they were sufficient to keep Andy's cows from wandering upward. The road continues to the bottom past an abundance of additional rock work. Vegetation has obliterated much of the route now, but not far ahead along the canyon wall are the remains of the two rock structures that were built by June, along with some other artifacts. While here, check out the sheer cliff on the far side of the Green River and picture where you can park your 4x4 on the overlook far above.

Junes Bottom Trail is a treasure - remote, challenging, dramatic scenery, and a colorful history. These Labyrinth Canyon roads and the historical trail to Junes Bottom are worth fighting for.

GPS Trail Log
GPS coordinates are provided as a courtesy to our readers and are accurate to the best of our knowledge. However, you should always travel with a compass and a map of the area.

JUNES BOTTOM TRAIL (West side of the Green River)
38, 39' 16" 110, 08' 36" 12 574547E 42 78773N Start of June's Bottom road
38, 40' 40" 110, 07' 48" 12 575673E 42 81386N Keep left at the Y
38, 41' 54" 110, 07' 21" 12 576300E 42 83666N Trail drops off a small hill onto flat slickrock
38, 42' 07" 110, 06' 45" 12 577166E 42 84072N Cairn and rock pile where route drops to lower level on the slickrock
38, 42' 31" 110, 05' 50" 12 578496E 42 84815N Approach to the first significant rockwork
38, 42' 39" 110, 06' 09" 12 578040E 42 85073N Ruins of rock structures in Junes Bottom
Note: mileage points were not available for this trail.

GPS Trail Log
GPS coordinates are provided as a courtesy to our readers and are accurate to the best of our knowledge. However, you should always travel with a compass and a map of the area.

TRIN ALCOVE POINT TRAIL (East side of the Green River)
38, 42' 50" 110, 05' 45" 12 578608E 42 85422N Overlook of Junes Bottom (from the cliff edge, at the USGS marker)
38, 42' 36" 110, 06' 30" 12 577535E 42 84968N The farthest point you can drive on the Trin Alcove Point peninsula
Note: mileage points were not available for this trail.


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