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The Trails Of Moab, Utah - Trail Wise

Posted in Events on April 3, 2007
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Contributors: Phil Howell

The geography around Moab has been shaped and sculpted by thousands of years of climatic and geophysical change. The last 540 million years of geological evolution have cut some of the most spectacular recreational trails in the world into the sandstone rock formations.

Moab's petrified dunes of sand, or "slickrock," are unique to this part of the world and lure adventurers like a magnet. From wild to mild, the trails come to a head around this quaint little town. Listed below are thirty-three trails surrounding Moab and three famous action spots. Also included are their trailheads' GPS coordinates, difficulty ratings, and what you should expect on the trail.

3-D Trail
Rating: n Trailhead: Lat: 38 44' 4.31" / Lon: 109 47' 4.12"
Getting There: This trail tours Hidden Canyon, Lunar Canyon, and Brink Spring north of Highway 313 and west of Highway 191. The trailhead is about 14 miles north of Moab on Highway 191 near Mile Marker 141.

Description: 3-D winds from canyon bottom to canyon rim to an even higher scenic overlook. The canyons consist of smooth red and white Entrada sandstone layers. The trail travels wash bottoms, two-track dirt roads, some slickrock, and a few loose climbs and rock ledges. Some of the climbs look tougher than the square rating denotes, but few people have had problems negotiating them.

Behind the Rocks Trail
Rating: uu Trailhead: Lat: 38 26' 24" / Lon: 109 25' 44"
Getting There: From Moab, take Highway 191 south about 13 miles to the county road on the right and head west. Follow the county road above Kane Creek Canyon to the top of the Prichett Canyon Trail, and then turn up Hunter Canyon.

Description: The original Jeep Safari Trail has much to offer. Exploring the land behind the rocks is scenic and challenging. Most of the trail is circle- or square-rated, but Nosedive Hill, Upchuck, Phil's Hill, and White Knuckle Hill make the trail a double diamond. The trail goes down White Knuckle Hill, but going back up is one of Moab's toughest challenges. Highlights include Picture Frame Arch and Hunter Canyon. Once through Hunter Canyon, you can continue down Pritchett Canyon.

Chicken Corners Trail
Rating: l Trailhead: Lat: 38 28' 55" / Lon: 109 37' 29"
Getting There: Head out of Moab on Kane Creek Road at the McDonald's on Highway 191. Follow Kane Creek Road for about 11 miles, then take the right toward Hurrah Pass. From there, it's about 9 miles to the end of the trail.

Description: The trail gets its name from earlier days when only the least "chicken" would travel the narrow road. It follows the Colorado River, then goes through Lower Kane Springs Canyon and up over Cane Springs Anticline (the spelling is in dispute), then up over Hurrah Pass and back over the river, ending across from Dead Horse Point. There are petroglyphs along the road, and the Kane Creek crossing can be dry or impassable after a storm. Chicken Corners is a point where the road tips toward the river 400 feet below.

Cliff Hanger Trail
Rating: u Trailhead: Lat: 38 31' 27" / Lon: 109 36' 5"
Getting There: Head out of Moab on Kane Creek Road at the McDonald's on Highway 191. About 1 mile after Kane Creek Road splits away from the Colorado River Gorge is a small trailhead on the right. This is where Cliff Hanger begins.

Description: Cliff Hanger is the only vehicular access onto Amasa Back, a high, isolated area with unusual and spectacular views. The creek crossing at the beginning of the trail can be difficult if the water's high. The trail climbs a rocky plateau with some ledges to surmount, then rounds a point and hangs on the edge of a 1,300-foot cliff! You come back the way you went in, and the climb from the creek to Kane Springs Road can be challenging.

Copper Ridge Trail
Rating: n Trailhead: Lat: 38 38' 38.02" / Lon: 109 40' 5.26"
Getting There: The trail heads east off of Highway 191, about 3 miles north of the Colorado River bridge.

Description: North of Moab and west of Arches National Park, the Copper Ridge Trail passes through beautiful sandstone formations with great views of the surrounding area including the Klondike Bluffs, Tower Arch, and other arches in the distance. A highlight is the spectacular pour-off of lower Sevenmile Canyon. When dry, the trail is quite easy, but when wet, a portion of the trail gets so slippery as to become impassable, so steer clear of this one on rainy days.

Crystal Geyser Trail
Rating: n
Getting There: The trail turns off of Highway 191, just a little north of Moab.

Description: This trail is south of Green River township and visits the Crystal Geyser, one of several man-made boreholes that tap CO2 and cold water, making for occasional but spectacular displays about twice a day. Clay and shale road surfaces can get slippery during storms. The old mining roads have deteriorated in places and sometimes have large rocks that test vehicle ground clearance.

Dome Plateau Trail
Rating: n
Getting There: The trailhead is near the Dewey Bridge crossing of the Colorado River, about 30 miles northeast of Moab on Highway 128.

Description: The Dome Plateau Trail explores a large highland area east of Arches National Park and north of the Colorado River. The southern highlands portion of the trail passes through juniper and pine country and accesses a spectacular overlook of the Colorado River and UT 128. Back to the north, you enter the Poison Strip and Yellowcat, two highly prolific uranium mining areas peppered with old roads and mines. A highlight here is the great sandstone caves - check out the rock art and graffiti.

Elephant Hill Trail
Rating: n Trailhead: Lat: 38 8' 31" / Lon: 109 49' 35"
Getting There: This trail is in the Needles District of Canyonlands National Park, about 75 miles from Moab. Take Highway 191 south out of Moab for about 40 miles, then turn west on Highway 211 and go another 35 miles. Maps can be found at the ranger station.

Description: This trail is in Canyonlands National Park, so an entrance fee is required. Also note that NO pets are allowed - even in a vehicle. The Elephant Hill Trail starts at Elephant Hill, which can be difficult for some even though the NPS filled some holes with concrete. The switchbacks on the backside are especially interesting. The Silver Stairs features some ledges that are interesting, while the Squeeze is a very narrow slot that fullsize vehicles sometimes have trouble with. The Elephant Hill Trail travels through Cedar Mesa Sandstone, which gives Canyonlands its beautiful color.

Fins and Things Trail
Rating: n Trailhead: Lat: 38 34' 47" / Lon: 109 29' 55"
Getting There: The trail begins a few miles east of Moab on Sand Flats Road. You pass the Moab dump, Lion's Back, Hell's Revenge, and the Slickrock Bike Trail along the way. The trail starts shortly thereafter on the right, although there are a number of turnoffs.

Description: Accessed by the Sand Flats Road, Navajo sandstone fins northeast of Moab supply the fun on this trail. As with almost all Moab trails, Fins and Things Trail is exceptionally scenic. The views look deep into Negro Bill Canyon and the red-rock rim at the base of the La Sal Mountains. There are some steep ups and downs that will cause those with longer overhangs to scrape.

Flat Iron Mesa Trail
Rating: u Trailhead: Lat: 38 21' 26" / Lon: 109 26' 2"
Getting There: The trailhead is about 18 miles south of Moab on Highway 191. Flat Iron Mesa is the area south of Kane Creek and west of Highway 191.

Description: This trail south of Moab looks into Kane Springs Canyon as well as affords some fabulous overlooks of Hatch Wash and West Coyote Canyon. The diamond rating comes from a couple of obstacles that also have easier bypasses. There is one narrow spot that's off-camber and tips you toward the cliff edge of West Coyote Canyon. Fullsize vehicles sometimes have a problem here. Running the trail in reverse ups the rating to double diamond and requires locking differentials and skill.

Golden Spike Trail
Rating: uu Trailhead: Lat: 38 32' 44" / Lon: 109 35' 43"
Getting There: Head northwest out of Moab on Highway 191. A mile or so past the Colorado River bridge, turn south on Highway 279 (Potash Road). After about 6 miles you'll find the trailhead for Poison Spider Mesa, which shares its beginning section with Golden Spike. The trail winds back above the Colorado River and Highway 279.

Description: One of Moab's premier hardcore trails, Golden Spike takes in much of Poison Spider Mesa and Gold Bar Rim. With lots of ledges, you need to be careful not to let your guard down. The scenery is great, with 360-degree cliff-edge views of Moab and its surroundings. Watch out for the Golden Crack, Golden Stairs, and the infamous Double Whammy.

Gold Bar Rim Trail
Rating: n Trailhead: Lat: 38 35' 59" / Lon: 109 44' 22"
Getting There: The trail leaves Highway 191 to the west, about 7 miles north of the Colorado River bridge. The trail follows Little Canyon, then turns back toward the rim through Gold Bar Canyon.

Description: Gold Bar Rim Trail climbs Arth's Rim just like Metal Masher, but turns the other way to climb out of Little Valley. Some of the road is sandy, but much of it is slickrock as you climb to the rim's edge. At the rim, there's a 360-degree view of the local country, taking in the La Sal Mountains, Moab, the Book Cliffs. Except for a few ledges and a tough little climb on the way back out, Gold Bar Rim's draw is more scenery than tough obstacles.

Hell's Revenge Trail
Rating: uu Trailhead: Lat: 38 34' 31" / Lon: 109 31' 19"
Getting There: The Hell's Revenge Trail begins just a little more than 1 mile northeast of Moab on Sand Flats Road. You'll pass the Moab dump on the right and Lion's Back on the left.

Description: Moab's premier slickrock trail is popular with four-wheelers, mountain bikers, and motorcyclists alike. Hell's Revenge traverses the slickrock between Sand Flats Road and the Colorado River. The view from all parts of the trail is wonderful. Stock 4x4s can travel much of Hell's Revenge, but some obstacles are double diamond. All obstacles can be driven around.

Hellroaring Rim Trail
Rating: n Trailhead: Lat: 38 55' 13" / Lon: 109 48' 18"
Getting There: Take Highway 191 north out of Moab to Highway 313, then go west past the Dubinky Well Road. The trail is on Mineral Point between Highway 313 and the Green River.

Description: Hellroaring Rim Trail's final overlook of the Hellroaring Canyon's confluence with the Green River at Labyrinth Canyon is exceptional. The trail is north of Moab and travels between Hellroaring and Mineral Canyons. There are some switchback portions and rocky areas, plus a sandy hill that might offer some problems when it's completely dry. Hellroaring Window can be viewed from the canyon rim.

Hey Joe Canyon Trail
Rating: n Trailhead: Lat: 38 47' 18" / Lon: 110 0' 5"
Getting There: Take Highway 191 north out of Moab, then turn west on Highway 313. The trail spurs to the left off the junction with Dubinky Well Road about 1-1/2 miles after leaving Highway 313.

Description: The Hey Joe Canyon Trail consists of pavement, good dirt roads, and a spectacular ledge road that winds down to Spring Canyon, then a brushy, interesting route along the Green River in Labyrinth Canyon to the old mining site in Hey Joe Canyon. The trail has no set obstacles, but rockslides and erosion change it every year giving it a square rating. The scenery is wonderful, especially Spring Canyon and Bowknot Bend. Parts of this trail can be scary when dry and terrifying when wet.

Hole-in-the-Rock Trail
Rating: n Trailhead: Lat: 37 29' 47" / Lon: 110 33' 38"
Getting There: This trail is nearly 150 miles from Moab. Take Highway 191 south past Blanding, then take Highway 95 west. At Highway 176, turn left toward Hall's Crossing. The Hole-in-the-Rock trailhead is on the west side of the small airport. The trail itself is 30 miles each way.

Description: The eastern portion of the trail is cut out of solid rock and is known as the Hole-in-the-Rock Trail. Long and bumpy, the trail follows an old pioneer path. The dugway has rock steps and handholds cut into the side of it, and if you climb up to the first plateau, you'll find the remains of an old wagon. Obstacles including the Chute and the Toe Tapper test neophytes' driving skills.

Hotel Rock
Rating: n
Getting There: Exit Highway 95 just as you climb out of Comb Wash between Mile Markers 107 and 108. After turning north off Highway 95, go north 2.3 miles. Just before crossing the creek, turn left along the creek's south side. In a few tenths of a mile, you'll go through a gate and there will be a registration box for the Arch Canyon Trail. The trailhead for Hotel Rock is within sight of the registration box but back to the east and on the north side of the creek.

Description: Both trails are in southeastern Utah, about 20 miles west of Blanding, off Highway 95. Arch Canyon is an easy to moderate trail that stays in the bottom of the canyon the whole way. It crosses the creek more than 30 times. Hotel Rock is a shorter but much more difficult trail located above Arch Canyon Trail on the north side. Both offer incredible scenery and the chance to view some Anasazi ruins.

Kane Creek Canyon
Rating: n Trailhead: Lat: 38 27' 58" / Lon: 109 36' 2"
Getting There: Head out of Moab on Kane Creek Road at the McDonald's on Highway 191. Stay to the left at the junction where the Hurrah Pass Trail forks off to the right. Kane Creek Canyon borders the Behind the Rocks area on the south between the Colorado River and Highway 191.

Description: This trail follows Kane Creek through Kane Springs Canyon from its mouth at the Colorado River south to Highway 191. There are over 50 creek crossings before the trail climbs along a ledge up the canyon wall. Depending on how much moisture there is, there can be nasty quicksand and deep water, sometimes so deep that the trail is impassable. Other times, such as in late summer, many crossings are almost dry. Many Moab trails follow the cliff edges above canyons.

Lockhart Basin
Rating: n Trailhead: Lat: 38 25' 45" / Lon: 109 41' 18"
Getting There: Take Kane Creek Road off Highway 191 out of Moab to Hurrah Pass.

Description: This is a beautiful trail with a variety of surfaces, from sandy washes to steep, rocky ledges. There are spectacular views of the Abajo Mountains and the Needles area of Canyonlands National Park.

Metal Masher Trail
Rating: u Trailhead: Lat: 38 39' 22" / Lon: 109 40' 34"
Getting There: Head north out of Moab on Highway 191. About 7 miles north of the Colorado River bridge, turn west on the dirt road that leads into Little Canyon. The trail encompasses the area between Little Canyon and Highway 313 to the west.

Description: Metal Masher traverses Arth's Rim, overlooking Highway 191 1,300 feet below (with superb views). The first climb up the rim is quite breathtaking. The trail then travels down Little Valley before angling to the top of the rim. Most of Metal Masher could be rated a circle, but Mirror Gulch, Widowmaker, and Mother-in-Law Hill give it its diamond rating. Widowmaker is a two-stage hill with a breakover that longer vehicles should not attempt.

Moab Rim Trail
Rating: uu Trailhead: Lat: 38 33' 34" / Lon: 109 34' 56"
Getting There: Head out of Moab on Kane Creek Road at the McDonald's on Highway 191. The trailhead is approximately 2-1/2 miles up Kane Creek Road on the left.

Description: The trip to the top of the rim west of town has the highest density of obstacles in the first mile of any of the nearby trails. The trail climbs a succession of rock ledges and features many tight turns as it makes its way to the top. The off-camber sections might not seem so bad if only they weren't tipping you toward the cliff's edge! One obstacle on the way up is called the Devil's Crack, where you can see the river below through the crack as you drive over it. On top, there are dunes to play in and a spur trail to Indian ruins and rock art.

Poison Spider Mesa Trail
Rating: u Trailhead: Lat: 38 32' 1" / Lon: 109 36' 24"
Getting There: Head north out of Moab on Highway 191. About a mile past the Colorado River bridge, turn west on Highway 279. The trailhead is about 6 miles ahead on the right.

Description: Maybe Moab's most popular trail, Poison Spider leaves the Potash Road (check out the dinosaur tracks over your shoulder as you leave the road) and climbs to the scenic rim along sloping rock layers. Some of the ledges are quite difficult, but the views of the fins of Behind the Rocks and the La Sal Mountains are worth the drive. Up on top, there are a couple of short high-speed runs through pastureland, but most of the trail is tougher. A highlight is Little Arch, which you can look through and see the Colorado River far below.

Porcupine Rim Trail
Rating: n Trailhead: Lat: 38 34' 54" / Lon: 109 24' 55"
Getting There: The trail turns off of Sand Flats Road about 9 miles from Moab. It covers the country north of Sand Flats Road and west of Porcupine Rim, which forms the west wall of Castle Valley.

Description: The only vehicle access to the vicinity of Coffee Pot Rock, the Porcupine Rim Trail leaves the Sand Flats Road above the Slickrock Bike Trail and drops down to a ledge above Negro Bill Canyon. Crossing the headwaters of the canyon, the trail climbs gradually to Porcupine Rim. Highlights are the views from 6,800-foot Porcupine Rim of Castle Valley, Castle Rock, and the Priest and the Nuns rock formations.

Pritchett Canyon Trail
Rating: uu Trailhead: Lat: 38 32' 8" / Lon: 109 35' 55"
Getting There: Head out of Moab on Kane Creek Road at the McDonald's on Highway 191. The trailhead is about 4-1/2 miles ahead inside a campground. It lies just south of the Moab Rim Trail.

Description: Pritchett Canyon might be Moab's toughest trail. Starting from the Kane Springs Road, you pass through the campground and the fun begins. Sandy river bottoms, giant ledges, and difficult obstacles make Pritchett lots of fun for the hardcore four-wheeler. The steep-walled canyon and beautiful views make Pritchett a gem for passengers too. Highlights are obstacles that include Rocker Knocker, the Rock Pile, and Yellow Hill. All require the best equipment and skill.

Rose Garden Hill
Rating: u Trail Head: Lat: 38 41' 20" / Lon: 109 13' 12"
Getting There: Take Highway 191 north out of Moab, then head east on Highway 128. After about 21 miles, follow the dirt road heading south that marks the beginning of the trail.

Description: Rose Garden Hill is a shorter, more difficult version of the Top of the World Trail. It provides some great views down into Cottonwood Canyon, but the most beautiful scenery is on an optional route on the return trip through the Onion Creek Narrows. The Rose Garden Hill obstacle is a long, steep hill with bedrock steps and loose, eroded rock that makes for a difficult ascent.

Secret Spire Trail
Rating: l Trailhead: Lat: 38 41' 4" / Lon: 109 54' 56"
Getting There: Head north out of Moab on Highway 191, then turn west on Highway 313. Follow 313 to the Dubinky Well Road, which exits to the northwest. The trailhead is just this side of the Dubinky Well, about 7 miles from Highway 313.

Description: This sandy, fairly easy trail rides the ridge between Spring and Hellroaring canyons, finally crossing upper Spring Canyon to reach the Secret Spire, a strange tower of Navajo sandstone. Views include the Book Cliffs to the north and the San Rafael Swell to the northeast. Besides the Secret Spire, another highlight is the detour to Dellenbaugh Tunnel, a 100-foot-long, usually dry watercourse that goes through Navajo sandstone to a steep drop into Spring Canyon.

Sevenmile Rim Trail
Rating: n Trailhead: Lat: 38 40' 48" / Lon: 109 41' 29"
Getting There: Head north out of Moab on Highway 191 about 11 miles. The trail begins just to the north of Highway 313.

Description: The Sevenmile Rim Trail is great for those interested in the post-WWII uranium boom. It passes the old Cotter uranium mine, then switchbacks above the mine and Highway 191. The trail then follows the most interesting part of a maze of core-drilling roads to reach the rim of Sevenmile Canyon. Two of the highlights passed are Uranium Arch and Merrimac Butte, where the trail gets its square rating for a portion on the south side that can be bypassed if necessary. Views include Arches National Park, the Book Cliffs, and of course, Sevenmile Canyon.

Steel Bender Trail
Rating: n Trailhead: Lat: 38 32' 16" / Lon: 102 28' 23"
Getting There: Steel Bender starts on private land immediately northeast of the Moab Golf Course. The trail lies between Highway 191 and the La Sal Mountains.

Description: Steel Bender travels the terrain between Moab and the La Sal Mountains with great views into the North Fork of Mill Creek Canyon. Part of this trail winds through beautiful Mill Creek Canyon with many trees shading the trail as it crosses the creek. There are a few difficult obstacles that can be tried, but there are bypasses too.

Strike Ravine Trail
Rating: u Trailhead: Lat: 38 26' 24" / Lon: 109 25' 44"
Getting There: Strike Ravine leaves Highway 191 going east, about 12 miles south of Moab.

Description: This trail south of Moab follows old uranium mining roads, most of which have deteriorated to the point that they're fun for four-wheelers. Strike Ravine offers a pleasant change of scenery as it explores Pole Canyon and other headwaters of Kane Springs Canyon. The canyon bottoms have large rocks that can catch those whose vehicles are too low.

Tip Toe
Rating: n Trailhead: Lat: 38 26' 24" / Lon: 109 25' 44"
Getting There: Tip Toe leaves Highway 191 about 13 miles south of Moab just after climbing a long hill on the highway. The exit is on the right going to the west.

Description: Tip Toe is a less extreme version of the Behind the Rocks Trail. With only a handful of minor rock ledges to traverse, this trail is better suited for stock rigs. It offers similar views as Behind the Rocks, as well as opportunities to watch other drivers tackling High Dive, Upchuck, and White Knuckle Hills.

Top of the World Trail
Rating: u Trailhead: Lat: 38 48' 38" / Lon: 109 18' 16"
Getting There: The trail splits off Highway 128 just before the Dewey Bridge, about 30 miles northeast of Moab.

Description: The Top of the World is a 7,000-foot viewpoint on Waring Mesa. It affords a spectacular view of Fisher Valley, Onion Creek, and the La Sal Mountains. Onion Creek, so named because of the creek's onion-like smell, winds next to the beginning of the trail. There are some creek crossings, and at the beginning of the canyon you can choose to drive down the creek bed or take the high road out of the water. Once out of the canyon, the trail travels by the Taylor Ranch and takes a left to head up Rose Garden Hill, probably the longest climb of any Moab trail.

Upper Helldorado
Rating: uu
Getting There: Upper Helldorado is located in Area BFE. Travel south on Highway 191 for approximately 13 miles. Just after the uphill passing lane comes to an end, take the first left. Follow the maintained dirt road and signs for about 3 miles to the cleared parking area on the left.

Description: Upper Helldorado in Upper Kane Springs Canyon is hardcore heaven. Those who aren't up to the challenge can't get past the first boulders guarding the entrance. There's a squeeze that usually tears tops off Jeeps and a breakover rock that hangs up all but the shortest 4x4s. Then, the trail presents a waterfall that most need a winch to get up, so don't go if you don't have a working winch.

Wipe-out Hill
Rating: u Trailhead: Lat: 38 43' 37" / Lon: 109 43' 18"
Getting There: The trail begins about 14 miles north of Moab on Highway 191, near Mile Marker 141.

Description: Wipe-out Hill uses portions of Bartlett Wash, Tusher Canyon, Courthouse Pasture, and the cliff base of Big Mesa, so it offers a great variety of scenery and a wide range of trail surfaces. There are a few obstacles, one being the Tusher Wash sand hill. Wipe-out Hill is a steep, ledgy downhill that can be a real challenge for those who want to turn around and go back up.

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