One of the most famous trails in Moab is the infamous Steel Bender, once considered among the more difficult trails around, almost always promising some sort of body damage. Steel Bender, also known as Flat Pass, follows a former wagon route that climbs to 6,000 feet and features sand, water, slickrock, and multiple vertical ledges and drop-offs, giving a good variety of what Moab has to offer. This trail, which starts just east of town, is an approximately 20-mile loop that winds its way through scenic Mill Creek, giving great views of Moab, as well as the La Sal Mountains.
As vehicles have become more and more capable, Steel Bender has become a great half-day trail for a moderately modified vehicle, and thanks to bypasses, a very capable stock rig can enjoy this run, even conquering the difficult Dragon's Tail and the Wall obstacles with a trustworthy spotter and some minor body damage. Experienced drivers in heavily modified rigs, with 35-inch tires or larger, will have no problem at all, but all travelers are guaranteed spectacular scenery, mixed with challenges and fun. On the flip side, an inexperienced wheeler or someone following a poor spotter could find himself or herself in some trouble or causing a lot of damage to their vehicle.
On our trip this year, Steel Bender lived up to its name as our group had a stock two-door Wrangler JK that used its skidplates, bumpers, and rockers; an old big-block-powered YJ that taco'ed a front shaft; and our own Project 'Con Artist, which reshaped its tailpipe dropping down the 4-foot ledge known as the Wall.
The final obstacle on the trail is a slippery hillclimb out of Mill Creek, which is a refreshing ending to a dusty afternoon on the trail.
Location: Northeast of Hwy. 191 on private land immediately northeast of the Moab Golf Course.
Length: 8 miles
Time: 2 to 4 hours (depending on traffic)
How to get there: From Downtown Moab, drive south on Hwy. 191. Turn East on Spanish Trail Road. Drive past Murphy Lane; the road's name changes to Westwater Road and curves left. There is a "Steel Bender" sign that marks the trailhead.
Trailhead GPS way point: N38 31.69' W109 30.17'
Exit GPS Waypoint: N38 29.29' W109 27.76'