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The Biggest, Baddest Jeep Safari

Front Driver Side View
Peter MacGillivray | Photographer
Posted September 7, 1999

Mighty Moab

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  • The weather in Moab ranges from sweltering to downright cold, as evidenced by this year's extremes in temperature. Some runs were rumored to be canceled due to the strong winds in some of the canyons. But rain, snow, or shine, the event goes on as planned. Heck, a little snow never stopped a Jeep anyway.

  • Potato Salad Hill is a local area not on any of the official runs but is a popular hangout in the afternoon. It's just a loose, off-camber climb, which many a vehicle has scaled, but it's also a great photo opportunity for rollover shots. We chanced upon this freshly toppled YJ seconds after it was pushed back over by the crowd. We later saw it on the street and it was sporting a plastic bag as part of the windshield.

  • Traffic on Lion's Back is supposed to be one way at a time, or things can get especially interesting. The access to the climb goes through private property, and a small fee is charged, but it's worth it to at least once gain the pucker experience of a narrow, steep trail with big drop-offs on either side. Remember this one from the famous video?

  • One of the most famous obstacles is called Double Whammy, which is located on the Golden Spike Trail. This innocuous-looking bump has been known to roll many a vehicle over, and this coil-sprung CJ-7 nearly bit the dust. The double stairsteps are just far enough apart to thwart the short-wheelbase rigs, while longer Jeeps can usually cruise right over.

  • Mechanical breakdowns are as common as air in this area, even with the best-built Jeeps. This front driveshaft popped out of the slip-yoke, stabbing the rocks in the process. Simple trail fixes abound in Moab, and most repair shops are busy until late into the night. Bring plenty of spares and tools if you want to keep running all week.

  • In the past few years, the exhibitors area has grown greatly, requiring that this indoor arena and an outdoor section be opened to accommodate the massive crowds. Jeep and off-road products from around the nation find their way to this trade-showlike event.

  • Moab is a manufacturer's mecca, with most major companies showing their wares as well as their vehicles on the many trails. Half the time, these guys are there for the fun and 'wheeling but manage to squeeze in a little bit of work too. With some people driving 2,000 miles just to be here, fun is the mandatory commodity.

  • Spy photos of new products can also be had, since new products are tested and introduced at Moab. A few special Jeeps showed off the new Goodyear Wrangler, which has an improved tread and sidewall features, and media types like this guy tried them out. Look for a full tire test on this awesome new tire in future issues.

  • Slickrock isn't really slick. Instead, it's just like medium-grained sandpaper--because that's what it is. Millions of years ago, great sand dunes covered the area, and after eons of compaction, the resultant rock is quite spiffy. Differential (no, not your vehicle's differential) weathering creates the high and low spots in the rocks, forming fins and formations just right to Jeep on.

  • New and old vehicles attack every obstacle in the area. We've seen stock flatties just cruise up the Dump Bump while other "more capable" vehicles languish at the bottom. Enough momentum and horsepower can get most any Jeep anywhere, and this Grand did a grand job of hopping its way to the top.

  • If you're the adventurous type, go to Moab and buy a Jeep on the spot: These two clean Wagoneers were offered at roadside for a modicum of cash. Rental Jeeps are also available from a few different outfits, but make reservations early if you want to try this method.

  • Night runs are best left to experienced Jeepers, and secret trails known to the locals are a favorite. After one or two seasons in Moab, you'll know who knows what, and you'll hook up for some of the truly awesome areas that few ever find on their own.

  • The Dump Bump gets its name from being a bump near the city dump. Not too original, but it serves the purpose. Since it's so close to the road, the onlooker factor is high--as is the alcohol quotient. Nevertheless, Chris Wood of ARB attempts the scale with his TJ in high style: a slow crawl under perfect control. Note that this is how three-wheeling should be done.

  • Sand? Well, that's where sandstone comes from, and many pockets can be found around Moab. One good sand hillclimb is on the Moab Rim Trail, which requires a standing start and lots o' power to make it up. Just remember to bring your goggles, because when the wind blows, so does the sand.

  • Drivers meetings are mandatory on the Red Rock club runs, and a good idea on any other one. While the club has carefully coordinated most of the trails and schedules, there's still plenty of areas and trails to do some renegade 'wheeling; just be sure to stay on the marked trails and out of private property. The Red Rock 4-Wheelers have gone to great lengths to keep these trails open, and the club should be supported in any way possible.

If you haven't heard about the Easter Jeep Safari in Moab, Utah, then you're either brand-new to Jeeps or have been living under a rock. But rocks are what this event is all about. Sandstone slickrock, to be exact. This area of the Southwest is known for incredible formations of sandstone that provide excellent traction for four-by tires, which is why more than 10,000 people converge here every Easter.

For 33 years, the Red Rock 4-Wheelers have hosted this annual event, which has grown from a few local Jeeps and drivers to the biggest week-long event in the country. Though it's still billed as a Jeep Safari, any vehicle is welcome to participate in the rides, which feature names such as Metal Masher, Tip-Over Challenge, and White Knuckle Hill.

The trails are rated from a difficulty level of 1, which stock vehicles can negotiate, to 5, which only highly modified vehicles with experienced drivers should attempt. Many of the trails can be downright dangerous during inclement weather, but thousands of rigs have plied these trails in safety.

If you're interested in signing up for the next Safari, contact the Red Rock 4-Wheelers at Dept. Jp, P.O. Box 1471, Moab, Utah 84532.