Once again, the annual Easter Jeep Safari in Moab is over and the off-roading season in southern Utah is upon us. The days of Moab being an open area to drive are long gone. The "Open" designation meant we could drive anywhere - on or off the roads and trails. Most of the areas that concern us now carry a "Limited Use" designation, which means we need to stay on existing roads and trails. In the case of some Moab areas, the BLM seems to be trying the "stay on designated roads" trick. We don't like this one, as usually it's the people who are trying to kee all motorized recreation off public lands who are doing the designating. No matter what the designation of the area, it's plain that the times have changed and the days of going anywhere off-highway around Moab (and many other places) are over.
The Easter Jeep Safari trails are, of course, a safe bet for those who are worried about venturing into somewhere the BLM doesn't want them to be. The Red Rock 4-Wheelers lead runs on the trails during the week of the Safari and, of course, on Big Saturday. There's one thing you need to be aware of, though. The only legal routes on those trails are the roads themselves, and no side routes are now allowed. For example, the Escalator and the Gates of Hell obstacles on Hell's Revenge Trail are not open at the time of this writing. Those who choose to 'wheel them will be at risk of getting a citation, as the BLM especially likes to keep an eye on those two places. On some of the trails with slickrock, such as Hell's Revenge, marks have been painted on the rock to show the official trail.
Lower Helldorado is also closed. Utah has what it calls "State Trust Lands," which are lands sold to raise money for education. Lower Helldorado was in one such section that was sold a while ago. The woman who purchased the land isn't friendly to motorized recreation, so she closed the road. Portions of the Strike Ravine Trail also pass through the same person's land, but San Juan County (the county where the roads are located) claims it will fight any attempts to close Strike Ravine. Strike Ravine is a graded, well-used road, while Lower Helldorado's origins are a bit more clouded. By the way, Upper Helldorado is still open, as people friendly to off-road recreation purchased the land this trail traverses. That said, it's safe to stay on the Safari trails. If you venture off them, be aware that there might be a citation in your future.
This dark scenario is what's happening at the time of writing, but isn't necessarily permanent. The Red Rock 4-Wheelers are trying hard to address concerns of the green crowd, the BLM, and, of course, 4x4 owners. Ber Knight and Jeff Stevens are two club members who deserve some recognition for their hard work in this arena. It would be nice to have some new Safari trails, such as the Killer Kane Mine and the Pickle Trails, as well as legal side routes such as Eagle's Dare and the Rusty Nail on the Golden Spike Trail and the Gates of Hell and the Escalator on Hell's Revenge. With the exception of the last two, these are now open, legal routes. Who knows? They might be added to the official Safari line-up someday.
Figuring out what's going on in Moab and your favorite off-road playground regarding land-use rights is a daunting task at best. We think that with Jeff, Ber, and the rest of the Red Rock 4-Wheelers working hard to address everyone's concerns in Moab, we'll end up with hundreds of miles of open trails to enjoy. If you have any questions about what's legal and what's not, contact the BLM's Moab Field Office at (435) 259-2100 and speak with Russ von Koch or any of the other persons in the recreation branch. As this is being written long before the Safari and you're reading it after the Safari has been held, you might want to give the BLM a call and see what, if any, changes have been made before you make any trips to Moab.
If you're experiencing some of these same difficulties where you like to off-road, try contacting your local BLM office to see what you could be doing to keep roads and trails open. In many places, the BLM is doing everything it can to keep us off our lands. Sometimes, though, you find a kindred spirit working for the BLM who wants to help us keep our lands open for multiple uses.