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Moab Trail Guide

Posted in Moab Experience: 2015 on March 13, 2015
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Moab’s petrified dunes, or “slickrock,” and old mining exploration roads lure adventurers like a magnet. From mild to wild, many trails emanate from this scenic little town. Here are some of the trails around Moab, plus one famous action spot. Where included, GPS coordinates are approximate and, in some cases, given to us by friends who regularly get lost. Use them at your own risk.

3-D Trail (square) Lat: 38º 44’ 4.31” / Lon: 109º 47’ 4.12”
From canyon bottom to canyon rim to an even higher scenic overlook, the 3-D Trail gives you a taste of what it’s like to four-wheel north of Moab. The canyons are a few hundred feet deep of smooth red and white Entrada sandstone layers and the slickrock portions of the trail are on the white layer that caps the Entrada. The trail travels wash bottoms, two track dirt roads, some slickrock and a few loose climbs and rock ledges. For the uninitiated, some of the climbs look tougher than the square rating denotes, but few people have had problems negotiating them.

3-D, the Pickle Version (diamond)
While this trail has 3-D in its name, adding The Pickle and other interesting features makes this much tougher than its milder sibling. The trail begins in a narrow canyon full of obstacles. It emerges from the canyon to tour the colorful Hidden Canyon northwest of Moab before climbing out to explore an exposed section of the Entrada rock formation named the Moab Tongue. It then connects to the 3-D Trail to tackle the major obstacles of that trail. After leaving the 3-D Trail, the trail features a thrilling descent of a rocky hill with a sharp ledge that is guaranteed to test skidplates. This trail features all the scenery and geology of the 3-D Trail, with the added thrill of some difficult obstacles.

Backwards Bill Trail (diamond)
This trail combines the second half of the Wipe-Out Hill Trail and the first half of the Sevenmile Rim Trail for a more challenging trip that retains much of the scenic highlights of both. All vehicles must ascend Wipe-Out Hill, so you should have a minimum of one locker.

The colorful Entrada sandstone of Big Mesa, atop the white Navajo sandstone, provides the initial scenery. Once Wipe-Out Hill is ascended, Merrimac Butte and Monitor Butte are each visited. A short sand section precedes the ascent of Sevenmile Rim. Views down to the west arm of Sevenmile Wash are first to be seen and finally rim views of Arches NP and the Sevenmile Wash pour off provide great scenery. The majority of this trail alternates between slickrock surfaces and sand.

Behind the Rocks Trail (double diamond) Lat: 38º 26’ 24” / Lon: 109º 25’ 44”
The original Jeep Safari trail has much to offer. Exploring the land behind the rocks is scenic and, depending on route chosen, 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 even going down it’s quite hard. Going back up for fun is one of Moab’s toughest challenges. Highlights include Picture Frame Arch and Hunter Canyon, a beautiful drive. Once through Hunter Canyon, you can continue down Pritchett Canyon if your equipment is up to it, or return on the maintained county dirt road.

Cameo Cliffs Trail (circle)
The Cameo Cliffs trail is some 25 miles south of Moab. The name comes from Jack Bickers, a Red Rock 4 Wheeler in the early years who came up with names for many of the trails in the Moab area. Cameo Cliffs Trail consists of old mineral exploration roads that Jack rediscovered. There are two-track dirt sections, some sand, some bumpy rocky sections, and a few small ledges that present some mild challenges, but those looking for easier ‘wheeling should enjoy this trip. Bordered on the north by Utah 46, the south by Sandstone Draw, and on the west by US 191, there is plenty of scenery on this trip. Some notable places are the Four Fins Overlook, Wilson Arch Overlook, and frequent views of the La Sal and Blue (Abajo) Mountains.

Chicken Corners Trail (circle) Lat: 38° 28’ 55” / Lon: 109° 37’ 29”
The trail gets its name from earlier days when only the least “chicken” would travel the narrow road. Today, the road is much wider and easier, but the scenery remains. The trail 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 to 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 (diamond) Lat: 38° 31’ 27” / Lon: 109° 36’ 5”
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 1300-foot cliff. There’s a little ledge obstacle in the middle of the cliff portion of the trail that’s interesting. You come back the way you went in and the climb from the creek back to Kane Springs Road is now quite challenging.

Copper Ridge Trail (square)
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. If you arrived in Moab from the north, you got a taste of what’s in store as you drove through some of these formations on your way into town. 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 avoid this one on rainy days. The square rating is for eroded portions of the trail that will challenge stock vehicles.

Crystal Geyser Trail (square) Lat: 38º 38’ 38.02” / Lon: 109º 40’ 5.26”
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 vehicles with low ground clearance. The Rainbow Rocks area is colorful, while those who’ve never visited the Moon have described other sections of the trail as a desolate moonscape.

Dome Plateau Trail (square)
The Dome Plateau Trail explores a large highland area east of Arches National Park and north of the Colorado River. The trail can be reached by turning left off UT 128 after crossing the Dewey Bridge. 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, where many different people have stayed over the ages. Check out the rock art and graffiti around the caves. Even though curio hunters have pried off slabs of slickrock to steal the best, there’s still interesting graffiti. There’s even a Spanish inscription over the spring in one of the caves, going back to . . . ?

Elephant Hill Trail (square) Lat: 38° 8’ 31” / Lon: 109° 49’ 35”
This trail is in Canyonlands National Park, so an entry 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 interesting, as you drive forward until a switchback, then back down to the next switchback, etc. The Silver Stairs features some ledges that are interesting, while the Squeeze is a very narrow slot that full-size vehicle drivers love. The Elephant Hill Trail travels through Cedar Mesa Sandstone, which gives Canyonlands its beautiful color and is great for photographers.

Fins and Things Trail (square) Lat: 38° 34’ 47” / Lon: 109° 29’ 55”
Accessed by the Sand Flats Road, Navaho sandstone fins northeast of Moab supply the fun on this trail. As almost all Moab trails, Fins and Things Trail is exceptionally scenic. There are views into deep Negro Bill Canyon and of the red rock rim at the base of the La Sal Mountains. The fins and domes of the trail are themselves quite scenic, too. Some steep ups and downs will cause those with longer overhangs to scrape. Frenchie’s Fin and Ken’s Climb are very steep and a lot of fun.

Flat Iron Mesa Trail (diamond) Lat: 38° 21’ 26” / Lon: 109° 26’ 2”
This great trail south of Moab looks into Kane Springs Canyon as well as affording 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 interesting narrow spot that’s off-camber and tips you toward the cliff edge of West Coyote Canyon. Full-size vehicles sometimes have a problem here. Running the trail in reverse ups the rating to double diamond and requires locking differentials and some skill. Flat Iron Mesa’s beautiful and diverse scenery makes it a must-see trail.

Gold Bar Rim Trail (square) Lat: 38° 35’ 59” / Lon: 109° 44’ 22”
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 and spectacular views everywhere else you look. 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. The trail is also used as the end of the Golden Spike Trail.

Gold Bar Rim, Rusty Nail version (double diamond) Lat: 38° 32’ 44” / Lon: 109° 35’ 43”
This trail appeals to the hard core four wheeler who wants to tackle one of the Moab area's famous tough trail segments. The Rusty Nail is combined with a couple of the Golden Spike Trail's obstacles and the Gold Bar Rim Trail to complete a loop. The Rusty Nail adds some unforgiving climbs and a hairy sidehill section to get the adrenalin pumping.

The trail features Gold Bar Rim scenery, which means sweeping vista that include the Moab Valley, Arches National Park, the La Sal Mountains, the Book Cliffs, and the Colorado River canyon. Slickrock, steep ledges, large boulders, off camber traverses, and a steep waterfall rock make up this trip.

Golden Spike Trail (double diamond) Lat: 38° 32’ 44” / Lon: 109° 35’ 43”
One of Moab’s premier hard-core trails, Golden Spike takes in much of Poison Spider Mesa and Gold Bar Rim, adding its own tough obstacles between the two. Lots of ledges that can hang up even experienced drivers, 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. Even the occasional bypasses are tough, so be sure you and your vehicle are up to this one.

Golden Spike, Where Eagles Dare Trail (double diamond) Lat: 38° 32’ 44” / Lon: 109° 35’ 43”
Where Eagles Dare includes the complete Golden Spike Trail, and adds a scenic slickrock roller coaster on extremely steep Navajo Sandstone. The trail circles up and down around a huge bowl, finally stopping at an overlook of Corona Arch and the railroad tracks in the gorge below. It then finds yet more steep climbs and descents to exit the bowl and rejoin the Golden Spike Trail at a different section than where it departed from it. The Where Eagles Dare section demands a vehicle that is in good operating condition with brakes in tip top condition. The slickrock domes are tall and steep both going up and descending. The drops make those on Hell's Revenge pale by comparison.

Hell’s Revenge Trail (diamond) Lat: 38° 34’ 31” / Lon: 109° 31’ 19”
Moab’s premier slickrock trail is popular with 4x4s, mountain bikers and motorcyclists alike. Hell’s Revenge traverses the slickrock between the Sand Flats Road and the Colorado River. The view from all parts of the trail is wonderful. Large vistas sweep full circle from the La Sal Mountains to Arches National Park. There are views of the Colorado River canyon, Negro Bill Canyon, the Moab valley, and the large, barren expanse of slickrock is a sight to see itself. Stock 4x4s can travel much of Hell’s Revenge, but some obstacles are double diamond. All obstacles can be driven around, though, so enjoy the trail. It’s amazing how steep an obstacle can be climbed on the slickrock domes of Hell’s Revenge. Recently painted flames on the rock mark the trail to make it harder to get lost.

Hells Revenge, Escalator to Hell Trail (double diamond) Lat: 38° 34’ 31” / Lon: 109° 31’ 19”
This trip adds some excitement to the normal Hell's Revenge Trail. It covers the vast expanse of slickrock via steep climbs and descents, sometimes off camber twists and turns, with harrowing drops to the sides in several areas. The addition of Hells Gate and the Escalator to the obstacles of the regular trip increases the trail rating a couple notches.

Hellroaring Rim Trail (square) Lat: 38° 55’ 13” / Lon: 109° 48’ 18”
Hellroaring Rim Trail’s final overlook of the Hellroaring Canyon’s confluence with the Green River at Labyrinth Canyon is exceptional and worth the trip. The trail is north of Moab, with the four-wheeling part on Mineral Point part of the Mesa Country between Hellroaring and Mineral Canyons. A pleasant family trail, there’s some switchback portions and rocky areas where you will need four-wheel drive, plus a sandy hill that might give some problems when it’s completely dry. Hellroaring Window can be viewed from the canyon rim and 360-degree, 50-mile views can be had from the ridge top.

Hey Joe Canyon Trail (square) Lat: 38° 47’ 18” / Lon: 110° 0’ 5”
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, which is a jewel and Bowknot Bend, a large loop where the Green River doubles back on itself. Parts of this trail can be scary when dry and terrifying when wet.

Hole in the Rock Trail (square) Lat: 37° 29’ 47” / Lon: 110° 33’ 38”
Colonists from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (Mormons) made their way from Escalante, Utah, across incredibly rough territory to settle southeastern Utah. The eastern portion of the trail they cut out of solid rock is known as the Hole in the Rock Trail. Long and bumpy, the trail follows the pioneer’s path. Imagine what it was like back in the 19th century traveling this area. The dugway has rock steps and handholds cut into the side 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 neophyte’s driving skill.

Jax Trax (square)
Jax Trax and Cameo Cliffs are both located in the Cameo South area, 25 miles south of Moab. Jax Trax is a tribute to Jack Bickers and is made up of old mineral exploration roads he rediscovered while an early member of the Red Rock 4 Wheelers. The trail provides some four wheeling obstacles while maximizing the views of the abundant scenery in this area. Bordered on the north by Wilson Arch, the south by Steen Road, and on the east by Lisbon Valley, there is much to see here. Great buttresses of Entrada Sandstone that flank Agate Point and Cameo Mesa are contrasted by the blue green of the sagebrush and the green of pinion and juniper. The La Sal peaks tower over the area, and the Abajos (aka Blue Mountains) are frequently in sight too. Those looking for extreme challenges will be disappointed, but novices are advised they may want to choose a different trip. A rear locking differential is advised. Approximate mileages are 80 overall, 16 off-pavement.

Kane Creek Trail (square) Lat: 38° 27’ 58” / Lon: 109° 36’ 2”
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. Watch out as you drive through the canyon for short, deep gullies that will pound your 4x4 if you’re not observant. Many Moab trails follow the cliff edges above canyons. Kane Creek spends most of its time on the bottom, an interesting change of scenery.

La Sal Pass (circle)
This trail is great for escaping the heat that summer brings to the area and is more for scenery and cool air than it is for challenge (unless heights bother you). It begins on the floor of Spanish Valley out in the Pack Creek area and climbs up to a flower filled meadow in the shadow of Mt Peale, one of the La Sal Mountain's high peaks. For those used to mountain trails, it will be old hat, but the views of the Moab area are still worth the trip. Those who haven't experienced mountain four wheeling may find the switchback filled climbs interesting as the road clings to the mountain side. The vegetation changes continually along the way, starting with the pinion and juniper, up unto the dark timber forest, tossing in a few aspen stands, and finally, flower filled meadows near timberline. From the summit, there are many choices for the return trip. One choice loops around the mountains and drops back to Moab via the La Sal loop road, another descends to the La Sal town area and then back to Moab. A longer trip still descends into Castle Valley and then returns to Moab. Start with a full tank of fuel and you'll be ready for anything!

Metal Masher Trail (diamond) Lat: 38° 39’ 22” / Lon: 109° 40’ 34”
Metal Masher traverses Arth’s Rim, overlooking Highway 191 1300 feet below (with superb views). The first climb up the rim is quite breathtaking, but it’s an easy graded road. 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. Right before Mirror Gulch, a narrow, technical squeeze, is Rock Chucker Hill. Rock Chucker used to be the trail, but is now a double-diamond playground you can attempt if you dare. Widowmaker is a two-stage hill that short vehicles sometimes can’t climb.

Moab Rim Trail (double diamond) Lat: 38° 33’ 34” / Lon: 109° 34’ 56”
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 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 (diamond) Lat: 38° 32’ 1” / Lon: 109° 36’ 24”
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 (square) Lat: 38° 34’ 54” / Lon: 109° 24’ 55”
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 6800- foot Porcupine Rim of Castle Valley, Castle Rock and the Priest and the Nuns rock formations. A bumpy trail over broken rock and ledges, the only tougher obstacle has a bypass. Porcupine Rim is very popular with mountain bikers, too.

Pritchett Canyon Trail (double diamond) Lat: 38° 32’ 8” / Lon: 109° 35’ 55”
Once a county road, Pritchett Canyon could now 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 interesting for the hard-core four-wheeler. The steep walled canyon and beautiful views make Pritchett a gem for passengers, too. Highlights are obstacles that include Chewy, Rocker Knocker, the Rock Pile, and Yellow Hill. There are other obstacles that are unnamed but just as tough as the older, famous ones. All require the best equipment and skill. Once on top of Yellow Hill, return down the canyon or backtrack the Behind the Rocks Trail. During Jeep Safari week, Pritchett Canyon can be a big traffic jam.

Secret Spire Trail (circle) Lat: 38° 41’ 4” / Lon: 109° 54’ 56”
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. The tunnel is tall enough to walk through, with only the tallest needing to stoop.

Sevenmile Rim Trail (square) Lat: 38° 40’ 48” / Lon: 109° 41’ 29”
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 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 (square) Lat: 38° 32’ 16” / Lon: 102° 28’ 23”
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. Other portions climb higher and traverse broken rock ledges. There are a few difficult obstacles that can be tried, but there are bypasses too. The final creek crossing near the end of the trail can be muddy and slippery.

Strike Ravine Trail (diamond) Lat: 38° 26’ 24” / Lon: 109° 25’ 44”
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. There are areas that have been chained for grazing, power lines and many old mines. In spite of these signs of use, 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 vehicle is too low. Scenery highlights include the forested slopes of the La Sal Mountains in the near-distance.

Top of the World Trail (also known as Rose Garden Hill Trail) (diamond) Lat: 38° 48’ 38” / Lon: 109° 18’ 16”
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 the high, red canyon walls with clear water running below is extremely photogenic. 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 trails. Rose Garden is long, rutted and rocky, with a cliff on one side (sometimes, it seems like ALL Moab obstacles have a cliff on one side).

Wipe-Out Hill Trail (diamond) Lat: 38° 43’ 37” / Lon: 109° 43’ 18”
Wipe-Out Hill uses portions of Bartlett Wash, Tusher Canyon, Courthouse Pasture and the cliff base of Big Mesa, so offers a great variety of scenery and a wide range of trail surfaces. A long, wide sandy wash is great fun for those who like speed runs. There are a few obstacles, one being the Tusher Wash sand hill which varies in difficulty depending on how torn up it is and what time of year it is. 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.

Area BFE (double diamond)
Area BFE in Upper Kane Springs Canyon is hard-core heaven. There are trails for all levels here, but the real draws are the tough trails. One of those is Helldorado. 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 all but the shortest 4x4s up. The trail presents a waterfall that most need a winch to get up (some can drive it), so don’t go if you don’t have a working winch. The scenery is great, but hardly anyone enjoying Area BFE is paying much attention to it. This is the place for those who like to test themselves and their equipment.

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