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Watch Your Step: Cliffhanger Trail Report, 2017 Easter Jeep Safari Day 5

Posted in Moab Experience: 2017 on April 14, 2017
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Photographers: Clifton Slay

You know it, and we’ll stop saying it… someday maybe. Cliffhanger Trail in Moab, Utah, just off Kane Creek Road, is one of our favorites. But it’s not for those with vertigo or acrophobia (that’s the fear of heights). Cliffhanger is a fun trail where the action starts at the trailhead. During the 2017 Easter Jeep Safari, 4 Wheel Parts, the off-road parts giant, asked a few vendors, customers, and friends to run Cliffhanger. We got the chance to tag along, and you know we had our cameras in hand.

Over the years this trail with spectacular views has gotten tougher and it “ain’t no joke” in our experience. As a result, the trip was filled with excitement as industry insiders and everyday enthusiasts made the climb to the cliff we love to drive on. We’ll give you a play-by-play of the obstacles on this trail and then toss in a few extra photos we know you’ll want to see.

The start of Cliffhanger is right off Kane Creek Road and things get started with a bang. You have to scurry down a hill that is somewhat reminiscent of Potato Salad Hill (although maybe not quite as difficult). The hill is a series of steps that you have to slowly crawl down…and since Cliffhanger is an in-and-out trail you’ll have to climb these steps too at the end of the day.
The hill levels out and then heads down again towards one last, 4-foot ledge. There is a rock or two on the right side that make that side of this big ledge a bit easier to creep down.
At the bottom of this ledge the trail takes a sharp right turn and continues to step down towards the creek. Not long after the ledge is this drop that has gotten pretty dug out over the past years. On the right side as you go down (in) the trail is a pretty good hole that will tip your 4x4 as you drop. Our UA pal Jr. crawls down this new obstacle in the Skyjacker American Flag JK. The Jeep still has the scars it got on UA 2016 to prove it’s for real and not just another mall crawler.
After crossing the creek at the bottom of the hill you come to this wedgie spot where two rocks force your tires together as you climb. The key is to hit both sides of the wedge with both tires at the same time so you can climb it.
Below the wedge are a couple of large loose rocks that will grab your differential or bellyplate and mire you up in loose sand. On this day the trick seemed to be to stay to the left side of these rocks driving your passenger-side tire over the diff-grabbing rock. It’s easy to get focused on the wedgie climb ahead and forget to pay attention to these big loose rocks. The result is loss of forward movement and you might even need a tug if you turtle on the rocks really well.
The Kymera from Fab Fours can go just about anywhere it wants to, and Greg Higgs tries a wacky line in this incredible creation.
Spotters were on hand to help spot anyone who wanted it.
Follow the trail, conquering several smaller obstacles as you climb up the mesa towards the real cliff that gives this trail its name.
The trail takes a sweeping left turn over some slickrock just before this next obstacle. At the bottom is a big cracked rock with a few different lines. One to the left, or hug the rock to the right like this shiny new JK Rubicon Unlimited did.
Another ledge at the top of these rocks is a little tricky. Hug the rock to the right to climb up it.
Next up is the Z-turn which should get your attention. Stay wide to the right to get the easiest approach to the climb or go left over the big round boulder with all the marks on it. Cliffhanger is also popular with mountain bikers, so be sure to share the trail and respect the other owners of this land.
The trail continues to climb up and up with a couple more minor obstacles (and one cool obstacle with an easy line to the left and a tough climb to the right). As you gain elevation you will eventually find yourself driving along a shelf next to a big cliff. This is the cliff that gives the trail its name, and things are about to get a little spooky.
Oooh momma, that’s a long way down!
To make matters worse there is a gnarly drop and ledges on the far side of the shelf right where the trail is at its narrowest. Don’t worry the cliff will be there to keep you company.
After the drop at the cliff you can continue on up the trail for quite a while, but since we were in a large group we decided to have some lunch and then turn around to head back out of the trail. The good news is we get to do all the obstacles again. The bad news is we have to climb back up on the shelf road along the cliff.
Hug the rocks to the right at the top of the climb, but mind that crack in the middle of the top. This is an uncomfortable climb as the cliff is right there and the vehicle tends to pitch towards the cliff, but thousands have driven up it.
Most of the obstacles you drove up on the way out are a bit easier to go down. Gravity helps. The first three obstacles of the day involved dropping down, and now you have to go back up. Stay to the left side of the third to last obstacle being climbed by this JK and then turn passenger. You may have to use the Moab bump technique to get up this one.
Next, you come to the ledge that is the second to last obstacle. Use the rocks on the left to help make the climb. Some rigs with the right wheelbase and large tires can climb to the right.
There are several different lines up the Potato Salad Hill-like last obstacle on Cliffhanger. The easiest seems to be to start to the right and then cut back to the left about half-way up, but that puts you right on the edge of a smaller, albeit still frightening, cliff. Alternatively you can head right up the center climbing the ledges. Some take lockers and a little momentum.
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