RIDING IN MOAB CANYON UTAH

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RIDING IN MOAB UTAH

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Jeeps and every other type of 4x4s flock to Moab to meet the challenge of these undeveloped roads. This is the ul­timate test for the machine and driver. In ’98, Moab will host its 32nd Annual Eas­ter Jeep Safari. This weeklong event will register more than 2000 Jeeps and other sport utility vehicles for day­long trips on 30 outrageous trails.

MULTI-USE TRAILS

These roads and trails around Mo­ab are multi-use and managed by the federal Bureau of Land Man­age­ment (BLM). My wife, Laura, and I al­ways wanted to check out the Jeep and mountain bike trails around Mo­ab to see if they are good places to ride our quads.

I wrote to the BLM office for the Mo­ab area (82 E. Dogwood, Moab, UT 84532) to obtain information on where to ride our ATVs. I was told you may also call the Moab Information Cen­ter ([800] 635-MOAB) to find out more about off-road riding in this area.

IT CAME IN THE MAIL

RIDING IN MOAB UTAH

The BLM sent me a pamphlet on Moab-area four-wheel-drive trails. It featured detailed information on Chicken Corners Trail, Gemini Bridg­es Trail, Poison Spider Mesa Trail, and Moab Rim Trail. It also contained tips for precautions and essentials. First and foremost, the BLM recommends that you carry an adequate supply of water. This is an arid environment with little protection from the sun. The best times of year to ride Moab are April, May, June, September, and Oc­to­ber when average temperatures range be­tween 40 degrees (night) and 85 degrees (day).

To satisfy our curiosity about the area, Laura and I and a few of our friends made two trips to Moab, one in September ’96 and the other in Sep­­tember ’97. Here’s what we found.

On both trips, Laura and I headed to Salt Lake City, where we met up with our favorite Utah guide, Paul Smith. Paul led us to Moab, where he rides each year with the Utah ATV Association.

DETERMINATION TOWERS

Our adventure started in Mill Can­yon, 15 miles north of Moab, south of Canyonlands Airport. We crossed the railroad tracks west of the highway and located the trailhead in a small grove of trees. Paul led us southwest to the Mill Canyon Dinosaur Trail. This self-guided quarter-mile hiking trail has 15 marked sites of interest along a canyon wall. You can visit it in about 20 minutes. Across the small canyon is the site of an old copper mill. Dur­ing the late 1800s copper was mined along the Moab Fault and pro­cessed here.

RIDING IN MOAB UTAH

STAYING DETERMINED…

We continued up the trail through Courthouse Pasture until we spotted De­termination Towers. The towers form a wall of balanced rock of different heights, stemming out of the des­ert floor. Our group attacked the towers from different directions, looking for a shady spot to break out the wa­ter bottles.

After quenching our thirst at the tow­er, we rode south to Merrimac and Monitor Buttes and the appropriately named Wipe Out Hill. Looping back east of Courthouse Rock, we played on a sandhill climb before re­turning to the trailhead. We tightened up the brakes on one machine and had some lunch in the shade. That afternoon we rode another loop to the backside of Determination Towers, where we enjoyed playing in some sandy washes.

SPRING CANYON

We loaded our quads and headed up Hwy. 313 from Hwy. 191, toward Dead Horse Point State Park. This park has an awesome Grand Can­yon-type view. We turned off of Hwy. 313 at milepost 14 to locate a campsite on Spring Canyon Rd. This gravel road does not have a sign, but it is di­rectly across from a view area with a toilet facility. We camped just off of Spring Canyon Rd., where we had a view of the sunrise over Arches Na­tion­al Park.

The next morning we headed west on Spring Canyon Rd. to the first road on the left. Down this road, Paul showed us a pictograph mural on an al­cove wall. These seven painted figures are disappearing as the base of the rock continues to fall away.

We continued west for several miles until Spring Canyon Rd. started winding downhill. We ended up at a rocky area, more typical for this coun­try. Paul took us to our left to show us the entrance to Spring Can­yon.

SPRING CLEANING…

It is a boulder-strewn trail an­gling downhill that took us to a cliff with a dropoff of 600 feet. The de­scend­ing road followed a cliff to the right. As we traveled into the can­yon, the road improved. The acoustics there are phenomenal; at the bottom, we could clearly talk to a member of our group who had stayed on the cliff 600 feet above us.

RIDING IN MOAB UTAH

At the bottom were rocky points that protruded like teeth from both sides of the canyon walls, and we rode around them. This narrow can­yon took us to the Green River, where kay­akers waved as they paddled downstream to Colorado. Nearby roads went both upstream and down­­stream. We rode downstream, and I explored a couple of side roads that went uphill into maz­es of fallen rock. These roads used to lead to mines. We cut our exploration short, hopefully, to return to do more discovery on another trip.

This was Laura’s favorite ride. She even found a grove of trees at the bottom where she would like to camp some­day.

GEMINI BRIDGES

That afternoon we hauled our ma­chines farther up Hwy. 313 to the ac­cess to Bull Canyon and Crips Hole. This road, on the left, is the back way into Gemini Bridges rock formation. Paul took us to these bridges, which are two strips of rock across a deep hole at the top of a cliff 200 feet high. Jeeps drive across these bridges, which are actually twin arches. We parked on top for photographs and looked down into Bull Canyon below.

TEN-MILE WASH

Our next area to discover was Du­bin­kys Well, where we turned west and headed to Tombstone Rock (part of this rock looks like a lion from the west side). We turned right onto Drip­ping Springs Rd. and headed northwest, ending up in the middle of Ten-Mile Canyon. Paul took us into what is known as Ten-Mile Wash. This is the lower part of the canyon where all of the sediment is deposited. This wash winds its way through a shallow canyon for 16 miles to the Green River.

I enjoyed this ride the most, be­cause the trail constantly split and came back together. It meandered be­tween the wash and the bank on ei­ther side. We felt like we were riding a roller coaster, making jumps and riding a slalom. It was also a safe place to practice wheelies. Steve, Paul, and I had fun racing each other on this smooth, sandy track.

RIDING IN MOAB UTAH

In places, the rocky cliff overhung the wash, so we steered under it and found some comfort in the shade there. In a couple of places, there were small sand dunes to play on. The rocky walls confined us to the wash, so there was no way out on ei­ther side. I wouldn’t want to be there in heavy rain; a flash flood could be fatal. As we continued down the wash, it narrowed. I noticed a large doe that we herded ahead of us. When we got to a wide, brushy area, the doe circled around behind us and disappeared.

Paul tried to lead me into a mud bog trap at the end of the wash. He got mired in it once before. To his surprise it had dried up, forming huge cracks in the smelly dirt. This af­ford­ed us easy access to the Green Riv­er, around the next corner.

RIVER CROSSINGS…

The river water was too tempt­ing on this hot sunny day, so the guys stripped down to their shorts to go for a swim. With a Tarzan yell that the womenfolk did not understand (it’s a guy thing), we ran for the river and dove in. The river was muddy but not very deep. We could touch bottom for three-quarters of the way across. The opposite bank was too steep and rocky to ascend, so after that refreshing dip, we had the pleasure of the 16-mile ride back out of the wash.

That was the extent of our ’96 Moab visit. All year we talked and thought about ATVing in Moab. What a wonderful time we had riding there. We wanted to explore new trails there in ’97, yet we also wanted to ride these same trails again. Paul had the burden of deciding where to take us.

TOP OF THE WORLD

I often heard of a Moab Jeep trail called “Top of the World.” I figured with a name like that, it had to have an awesome panoramic view. I told Paul we needed to ride that trail on the way to Moab when we returned in ’97. On the re­turn trip, from I-70, we took Hwy. 128 south to the Colorado Riv­er and the Dewey Bridge Camp­ground. This camp­ground was named after the historic Dewey Bridge, built-in 1916, which is Utah’s long­est suspension bridge. The bridge is now used as part of Ko­ko­pel­li’s Bike Trail. It is 30 miles east of Mo­ab at the end of Cat­a­ract Canyon.

When Laura and I arrived at the camp­ground, Doug and Angie Silk­wood of Fort Myers, FL, were waiting for us. We had met them at the Rocky Mountain ATV Jamboree. Doug and An­gie were traveling the U.S. in their mo­torhome, searching out new plac­es to ride their ATVs. They were using Dirt Wheels as their riding guide. Doug said he was in an ear­ly retirement, between jobs, and he wanted to see the country while he and An­gie were young enough to en­joy it. They rode with us the following day to the Top of the World.

RIDING IN MOAB UTAH

From the campground, we rode north under the Dewey Bridge and headed up Entrada Bluffs Rd. About four miles up that road there are two roads that come together on the right. The road on the right goes to the Top of the World. The other road is Ko­ko­pel­li’s Trail.

TOP OF WORLD TO YA…

The road to the Top of the World is rocky and pretty rough in places. I only thought one spot was challenging. My map showed it to be five miles to the top, but Laura’s odometer said it was only 3.5 miles. It was pretty rough but well worth the climb. Pro­ceed with extreme caution at the top, because the road ends at the ledge and it is 1500 feet down to the base of The Mystery Towers below. You can see all of Fisher Valley, Pro­fes­sor Valley and into The Arches Na­tion­al Park.

That was such a short jaunt, we de­cided to do more exploring. I was elected to take the lead. First I tried Ko­kopelli’s Trail, which took us into a steep canyon. On the way out the other side, Angie almost got bucked off of her Suzuki 230 on a steep rock. She recovered but ended up skidding backward downhill for about 40 feet, stopping two feet before go­ing over the embankment. That girl is tough.

Checking the map, I decided to take us to the Dolores River Overlook. I found that all of the roads are not list­ed on the map, so we ended up on one less traveled, which the cacti were trying to reclaim. Our tires gath­ered a few spines, but no flats. On the way back, I missed the turn again (strike three), so Laura fired me as the leader.

ONION CREEK

Between Fisher Towers and Castle Val­ley Rd. on Hwy. 128 is the Onion Creek Rd. This area, known as Pro­fes­sor Valley, is famous for its movie his­tory; countless westerns were shot here over the years. To me, Onion Creek is just a fun place to ride ATVs. There are about 30 wa­ter crossings in the first six miles of the road. It also traverses some of the richest red soil and rocks in the area. To the southwest you can see the rock formations in Castle Valley and to the northeast you can see the cliffs below “Top of the World.”

RIDING IN MOAB UTAH

As we rode southeast, we came out in Fisher Valley and found Kokopelli’s Trail. We rode up Cottonwood Can­yon on that trail to Rose Garden Hill and decided not to climb it because no one in our group was riding a Ban­shee.

Doubling back through Fisher Val­ley, we took Kokopelli’s Trail up Thomp­son Canyon. We found a place called Hideout Campsite with a picnic area and toilet facilities. It is a beautiful wooded location that ap­par­ently doesn’t get a lot of use. We had lunch and relaxed there. Paul showed us a wood-and-mud shack built into a hillside. We also discovered that there are rattlesnakes in­hab­iting this hideout, so we didn’t stay long. I wonder if that’s why this place looks so good?

Continuing on up the trail, we skirted Cowhead Hill, where we passed some mountain bikers who were racing downhill. We stopped at the top at Hideout Canyon Viewpoint. This view­point directs north over Fisher Val­­ley. After getting all of our favorite photographs, we returned the way we had come through Onion Creek.

BULL CANYON

That night we returned to our fa­vo­rite camping spot, off Spring Canyon Rd. The next morning Paul took us to the Gemini Bridges Trailhead. The trailhead is located off of Hwy. 191, just south of Hwy. 313, on the west side of the road. The trail heads south and climbs to the top of the bluff, af­fording a view into Arches National Park. Paul took us past Gooney Bird Rock and down Trigger Rd. to Bull Can­yon. I saw a snake in the road but did not attempt to verify its species.

RIDING IN MOAB UTAH

Bull Canyon dead-ended at the base of Gemini Bridges. There was a shady alcove there that would be a good spot to have lunch. Paul and I hiked as high as we could up the rock face, but we couldn’t get near the bottom of the opening below the bridg­es.

Laura volunteered to stay down below to take pictures, while Jeff, Paul, and I rode to the top of Gemini Bridg­es.  We parked on top of the front bridge so Laura could get a picture, but she needed a higher-power zoom lens because we were too far away.

ROUGH TRAIL

When we met Laura back on Trigger Rd. and had lunch. We explored some of the Gold Bar Rim Trail near Mon­ti­cel­lo Rock. The trails in that area were too rough, so we played around near Gooney Bird Rock be­fore returning to town early.

That night we relaxed with a Can­yon­lands By Night boat trip up Cat­a­ract Can­yon. This is a sound and light show on the canyon walls, while we slowly floated downstream under the stars.

RUBY RANCH DUNES

The next morning, Paul took us back to Ten-Mile Canyon the same way we traveled before. This time, in­stead of going left into the wash, we went across a creek to the right. Be­cause the area looked so different from all of the heavy rain, we missed our im­me­diate left turn up the hill.

We continued up the wrong wash until Laura got high-centered on her 300 Honda. We were in big open coun­try, but Paul had his eagle eyes and keen instincts to get us back on track. He led us northeast to a fence and a gate. Through the gate, we rode to the left and eventually came to a monster-size wash called White Wash. We had great fun in this wash. We were able to ride wide open and blow out the carbon. Another way in­to this area from I-70, is to take exit 173 and follow Ruby Ranch Rd. south.

MORE BEAUTY…

Near the east end of the wash are the Ruby Ranch Dunes. Their beauty is set off by the contrast in colors and vegetation. The dunes are similar to the Coral Pink Dunes in color, but I found them to be more treacherous. They are mixed in with huge red sands­tone formations and both are very steep. We had to ride them very carefully, but I still enjoyed them a lot.

We rode east up White Wash, which skirted the dunes until it turned into a narrow canyon. One fork of the canyon ended in a solid rock bowl, where we had lunch. This bowl is about 50 feet in diameter. During the rainy season, water pours into it on two sides from about 20 feet up. That would be amazing to watch. After lunch, we rode on some of the bigger rocks before racing back down White Wash.

Paul took us to two different locations to view the Green River from the top of the cliffs. We watched rafters with their sun umbrellas floating by 600 feet below us. On our way back to camp, two huge deer streaked across the road in front of us—a pleasant ending to a full 90-mile day of riding.

EPILOGUE

These were sure awe-inspiring ad­ven­tures in red rock country. Moab is a great place to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city. As you can tell, there is much to do in and around Moab, in the southeastern part of Utah. For Laura and myself, it is a dream come true every year that we are able to explore this part of the country.

Enjoying the stories of the Old West, we can picture them in some of the lo­cations that we visited. John Wayne once said, “On TV you can make up a lot, but for the big screen, for the real outdoor dra­­mas, you have to do it where God put the West . . . and there is no better ex­­ample of this than around Moab.”

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RIDING IN MOAB UTAH

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