Oct. 14-16, 2010
Our family planned an ATV outing to Moab this year for the UEA break. Unfortunately, Kim was unable to go because of a broken foot. So, it turned into a father and son outing. Jason and I took the opportunity to explore some of the more advanced trails in the area. We got a great workout and had a great time.
For additional photos, check my Picasa photo album at:
- Dee and Jason Gardiner.
The weather was fairly hot and sunny all three days of our UEA trip. Mornings were pleasant while afternoons got up near 80º – which was hot when riding in the desert.
Kane Creek Canyon – Thursday, Oct 14:
Back in the spring of 2004 Paul Bradley and I rode the Kane Creek Canyon trail. It was a really fun ride with numerous stream crossings and tight banked turns through the brush. My neighbor, Jayson Critchfield rode the trail later that same day and was hit head-on by a dirt biker going too fast around the blind corners. Luckily, no one was hurt, but Jayson’s ATV was damaged. As a result of that incident, I felt it best to not ride Kane Creek on a crowded weekend (such as UEA). So we opted to ride Kane Creek on Thursday before the big crowds arrived. As it turned out, we hardly saw anyone else on the trail.
Since 2004 the canyon has had several severe flash floods which washed out much of the trail. As a result, many new trail segments have been cut by drivers trying to find a way to cross the stream. The trail was also much rockier than it used to be. It was an advanced and challenging trail, but it was still a fun ride.
Refer to Figure 1 for a GPS record of our ride. We parked near the bottom of Kane Spring Canyon road. We rode up the nice gravel road which is suitable for any type of car. Cars can easily drive as far as the scenic Hurrah Pass.
After about 6 miles we turned off the main road and began the Kane Creek Canyon Jeep trail. This first part of the trail was a rocky Jeep road through desert terrain. There were a few challenging points along this section of trail, but nothing too hard for advanced/intermediate riders.
The road dropped into the canyon and had the first stream crossing at waypoint Kane Cr 3. From here the fun began!
Between Kane Cr 3 and Kane Cr 5 the trail crosses the stream dozens of times. The trail even follows the streambed in a few sections. The streambed consists of round boulders while the dry portions of the trail are mostly sandy. There was a nice turn-around/rest area under some Cottonwood trees at waypoint KaneRest.
At Kane Cr 5 the trail becomes much more technical, requiring serious 4WD equipment for Jeeps and trucks. A bypass ATV trail splits off at this point and dropped back down into the canyon. You must descend two steep ledges and then cross the creek to continue along the trail. Someone recently added some steel ATV ramps which make it more challenging for dirt bikes. Going down wasn’t a problem, but coming back up was. You first cross the creek and then have to climb the narrow, slippery ramps. Jason went first. After getting up the first ramp he advised me “to not get my tires wet”. I had a harder time (with very wet tires), so Jason came back and helped me push my bike up. (They seemed much steeper in person than in the photo).
Shortly after these ramps you come to an old rickety bridge. This is where Paul and I stopped in 2004. But this bridge has also been repaired in recent years, allowing Jason and me to continue for another 100 feet or so. We stopped to enjoy the small waterfall in the canyon bottom.
The trail is pretty technical beyond this point (so I have heard) and it was getting late, so we decided to head back to the car and get some dinner. The ride back went much faster and was much more enjoyable than the ride up.
The total out-and-back ride was about 35 miles and took approximately 4 hours. Because most of the trail was quite rocky, we were pretty tired when we got back to the car. We were looking forward to a nice soak in the motel hot tub, but were disappointed in the poor quality of the tub. But we did enjoy a nice steak dinner at Smitty’s Golden Steak House.
Sevenmile Rim, Wipeout Hill, and the 3D Trail – Friday, Oct 15:
Friday was our only chance for a full-day ride, so we decided to explore some new terrain. By studying various guide books and doing Internet research (including YouTube videos) I mapped out a nice loop that included the Sevenmile Rim Jeep trail, Wipeout Hill, and the 3D Jeep trail. I estimated about 43-45 miles, but it turned out to be 50 miles. It was a challenging and long ride, but it was really fun. We were totally beat when we finally got back to the car later that afternoon.
Refer to the map. We parked near the highway just across from the Arch View campground. We rode along the easy Cotter Mine Ride to the trailhead for the Sevenmile Rim trail. The trail quickly climbs up the mesa and basically follows the rim south and then west toward the Monitor and Merrimac buttes.
This is an advanced trail, mostly because it is rough. There are a few technical ledges, but they have bypass routes. We intended to visit Uranium Arch, but somehow missed it.
The southern portion of the trail is really fast and fun, consisting, for the most part, of shallow sand. We stopped at an overlook of the highway heading up to Dead Horse Point, but were disappointed in the view.
There are numerous trails on the bluff near Monitor and Merrimac. The Sevenmile Rim trail follows the more challenging route behind the buttes. One section is on very steep sandstone slickrock, which is quite intimidating for those in Jeeps or ATVs. It wasn’t too hard on a dirt bike, but the descent down the hill keeps you fully awake!
This brought us to Wipeout Hill! Wipeout Hill is one of the famous Jeep challenges. It has two routes up; the harder left route and the less-hard right route. I planned our ride so that we would not have to go up this obstacle – but rather we would go down. If we had done this ride the day after Hell’s Revenge, we probably would have just ridden straight down – but we didn’t. So we took the “chicken sneak zig-zag” route. It was somewhat intimidating, but not too bad (it would be scarier on an ATV).
We started on the easier right side (as viewed from the bottom), traversed over to the left, made a scary 120º turn, and down. The above photo was taken just after the turn.
The Wipeout Hill trail then heads southwest towards Highway 313. This was a fast ride on a sandy road. Just prior to the highway, we turned west on a lesser-known dirt road that connects to the Dubinki Wells road. There was one challenging climb, but otherwise this road was fairly easy. We enjoyed lunch in the shade of a large juniper tree.
We then zipped along the Dubinki Wells road to the beginning (actually the end – since we went the opposite direction of the Jeep Safari) of the 3D Trail. The 3D trail is basically a combination of the Bartlett Overlook trail, the Hidden Canyon Overlook trail, and the Hidden Canyon trail, with a side detour through Lunar Valley.
The Bartlett Overlook trail starts off easy and fast, but gets somewhat rockier as we approached the overlook. Just past the turnoff to the overlook we reached the first obstacle, which was easier than it looked. From here, the trail becomes more technical and more difficult to follow.
A steep, loose dirt ramp leads off the mesa down to the slickrock below. Just after the steep descent, we rode down an obstacle known as “The Wall”. It was steep, but less technical than Wipeout Hill. We then enjoyed the view at Hidden Canyon Overlook.
The trail continues in a mostly northwesterly direction across a massive expanse of slickrock. There was nothing too challenging, but the trail was fairly rough. The 3D trail diverges from the Hidden Canyon Overlook trail and swings west through Lunar Valley, which receives its name from the bizarre landscape. The slickrock is full of holes that look like craters.
The trail then swings around to the east and drops into Hidden Canyon. Hidden Canyon (and nearby Bartlett Wash) consist of very deep and soft sand. Those with ATVs would love this portion of the ride. Jason and I are getting better at riding in deep sand, but we still struggle a little. Still, we had a good time and enjoyed the beautiful scenery within the canyon.
The trail then goes north again along the Bartlett Wash trail. We then turned southeast and rode over to visit Tusher Tunnel. Tusher Tunnel is a natural tunnel through the mountain. It is quite bizarre. It has a fairly flat bottom and triangular shaped roof. You can walk through the tunnel (about 200 ft. long) and enjoy the view on the other side.
After a much needed break in the shade we rode over to Tusher Wash and rejoined the Sevenmile Rim trail, but rode back towards Monitor & Merrimac. Rather than go back down the way we came up, we rode north on the Mill Canyon road and turned east on another road that headed back to the Cotter Mine Road. This turned out to be a very bumpy ride on rough slickrock. It wasn’t hard – it was just bumpy.
We started our ride at about 10:00 AM and finished at about 4:30 PM. We were very tired and ready for a rest when we got back to the car, but we both loved the ride. It had excellent variety with constantly changing terrain. It had a good mix of dirt, sand, deep sand, rocks, ledges, and slickrock. It had fast cruising sections and slow and technical sections. The Hidden Canyon and Bartlett Wash area would make a nice family ride while avoiding all of the more technical sections.
Fins-N-Things and Hell’s Revenge – Saturday, Oct 16:
We saved the best ride for last. Fins-N-Things has long been one of my favorite trails in the Moab area. The slickrock is much smoother than most other areas, and the trail rides along the top of numerous sandstone fins. Refer to Figure 11. The blue trail is Fins-N-Things while the red indicates part of Hell’s Revenge.
We rode Fins-N-Things in the recommended counter-clockwise direction. The south portion of the loop is not recommended for ATVs, although I can only think of one obstacle that would be very intimidating on an ATV. Most of this section consists of sandy trails and easy chunks of slickrock – but there are a few steep “waterfall” descents that can be intimidating at first. The trail then follows the Sand Flats road and then turns off on the northern portion of the trail. This section is fairly rocky, but not too technical. Once you get to FINS16 the trail becomes very fun as it mostly follows sandstone fins. There is a short loop off FINS21 that contains the steepest climb (going counter-clockwise) of the trail. This can be avoided by simply skipping the loop.
We met a fellow that was riding the trail in the opposite direction and he was stuck in this loop. He had gone in circles three times when he met us and asked for directions. He didn’t know where to exit the loop to continue on with the trail – so I pointed him in the right direction.
This trail is fairly short and we were done by about 11:00 AM, so we loaded up the bikes and drove down to the Hell’s Revenge trailhead (newly paved with restrooms).
The Hell’s Revenge trail is sort of like Fins-N-Things on steroids. It consists of long and steep climbs/descents on fairly smooth slickrock. The trail was fairly crowded, but on a bike it is fairly easy to pass slower moving vehicles.
Hell’s Revenge is pretty easy to follow – you just follow the black line on the slickrock. The steep climbs and descents are mandatory, but the really technically challenging obstacles are all optional.
Hell’s Gate is well known as a place to test your 4WD skills. There are some entertaining YouTube videos of Jeeps flipping over backwards while attempting the climb. It is out near the river overlook near Hells12. We watched a fellow in a stock Toyota FJ Cruiser go down the trail. I thought for sure he was going to damage his vehicle, but he made a clean run.
There are several “hot tubs” near Hells17. Some are very steep and usually have water in the bottom. I can’t figure out why anyone would want to take their vehicle down inside, but people do. We watched one Jeep go in and out of one of the less steep tubs. Jason and I figured we could have easily ridden out bikes in and out of that one – but neither of us wanted to.
While eating lunch we heard frequent tire squealing off in the distance. It was a group of people with Polaris RZRs trying to climb The Escalator out near Hells21. The final obstacle is called Tip Over Challenge. This one didn’t appeal to me either. Luckily it has a bypass.
Beyond Tip Over Challenge the trail becomes very rocky as it descends back to the Sand Flats road. Rather than exit that way and end our day, we opted to ride the trail back the opposite direction. The steep descents became steep climbs, and visa-verse. The trail is fun in either direction.
These two trails were the highlight of the trip. They were both very fun and rewarding – and we didn’t feel hammered when we were done. We loaded up the trailer, changed out of our riding gear and headed for home. We arrived home about 6:00 PM, with just enough daylight left to wash the bikes and put them away.
It was a great trip!