San Rafael & White Wash – Mar. 2011

March 18-19, 2011

Spring break is late this year – in fact it is one week after Jarett Jolley enters the MTC.  What better excuse to have a pre-spring-break trip to the Green River area?

Photo Album:

For additional photos, check my Picasa photo album at:


  • Dee, Jamie, and Jason Gardiner.
  • Barney and Taylor Brockbank.
  • Jarett Jolley


The weather was pretty nice.  It was kind of cold Friday morning, but we warmed up fast when we hit the challenging portions of the trail.  Saturday was warmer but windy.


We stayed at the Riverside Terrace motel in Green River (used to be a Best Western).  The rooms were spacious and they offer a wonderful cooked breakfast.  You had your choice of omelets, pancakes, French toast, eggs, etc., as well as the typical continental breakfast choices.  It was excellent.  The only disadvantage was the outdoor hot tub and pool (which wasn’t open yet).

Barney, Taylor, and Jarett actually got a day of riding in on Thursday.  They hoped to ride Caineville, but it was raining so they went to White Wash.  They ended up exploring some of the trails I had in mind for Saturday, but they went the opposite direction.  That turned out to be useful because it is very easy to get confused out on the slickrock single track trails.

Friday March 18: San Rafael Single Track

One of our goals for this trip was to explore as much single track as we could in the San Rafael area, as shown by the dotted lines in first figure.

The Dick Brass trails consist of “Green” (#841), “Blue” (#840), “Orange” (#838), “Red” (#836), “Lone Man” (#833), and the infamous “Five Miles Of Hell” (#839).  I have seen videos of Red and Five Miles Of Hell, and I have no desire to attempt those routes.  But many years ago I rode Green, Blue, and Orange and quite enjoyed them.

I also wanted to explore the “Waterfall Trail” (#847).  I had heard that it is easiest going north-to-south, but I am not sure that is true – at least in one spot…

We managed to accomplish this all in one day, but it was a long and tiring day – especially for a first trip of the year – and especially for my old bones.  We rode approximately 57 miles – most of which was single track – in about 7 hours.

San Rafael single track (dotted trails)

Dick Brass Trails:

We parked at the ATV staging area just south of Temple Mountain near the turnoff to Goblin Valley (just left of the red paved road in the lower right corner of the map).  The temperature was just above 40 degrees when we arrived at the staging area, and it looked like it might rain.  We did not get rained on, but we had to wear jackets which we ended up carrying with us the rest of the day (no ATVs to haul our luggage).

We headed east and then north on EM1015 through Temple Wash.  This was an interesting narrow canyon, but it consisted of very loose pea-sized gravel that was quite difficult to ride through.

Loose gravel in North Temple Wash

The Temple Mountain area contains numerous old Jeep roads developed primarily by Uranium miners.  Only a few roads are still open to OHV use.  We rode one of these Jeep roads (#845) which led to the first of our single track adventures, the Orange trail.

The Orange trail started off in a sandy wash and then climbed to the benches with numerous rocks and ledges.  I found the trail more challenging than it was years ago due to the heavy usage of the trail.  With so many other trails closed, it forces the OHV crowds onto a few trails which then get over utilized.

We got to ride the Orange trail both directions, and I found it more enjoyable coming back (north-to-south) since the ledges are a little easier.

Ledges on the Orange Trail

Below is a photo of Jamie taken from the Orange trail. Temple Mountain is visible in the background.

Jamie on the Orange Trail – Temple Mtn in the background

Beyond the junction with the Green trail, the Orange trail quickly became more challenging.  We came to a 3’-4’ drop-off in the wash bottom.  Barney chose the right path which required maneuvering around boulders and making a sharp 90º turn.

Barney taking the right door

I chose “chicken left” through a narrow slot.  Luckily my bike had enough clearance to avoid scraping bottom.

Dee taking the “chicken left”

The boys all took the more exciting center route – straight off the ledge into the sandy bottom.  They made it look easy – and fun.  The shadow of Taylor’s tire in Figure 7 gives some idea of the height of the ledge.  Then clever Jamie found a diagonal route that was the cleanest choice of all.

Taylor taking the center leap

We hit a few more obstacles on this portion of the Orange trail, which gave most of us grief at one time or another.  I got my first crash on my new bike behind me – but not my last.  Luckily all of our crashes were basically “low-speed fall-overs” rather than serious crashes.

The Blue trail was easy, as was the Green trail – although the Green trail had long sections of deep sandy whoops that really wore my legs out.

The Waterfall Trail:

After returning via the Orange trail we rode west to the base of Temple Mountain.  We then rode around Temple Mountain on trail #849, which had some fun parts as well as some rocks and ruts.

I wanted to explore ATV trail #848, but we only made it up a half mile or so before we hit a 3’ ledge that spanned the wash.  The trail is rated as blue (intermediate), but it seemed advanced to me.  Maybe coming down the other way would be easier.  Rather than waste our energy on this unknown trail we turned back and took the main road up past Flat Top to the Waterfall trailhead.

The Waterfall trail is just over 12 miles long.  Most of it is intermediate level, with a few very advanced sections.

The next photo is of the hardest section – a hill climb that traverses the hill on an angle with a sharp ledge at the top.

Teamwork on the Waterfall trail

 The last 10’ consisted of a pile of boulders to help you get up the ledge.  Prior to the trip I saw this section on a YouTube video and was worried about it.  Needless to say, when I got to the pile of boulders I chickened out and stopped.  If I would have kept going I might have made it, but I didn’t.  I then tried to walk my bike up, lost my balance, and tripped over the large rock that Jarett (red/black/white pants) is standing on.  I then learned that my new bike is very heavy when it is on top of you with your head lying downhill.  I was pinned – so I used my radio headset to call for help!

Barney, Taylor, and Jason made it up okay.  The rest of us needed help.

I think this trail would have been a lot more fun if we weren’t so exhausted from our long day of riding.  After finishing the trail we rode EM1016 back to the car, arriving just prior to 6:00 PM.  It was a long and tiring day and we were ready for pizza and the hot tub.

Saturday March 19: White Wash Single Track

On Saturday we drove over to the White Wash area to explore more single track trails.  Figure 9 shows our GPS track.  We parked at the turnoff for Salt Wash (SW1).  The boys had a fun time jumping off the small mound near our car.

Rather than simply follow the main road to White Wash we took a little detour on a segment of the “Enduro Loop” single track (shown in blue in the upper right corner).  This was a fun little trail that parallels the main road.


GPS track of the White Wash ride

The sand at White Wash was really soft this year in spite of the recent rain.  We rode south to Red Wash, and then on to the Dead Cow Loop.  In years past we rode up and down Red Wash, but it is now fenced off.

After completing the Dead Cow Loop we explored some of the single track trails southeast of White Wash.  They now have trail signs indicating the entrance to these trails (motorcycle only), and there are white markings on the slickrock so you could follow the trail.  Most of the signs don’t have trail names, so it is kind of confusing to know where you are – even with a GPS.  The “Bookcliff Rattlers” motorcycle club published a map of these trails in 2003 called “Trails of Dubinki”.  We owe a great deal of thanks to the “Bookcliff Rattlers”, along with “Ride With Respect” and “Sage Riders” motorcycle club for maintaining these trails and working with the BLM to keep them open.

My goal was to explore Mary’s trail which runs east-to-west and crosses Brian’s trail (which runs north-to-south).  We managed to explore most of it, but not all.  Barney, Taylor, and Jarett rode the missing section on Thursday, but going the opposite direction.

Our total ride was about 45 miles in length, but it took most of the day.  The trail was challenging and Jarett had mechanical problems with his bike.  His bike was not running well and he burned through an entire tank of gas in 35 miles.  Luckily he made it back to the main road before his bike seized up (it was hydro-locked with excess fuel in the motor).

We explored some really fun trails, but similar to Friday – they would have been more fun if we weren’t so tired and sore.  Two long, action-packed days of riding!

 The Dead Cow Loop:

I have wanted to complete the Dead Cow Loop for several years.  A few years ago we made it part way, but had to turn back.  This year we made it!

The top portion of Dead Cow Wash (waypoint DC1) is pretty sandy.  As the wash narrows it enters a fun channel cut through the sandstone.

Dee enjoying Dead Cow Wash

The channel contains numerous small ledges with pools of water below.  Sometimes you don’t know how deep the pool is until the first rider takes the plunge.

Jason making a splash in Dead Cow Wash

The bottom portion of the wash contains more challenging obstacles, some of which required us to bypass on the steep side hills.  When we arrived at the bottom (DC4) we found that the Green River was high enough to fill the lower portion of the wash.  To our dismay, the trail crossed the water on a log!  We decided to stop for lunch.

While eating lunch, another group came across the log going the opposite direction.  That kind of riding is way out of my league – one slip and you are up to your knees in mud.  Luckily, my prior research taught me of a “high water” exit a ways back up the wash.

When we arrived at our lunch stop Jason noticed that his Camelback nozzle had fallen off.  Since we were heading back the way we came, I asked everyone to keep a lookout for it.  We figured it would be hard to find since that other group probably buried it in sand.

On one of the steep side hill bypasses I tried to go on the uphill side of a large boulder.  My rear tire spun out and slid downhill on a sand-covered rock, and once again I found my bike lying on top of me.  Barney helped me pick up the bike and right underneath it was Jason’s nozzle.  I guess that crash was meant to be!

The high water exit required us to climb a steep sandy hill.  I am not much good at riding deep sand, and climbing sandy hills is a challenge for me.  Jamie also struggled with her 230 which lacks the power for such climbs.  But the boys had so much fun they went up and down multiple times.

The trail then follows the Green River downstream and then goes up another slot canyon called “The Tubes”.  This canyon is even narrower than Dead Cow Wash!  It had 3 or 4 challenging obstacles near the bottom, but then it got really fun.

The first obstacle going up “The Tubes”

White Wash Single Track:

After finishing the Dead Cow Loop we rode north to explore some of the Dubinki single track trails as shown by the dotted tracks on the map below.

White Wash single track

We started on the Red Slot trail (RS1 on the map), then turned north towards Mary’s Trail.  From RS1 to RW-RB the trail winds through the desert on fun trails leading to the slickrock.

Dubinki single track

Beyond MT-RB the trail is mostly on slickrock.  We missed a turn (MT-RW) which led us away from the trail system towards the Tenmile Point road.  We back-tracked to MT-RW and started heading west on Mary’s trail.  We quickly came to a very steep and tall hill climb.  It looked very intimidating.  There were numerous skid marks on the slickrock and I wasn’t in the mood to have my new bike, or my old body, slide down that steep sandstone.  Jarett wanted to go up, so he took off.  He made it about 10’ when his bike died.  That was enough evidence for me – let’s go back the other way.  (It turns out Jarett was about out of fuel).  And Jamie, via our radio headsets said; “It has been a good day.  Let’s not ruin it now.”

So we headed back, taking alternate routes where we could until we returned to Red Slot (RS3).  I just learned about Red Slot a few weeks prior to the trip thanks to a YouTube posting (Blaze Of Glory Off Road).  I knew Jarett would like this trail, which would somewhat compensate for missing the hill climb.

Red Slot is an advanced trail with several steep drop-offs into the wash bottom.  The next photo shows Jason dropping into Red Slot and the following shows me on another steep descent.

Jason dropping into Red Slot

Dee dropping off another ledge in Red Slot

After completing Red Slot we rode north on the easy end of Brian’s trail until it crossed Mary’s Trail.  We then followed Mary’s trail to the west – towards the White Wash sand dunes.

Mary’s trail is a fun roller coaster ride on steep slickrock.  It reminded me of the Hell’s Revenge trail near Moab.  If I weren’t so tired and sore, this would have been a total blast.  It was still fun, but I was ready to get out of the saddle.

Mary’s trail

Mary’s trail has a few narrow sections that definitely teach you to “stay on the trail”.  Next time I want to try it going the other direction!

After finishing Mary’s trail we had to follow the new fence until we found an entrance into White Wash.  The White Wash area is one of the few “open” riding areas left in Utah.  The fence was to remind you that when you exit White Wash you have to stay on designated trails (meaning trails that are on the “official” BLM map). I thought it odd that they didn’t install a gate at the Mary’s trail end point.

 Other than Jarett’s mechanical breakdown and our tired/sore bodies, it was a wonderful trip. I can’t wait to go back!


About gardinerfamilyadventures

A really great family!
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