Oct. 18-20, 2012
Since Jason is now a senior in high school, this was our final opportunity to enjoy a UEA weekend trip to southern Utah for some dirt biking. I believe our first such trip occurred in 2001 when I took Gary to the San Rafael Swell. Jason and I rode some of the same trails that Gary and I did, but we also explored some new areas we had never been before.
We had great weather and enjoyed three days of long, hard, but fun trail riding.
Thursday, Oct 18 – Dick Brass & Waterfall Single Track
We were about one hour behind schedule leaving home. We had previously arranged to meet Marc Schaerer between 2:00 and 3:00 PM that afternoon near Temple Mountain. Our point of departure for our ride was along I-70 at exit 131 in the San Rafael Swell. This is about 25 miles from Marc’s camp, most of which would be fairly technical single track. Upon arrival, we ate a quick lunch and got ready to ride. We set off at about 1:50, and we knew we needed to hurry. The first 10 miles was on easy dirt road, so we knew it would go quickly.
The following GPS track shows our main route, excluding the 10 miles of dirt road to and from exit 131 on I-70.
We turned on to trail #842 which leads to the Green and Blue Dick Brass single track trails. Trail #842 is a double track with smooth rolling hills and curves through the trees. Jason later commented that this was his favorite part of the ride. I think I agree with him.
The Green trail (#841) is the easiest of the Dick Brass trails. I was fairly disappointed, however, because so many people have failed to stay on the trail. What used to be a nice narrow single track now has multiple parallel paths. The trail is also really whooped out now, so it is much more challenging to ride than it used to be.
We found the Orange trail (#838) to also be significantly more difficult than it was last year. Too many people like to kick up roost and spin their tires at every turn or bump. This digs up the rocks, and then the rain washes away the dirt. Sections that used to be fairly smooth are now quite rocky.
North Temple Wash (EM1015) was easier than last time because it had recently been graded. This allowed us to make up some time. We arrived at Marc’s camp at about 3:40.
After a brief visit with Marc’s family, we zipped down the Behind The Reef road to the southern trailhead for the Waterfall trail (#847). I have only ridden this trail once before, and that was coming from the north.
The first few miles of the 12 mile long trail are in a gravel wash bottom. I am slowly getting better at riding in sand and gravel, but it still wears me out because I have to really focus to maintain control.
We eventually came to the first major obstacle – a double ledge that you have to climb on an angle. Marc went first and then helped Jason and I make it up.
Shortly after that ledge, the trail passes a natural bridge that was formed a few years ago by a flash flood (see the next photo).
We eventually left the wash and enjoyed a more normal dirt and rock trail. But then we came to the next major obstacle. Actually, this obstacle isn’t too bad going this direction because we got to go down the ledge rather than up. Last time there was a large pile of rocks, but now they have been cleared away. As you can see in the following photo we inched our bikes over the brink of the cliff. Jason had an advantage with his long legs, which allowed him to plant both feet on the nearby rocks.
This ledge is fairly intimidating as your bike goes almost vertical. As the back tire starts to go over the edge, it is time to just let the bike roll so you don’t flip over on your head. We all made it safely, but we took our time and rode it carefully.
About 2/3 of the way through the trail you come to a very technical section. It isn’t all that difficult, but the trail is very narrow and you have to zigzag between boulders. If you clip a foot peg you could easily get bumped off the trail and slide down the hill.
Back in 2004 someone tried to ride through here on a street bike. He ended up paying to have a helicopter haul his bike out. You can read about this story on Sage Rider’s website:
Much of this trail requires intermediate skills to ride safely, but there are several places that are definitely advanced. For those, like me, that are not skilled enough to ride these more advanced sections, it is helpful to have at least 3 people so you can lift your bike up ledges where necessary.
We started this trail at about 4:00 PM and finished at about 6:00 PM. I was really glad to have Marc along because he was always there to pick me up when I fell over.
At the northern trailhead we said farewell to Marc. He returned to his family and we rode about 17 miles back to our car. It was a chilly ride as the sun was setting. We loaded up the trailer and headed to Green River just as it was getting dark. The day’s ride was about 65 miles long and took about 4.5 hours. Next time I think I will drive the car down the dirt road a few miles to make it a little shorter.
Friday, Oct 19 – Enduro Loop & Cow Freckles Single Track
I believe the Enduro Loop near White Wash and Tenmile Wash is an old desert race course. The entire loop is quite long. In the past I have ridden two short sections of the loop, and many years ago our family rode the portion through Dee’s Pass. I wanted to retry the Dee’s Pass section and continue on through the following section. The eastern most section I did not want to attempt because it has some really steep ledges down a cliff called “Big Drop Switchbacks”. I have seen photos and videos of this section and wanted nothing to do with it – especially with just the two of us.
The following map shows the Enduro Loop portion of our days ride. The yellow segments on the left I have ridden before, which we skipped on this trip because we ran out of time (and energy). The yellow section on the right is the portion we skipped because of the switchbacks.
We parked on the Ruby Ranch Road where the Salt Wash road forks off (upper left portion of the map). We rode east through Dee’s Pass on the blue trail labeled “Enduro A”. This portion is really whooped out and has a few rocky sections. The worst hill climb has a bypass route, which was good. There is no way I would want to attempt that hill climb.
Near the end of this section I took this photo of Jason. Years ago we took a family photo in the same spot and I wanted to show how much Jason has grown since then. He is in the yellow outfit in the subsequent photo.
We crossed the Tenmile Wash road and started on section “B”, which starts off as a double track. I have wanted for some time to ride up to the overlook on top of a bluff. I thought it might be a good family ATV ride, but that section is extremely rocky. Most of my family would not enjoy the ride. But the views of the surrounding desert were nice.
The descent off the bluff is steep with loose dirt and rocks. We probably could have ridden down this section, but it would be difficult to stop once you picked up some speed, so we ended up inching our bikes down much of it.
Following that descent the trail gets pretty fun as it winds through the desert with smooth flowing turns and rolling hills. This part was enjoyable, but not enough to justify the rocks and whoops it took to get here.
When the trail crossed the Levi Well road, we turned onto the road and found a place to stop for lunch.
After lunch we explored the Cow Freckles single track. This trail consists of patches of slickrock intermixed with sandy trails.
The first part of the trail was quite fun. There was one really steep descent, but since we had previously ridden trails like Hell’s Revenge, it didn’t cause us much pause.
The first few miles of this trail I would rate as intermediate, but it becomes more advanced as you move south.
The second steep descent is really steep. From studying YouTube videos I knew the trail went down this steep section and then peeled off on a dirt trail to the side. I went first and carefully worked my bike down the steepest section. When I turned onto the dirt trail I looked back and saw this:
Jason applied too much front brake and his bike raised up on the front wheel (called a “stoppie”). He panicked and bailed off to the side. He was not hurt, but it was a challenge to get back on his bike on this steep hill (it looks much steeper in person than it does in the photo).
As shown by the following GPS track, the trail basically parallels Tenmile Wash for several miles. It then turns to the west and drops into the wash (as shown in yellow).
After waypoint “tmCowF5” the trail is almost all sand. We were following a well ridden trail with fairly fresh tracks from several motorcycles – so we figured we were on the right trail. Shortly after “tmLost1” most of the tracks turned around. So, the trail was ridden by only a few bikes that turned around after they realized they missed the turn.
We didn’t want to turn back because we had no idea where we missed a turn. It was getting late and we didn’t want to waste time looking for an unknown trail. We pressed on for a few more miles until we realized the trail was not leading us to a way out.
We pulled out our maps and studied our GPS. We decided our best bet was to find a trail which would lead us to the Spring Canyon Point road. The trail we found was seldom used, but it did get us where we needed to go.
Since we were in the area, we decided to ride the Rainbow Terrace trail. We have ridden this trail twice going the other way, but this was our first time riding it north. The first part of the trail consists of rough slickrock and then one challenging set of ledges. The trail then turns to sand. Jason was following me with the helmet camera running when I lost control and tipped over by a bush. Luckily it was a soft landing.
We then found another segment of the Enduro Loop (“C”) near Dripping Springs. This section had some fun slickrock in the middle, but really deep soft sand on each end. We then buzzed around the Red Wash road and cut through White Wash and returned to the car. We were surprised to find White Wash damp (which makes it much easier to ride) since Tenmile Wash was bone dry.
Since we got lost the ride ended up being quite a bit longer than we expected. We rode a total of about 58 miles and then returned to Green River for another late dinner.
I was not overly impressed with the Enduro Loop. For the most part I could handle the technical challenge, but I didn’t find it all that fun. I would, however, be interested in attempting Cow Freckles again. A fun intermediate ride would be to go as far as “Stoppie Hill” (named in honor of Jason) and back.
Saturday, Oct 20 – Devil’s Racetrack & Fix-It-Pass
Devil’s Racetrack is perhaps the most famous trail in the San Rafael Swell. I have ridden it several times in the past, but always north-to-south. This year I decided to try going the other direction. I decided to put the three most challenging trail segments together, making the shortest, but hardest loop in the area. We rode down Devil’s Racetrack, and then up Fix-It-Pass and Horseshoe Bend, as shown below.
Learning from Thursday’s long ride, we drove a few miles down the Temple Mountain road from the freeway exit to shorten our loop down to about 35 miles. We rode through the Head of Sinbad area, under I-70, past Dutchman Arch, and onto Devil’s Racetrack (#641). Coming from the south, Devil’s Racetrack immediately becomes rocky. This first section is quite rough with lots of rocks and ledges. When coming from the other direction, this section is at the end of the day, but it is after the most challenging obstacles, so it doesn’t seem to stick in my mind. But riding north makes it very obvious that this is a technical trail.
Some of the ledges look really hard, but because you get excellent traction on slabs of rock, they are really fairly easy on a dirt bike as long as you pick a good line and maintain your momentum. We were surprised at how quickly we got to the first major obstacle which I call ‘the steps’.
So far I have never been able to ride up the steps without killing my bike numerous times. Riding down the steps is also challenging. Jason and I each killed our bikes at least once, and Jason even dropped his bike once. The spacing on the steps sometimes causes your front and rear tire to hit a step at the same time. You also have to carefully pick your route so you don’t fall in large cracks between chunks of rock. This photo shows Jason nearing the bottom of the step section, and the following photo shows him dropping down the final step.
Here is a view of the nearby canyon as seen from the steps.
Shortly after the steps, you come to what I call ‘the ledges’. When ridden the other direction, you ride down these ledges. This time we had to go up. This is the section that I was most nervous about, but Jason and I easily rode up this section. The smaller ledges earlier in the trail helped us gain the confidence necessary to tackle this section.
About ¼ of the way from the northern end of the trail is my favorite portion of this trail. There are numerous banked S-turns. It is fun to cruise through this section, but you do need to keep an eye out for on-coming traffic.
It was about lunch time when we finished Devil’s Racetrack, so we quickly rode up North Coal Wash (#638) and enjoyed our lunch in the shade of a tree below Slipper Arch.
Following our lunch break, we continued up the wash to Fix-It-Pass (#638). We waited for two other bikers that were working their way down the hardest section.
Fix-It-Pass was in pretty bad shape this year. It had numerous loose rocks covered with a thin layer of dirt. This made it difficult to maintain your line, which would cause you to lose momentum. I was surprised at how difficult it was to ride up this section. In the past it was relatively easy on a dirt bike. Jason struggled a little as well, but not as badly as I did.
The ride from Fix-It-Pass to Cane Wash has always been one of my favorites. It used to have smooth flowing trails through the Juniper trees. Unfortunately, the trail is so heavily used that it is becoming quite rocky. It is still fun, but not nearly as smooth as it used to be.
Normally we access Cane Wash via the fun Wickiup trail. This time we opted for the more challenging, but shorter route via Horseshoe Bend and Locomotive Point. This trail is also significantly rockier than it used to be. Years ago I brought most of my family up this trail. I probably wouldn’t do that now.
About 2/3 of the way up the trail there is a short, but steep, spur to a great overlook from Horseshoe Bend. You can see the entire Wickiup area all the way to the San Rafael Gorge. On our previous visit we found a geocache near this lookout.
Just before you reach Locomotive Point the trail becomes extremely rocky. This has always been the hardest part of this particular trail, but it is much worse now. Most of the dirt has washed away, leaving behind a scattering of rock slabs. Some of the slabs are on angles, which causes your tire to slide to the side, throwing you off your line. This section was perhaps the hardest section of our entire three days of riding.
Once we reached the summit, we enjoyed the fast ride through Reid Neilson Draw, back under the freeway, and back to the car. We quickly loaded up and headed for home.
It was a challenging, but enjoyable three days of riding. We explored some of the more challenging (at least for us) trails in the San Rafael and Green River areas, including some that were new to us. Jason and I both dropped our bikes a number of times, and I suffered one moving crash in the soft sand. Luckily neither of us got injured. It was really a great trip!