13 April, 2018
Last year I took Jamie and Jason on a three-day adventure ride that included the historic Hole In The Rock Road where the Mormon Pioneers took their wagons down a narrow and steep crack in the cliff above the Colorado River.
This year, Ross, Danny and I attempted to ride part of the trail on the other side of the Colorado River. Whereas the Hole In The Rock Road is a very easy ride, the Hole In The Rock Trail is very difficult.
The trail is about 35 miles long and stops about two miles before reaching the river. The trail gets harder as you go. We only made it about 25 miles before turning back – and we were exhausted when we got back to the truck.
We didn’t realize there was a nice staging area at the start of the western trail entrance (waypoint hr08), so we parked at a pull off along the highway in between hr09 and hr08. We decided to start our ride via hr09 and finish via hr08 so we could see which way was best (hr08 is the primary road).
The first 10-12 miles of the trail is pretty easy. It starts to get a little rough as you go up an extended climb and come to waypoint hr06. From here, you turn right, off the main road and onto the Hole In The Rock Trail. The trail instantly becomes a lot more rugged.
The trail is mostly slickrock, with numerous ledges to deal with. In between slickrock sections there are sandy sections. I didn’t find the sand too difficult, but Danny and Ross struggled with their heavier bikes. Ross was on his KLR650, which is really not a good bike for this type of ride. The bike is really heavy and has very little ground clearance. I hit my skid plate twice on this ride, and I very seldom hit bottom on my KTM. Ross was hitting his skid plate frequently.
Some of the trail is difficult to follow. It really helped to have a GPS with an actual track to follow. Keep a sharp eye out for black tire tracks on the slickrock, rock cairns, or metal bars drilled into the rock. There are also several side spurs, so without a GPS track, you could easily end up going the wrong way.
The trail gets harder as you go; the ledges get taller and the climbs steeper. We eventually came to a section that had rocks piled up to make the climb easier for Jeeps and UTVs.
Right at the top of this climb is a historic marker for the Grey Mesa Wagon Road. The pioneers sent scouts out ahead of the main group to search for the best route through this rugged country. They struggled to find a way off the mesa until one of the scouts saw a mountain sheep and followed it down off the mesa. I walked part way up this route (no motorized vehicles allowed on this part of the historic trail). It was steep and difficult to negotiate on foot. I wouldn’t want to ride my motorcycle down this trail – I can’t imagine what it was like in a horse drawn wagon.
A few hundred feet past the historic marker, we came to a ‘waterfall’ on the road that looked pretty challenging.
The waterfall itself was about 5-6’ tall, with three smaller ledges above it. We decided we could probably get down it okay, and probably get back up – but there was a high risk of getting out of control on the upper ledges and taking a nasty fall. Because it was getting late, and we were getting pretty tired, we decided not to take the risk. We wanted to make it as far as the even more challenging “chute,” but decided to take a lunch break and head back to the truck.
Thus, we had to go back down the rocky ledge that we had just come up.
The return ride seemed a lot harder than the ride out. I don’t know if the trail really is harder going the other way, or if it was just because we were tired and sore.
Danny and Ross both took a few spills on the way back, which further wears you out when you have to repeatedly pick up your bike.
The weather was fairly chilly and very windy, but for the most part the weather wasn’t a problem. We were working hard, so we kept warm, and since most of the trial is on sandstone, the wind wasn’t too much of an issue. The wind did, however, blow around enough sand to jam up the lens cap on my camcorder. So, I wasn’t able to film as much of the trip as I had hoped – other than with my helmet camera.
We rode approximately 50 miles round trip and were very tired by the time we finished. We were all glad we didn’t go any farther along the trail or it probably would have been dark when we got back.
We loaded up the trailer and drove for about two-hours back to Hanksville for dinner and our cabin at Duke’s Grill and RV Park. We just wish they had a hot tub to soak in.
It was a challenging ride, but we all really enjoyed it. It will be a memorable ride for us.