Mountain Biking in Moab, Utah

Visited July 2010

Helpful Tips

What to Bring

Map of the area and know how to use it, matches, 1 gallon plus of water, bike tools, patch kit, extra tube, communication devices (ham radio, walkie-talkies, or cell phone), food, sweat-proof sun block, wilderness first aid kit, bike gloves, bike helmet, good wilderness common sense (always travel in pairs never get separated), and the proper clothing for the time of year and expected weather.

Notes

When to go: It is best to ride these trails earlier in Spring or Fall. December through January, these trails are covered with snow. If riding in the summer, ride in the early morning or evening. The hot part of the day should be avoided. Porcupine Trail Cheat: If you want to cut off nearly two miles of the trail’s brutal uphill, you can cheat! Instead of parking at the trail head, continue down the Sand Flats Road until it turns sharply left. You will run directly into the Porcupine Rim Trail. Make sure you set up your shuttle. You will need to put one vehicle down by the river and drive the other to the top. If you want to bike or camp in the sand flats area you need to pay $5 for a 3-day pass. They do not accept credit cards so you need cash. Slickrock Trail Info: No matter which route you choose, follow the white painted hash marks on the rock. They will direct you the right way and warn you of steep drops. The practice loop is 2.2 miles. It is technically as difficult as the main loop, just shorter. The main loop is 10.5 miles. Eventually, you will come to a place that says easier and harder. The harder means more uphill climbing. The routes are technically the same. This portion of the trail is a loop, so no matter which way you go, you will end up at this point again. When returning from the main loop at the top of the hill that is adjacent to the abyss there are two white X’s. This will route you down a sandy road that will cut off one half mile. The bike patrol rides around on motorcycles. If you feel you need help, flag them down. They can guide you to this cut-off point. Where to eat in Moab: If you like Mexican food and want to hang where the locals are, head to La Hacienda. They have great prices and a full menu with wonderful food. The address is 574 N. Main, Moab, Utah. Where to Camp: Most of the free camping on the river has been shut down. You can still camp for free but you will most likely be about 20-30 minutes out of Moab with no facilities.

Location
Slickrock Trail - Moab, Utah
Address/Coordinates
{38.573315500000,-109.549839500000}: 38.573315500000, -109.549839500000
Website
E-mail
Phone

Legs screaming, lungs rapidly searching for air, eyes burning from sweat-laden sunscreen, ah yes the Moab, Utah sun greeted my two brothers and me back for another mountain biking trip. Three remarkable mountain bike trails in two days was the plan. The first remote and little-known trail’s name will remain ‘uncharted’ as it is a secret I’d like to keep. The second trail is Porcupine Rim. The third is the legendary Slickrock Trail.

Approximately 35.5 miles of scenery and sweat was our reward and challenge. A sane person may inquire what happened to taking it easy. My answer: Play hard my friend! Experience helps preparation. If going to a hot sandy desert, I suggest bringing an air-conditioned tent with a shower and refrigerator. Call me a pansy if you want, but I have frozen in snow caves, gotten soaked under tarps or woken up to unwanted guests in my sleeping bag enough times to understand the value of a camper trailer.

Once our desert suite was parked, we ripped the bikes out of the bed of the pickup and pointed them for our first trail. My legs seemed to groan more than when I was younger but the excitement was the same. I was on Moab slick rock with nothing but blue skies, my brother and a squeaky chain. After a long ascent and an encounter with a lizard doing pushups on the overheated red rock, we found ourselves at a point in the trail that said “Freeride.” Just as birds flock South for winter, we flocked to a challenging place we named “Al’s Hole.” Al was my old scout leader who basically wildly rolled down the obstacle head over heels. Erik had better luck making a skid mark as his bike slipped skillfully down the steep sand stone drop. Me you ask? How did I do? Well somebody has to take photos, right? Finally while taking a break the words of my great Uncle Art, who ranched in Arco, Idaho, came to the forefront of my mind “The desert is somewhere you can stretch your eyes.” So I sat and took in the view awhile. While trying to stretch my eyes, the thought of my co-workers slaving away at the regular and mundane verses myself enjoying God’s good earth brought a smile of satisfaction to my face. I was especially happy that I was officially out of cell phone range! Back on my bike and much to my chagrin, it did not take long to descend the pillowy rolling sandstone.

Arriving at our desert suite, my brother Jim brightly popped his head into our camper and said, "Hey guys!" It was a nice little family reunion in the desert as we planned our next bike trip that day to Porcupine Rim. We set up our shuttle car system so we would go on a 14.5 mile run instead of a 31 mile loop. As we arrived at the trail head, thunderheads roared and lightning flashed illuminating the dark jagged skyline of the 12,600 foot tall dormant volcanic mountain range called the LaSalle’s or the White Salts.

Mother Nature has a way of reminding us she can spoil parties even if we thought we had scheduled good weather. So we followed the advice of the trail head sign packing “the proper provisions” such as water, matches, ham radio, food, bike tools, and rain gear. The first 4.5 miles are physically exhausting and tend to punish even the strongest of mountain bikers. In-between breaths my brother Erik noticed the region had about all of the mountain flowers typical of northern Utah plus cacti which were in bloom.

Grinding, breathing, and gasping, I suddenly screamed like a girl as a snake came into view only 2 feet in front of my wheel! It looked like a rattler at first but it was a blow snake that was dying in the middle of the trail. The heart pounding just never seems to end on Porcupine Rim. Near the top I began to do more mountain walking than biking. Somehow it just wasn’t the same as biking to work. Finally the “Priest and the Nuns” rock formation pierced the skyline. The formation appears to be a priest conversing with two nuns. Considered sacred to some, it stands guard over Castle Valley, Utah. Castle Valley is often referred to by outsiders as “The Peoples Republic of Castle Valley.” This is due to the fact that the residents prefer to remain autonomous, and do not take to even a creeping thought of development.

I have a good friend, Christian Dean, who spent four years of his childhood living in a tepee there while his mom finished their house. The residents of Castle Valley were just fine with that, but when it came to a proposed new subdivision they said no way, pulled together their funds and purchased the land. I went to college with a few members of the Williams family who were from Castle Valley. They had fifteen kids. I only knew four of them. Looking down on the spread out population of Castle Valley, I thought their family must be just about the only inhabitants. I reminisced how Luke Williams had told me that if you left your porch light on at night it may be shot out by your neighbor as they prefer to see the stars. I suddenly felt safer atop a 300 foot sheer cliff band. Straddling the edge of the cliff band, we began our welcome descent. It was here that Matt Larsen told us about a tragic jeeping accident. A convoy of jeepers was going along the cliff band at night when an impatient drunken jeeper decided to pass the convoy on the right. In the process he managed to slip off the cliff band, impacting nearly 300 feet below. Sadly there was only one survivor.

Porcupine Rim got its name for a reason. In a lot of ways it is just like life, every time the thought came it is finally going smooth, an outcropping of rock would pop up. It has a lot of quick descents and accents, rock drops and sand. Porcupine is a technical trail to the end. Soon the trail would be hanging on the side of the mountain with the mighty Colorado silently snaking 1000 feet below us. At times the trail was within feet of a 400-foot cliff, giving breathtaking a vivid meaning. The trail wound down to the river where our shuttle was parked. The ride was over for the day, but we still would have tomorrow.

We retreated once again to our trailer; though it was 10:30 pm, we cooked up some pasta and dropped into our soft beds hoping that by morning we would be ready for Slickrock! The ambulance in the Slickrock parking Lot reminded me of the last time I was there. A rescue helicopter was hovering over Lions back (which is now closed). Some girls had backed up too far, plummeting off the side of the cliff. They all survived and to this day the jeep remains wedged between two intersecting cliffs. A stark reminder of Slickrock’s many dangers.

My six pack has been playing hide and seek as of late but the trail had begun and my time for preparation was over. Adrenaline surged through my body as the decent of the first big hill adjacent to the abyss began. Some of the most perfect solidified sand dunes in the world were waiting. Downhill, uphill, sand trap, amazing vistas, and heart-pounding satisfaction sum up the Slickrock Trail. The thumping of a helicopter caught my attention. I could see the Helicopter performing what seemed to be a search pattern. Soon the helicopter flew directly over head and banked right. A hill we call Dinosaur Back lay between us and where the helicopter went. Erik and Jim skillfully climbed the technical beast while I simply pushed my bike. Atop the hill I found a search and rescue worker, Mike Coronella, with an ATV handing out water. He told me he was headed to the accident scene not too far from where we were. I thankfully took an additional water bottle from his ATV. It was not long till we were on scene. A man in his fifties had gone over his handle bars and hurt his neck and shoulder. He was already on a backboard and the helicopter was parked nearby on the sand. Short-handed, the search and rescue team asked for assistance in transporting the victim. My brother Erik immediately responded, “Yes, we can. I am trained in life flight rescue.” He got his training ski patrolling for Beaver Mountain near Logan, Utah. The person at the head of the stretcher gave instructions. As we lifted, the victim said, “I am feeling all sorts of weird sensations today.” The sand-laden 40 yards or so to the helicopter took more than I thought it would.

We loaded the victim in the helicopter and retreated to a safe distance for takeoff. As I grabbed my camera to take pictures of the takeoff, I was warned by Barbara Fincham, one of the search and rescue workers, that she had lost two digital cameras that way. The feel and sound from the helicopters upward thrust was incredible. It would be a short ride for the victim from Slickrock to the Grand Junction Hospital. Mike told me that they usually do 25 rescues from the Slickrock Trail each year. When asked what to tell people to do differently for Slickrock, he had but one word repeated. WATER, WATER WATER! He further explained that when the outside temperature hits 98.6 degrees, the temperature of your body, that people get into a lot more trouble faster. Our trip continued. We stopped at Shrimp Rock. This is a nice place to sit down and watch the ants carry away the crumbs from your lunch while enjoying a classic view of the Colorado River. Slickrock was kicking my butt, however. Instead of pedaling, I was pushing and sucking down my water supply.

Even though it was 84 degrees with shade, the heat seemed to sap away any spare energy. This is a great way to lose 10 pounds in 1 day. As my original water supply finally ran out, I was extra grateful that Mike had given me some water. I had blown right through a gallon of water. Mike is right; bring plenty of water -- at least a gallon. I should have brought a gallon and a half. I was just about ready to head up the long hill adjacent to the abyss when the bike patrol pulled up on their motorcycles. The bike patrol is a group that tries to prevent problems on Slickrock. They try to find water for people who need it. They do a great service.

A girl near us had crashed on her bike and was complaining that her wrist was coming out of place. With supplies from the bike patrol, my ski patrol brother Erik wrapped it up for her. We ground it out up that final hill and dragged ourselves into the parking lot. Another great bike trip had come to an end. I felt grateful to have taken off work to enjoy time with my brothers. The scenery and adventure were more than I expected. To all of those who teeter on heading out on an adventure I say do it before you don’t.

About John
From hiking the Tetons, snowmobiling the Bear River Range, living all over Asia, to exploring my back yard I just love to take in life.
Hometown: Logan, Utah, United States
Languages: English
Profile Photo

Helpful Tips

What to Bring

Map of the area and know how to use it, matches, 1 gallon plus of water, bike tools, patch kit, extra tube, communication devices (ham radio, walkie-talkies, or cell phone), food, sweat-proof sun block, wilderness first aid kit, bike gloves, bike helmet, good wilderness common sense (always travel in pairs never get separated), and the proper clothing for the time of year and expected weather.

Notes

When to go: It is best to ride these trails earlier in Spring or Fall. December through January, these trails are covered with snow. If riding in the summer, ride in the early morning or evening. The hot part of the day should be avoided. Porcupine Trail Cheat: If you want to cut off nearly two miles of the trail’s brutal uphill, you can cheat! Instead of parking at the trail head, continue down the Sand Flats Road until it turns sharply left. You will run directly into the Porcupine Rim Trail. Make sure you set up your shuttle. You will need to put one vehicle down by the river and drive the other to the top. If you want to bike or camp in the sand flats area you need to pay $5 for a 3-day pass. They do not accept credit cards so you need cash. Slickrock Trail Info: No matter which route you choose, follow the white painted hash marks on the rock. They will direct you the right way and warn you of steep drops. The practice loop is 2.2 miles. It is technically as difficult as the main loop, just shorter. The main loop is 10.5 miles. Eventually, you will come to a place that says easier and harder. The harder means more uphill climbing. The routes are technically the same. This portion of the trail is a loop, so no matter which way you go, you will end up at this point again. When returning from the main loop at the top of the hill that is adjacent to the abyss there are two white X’s. This will route you down a sandy road that will cut off one half mile. The bike patrol rides around on motorcycles. If you feel you need help, flag them down. They can guide you to this cut-off point. Where to eat in Moab: If you like Mexican food and want to hang where the locals are, head to La Hacienda. They have great prices and a full menu with wonderful food. The address is 574 N. Main, Moab, Utah. Where to Camp: Most of the free camping on the river has been shut down. You can still camp for free but you will most likely be about 20-30 minutes out of Moab with no facilities.

Mountain Biking in Moab, Utah
Mountain Biking in Moab, Utah

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