And the most interesting thing is that many "tourist types" [you know – see the world from your car window] drive right by most of it not having a clue that there's anything there. In all fairness, when you look at the land from road level it does look kinda flat and non-descript. But that's because the much of the terrain is: under ground (i.e. below surface level.)
And that's precisely where many of the offroaders in the area have their most fun – finding a way down to the river along the ridges in the cliffs and down the washes. Erosion is what has made the Moab area, not tectonics like in much of the rest of the country.
Of the twenty trails mentioned in the book "Moab, Ut Backroads & 4-Wheel Drive Trails" by Charles Wells" as being in the Central riding area, a full 14 are rated "difficult" and require modified vehicles. [A free Google Earth file of this route is available at: Offroading Home under the "Utah" tab and in the file "UtahMoabTrailsystem.kmz".]
Easter Jeep SafariMany of these trails are used in the "Easer Jeep Safari," a pretty massive yearly event as these gatherings go. Initially begun in 1967 with a handfull of adventurists with Jeeps, it now has grown into a nine-day event drawing several hundred riders from all over the country, in fact all over the world.
Co-sponsored by the Red Rock 4-Wheelers and the Moab Chamber of Commerce, it is held the week before Easter every year and features over 30 runs over trails from: easy enough for stock vehicles, to those you don't want your mother to ever find out you were on! It is so popular that a lottery is held to assign who, of the 1,000 vehicles riding in the kick-off parade down main street, gets which trail to ride. Here are the third set of five trails in the Central Moab riding area for you to look over.
Central Moab Riding Area
Pritchett Canyon TrailDescription: Difficulty: Difficult – Extremely difficult - will need winching or strapping, rollovers and broken axles are common - Rocker Knocker and Axle Hill (Rock Pile closed); winch points at Chewy Hill, Rocker Knocker, Axle Hill and Yellow Hill.
Length: 4.3 miles; Time: Full day - 1 hr to drive out on country road to UT-191; Open: Year-round.
Location: Start: West from UT-191 on Kane Creek Road, left at 0.7 mi then 3.7 miles to fence opening on left. Beginning of trail crosses private land and owner charges fee to enter!
Return: 11.6 mi south then east from waypoint #10 on rough county road (following brown sign posts) to UT-191
Features: Scenic but barely noticable due to trail difficulty, adjacent to Wilderness Study Area, side-trip to Pritchett Arch possible, steep hike to arch.
Kane Creek Canyon TrailDescription: Difficulty: Difficult – Significant erosion, flooding wipe-outs (best check with BLM on this one), rocky ledge road, route-finding confusing, narrow canyon.
Length: 13.7 mi (One-way); Time: 4 hrs once on trail; Open: Year-round
Location: Start: West from Moab on Kane Creek Road, bear left at first fork and head south along Colorado River. Past Cattle guard at 4.6 mi, swing left and descend into Kane Creek (Springs) Canyon, continue another 6.6 mi on dirt road to well-marked fork and start of Kane Creek Canyon trail.
Return: Turn left at end and head back to Moab 15 miles
Features: Windy trail across floor of Kane Creek Canyon, creek crossings, steep climbs, narow road, scenic, photo spots. Overgrown with Tamarisk and buggy in summer, possible flash-floods.
Behind the Rocks TrailDescription: Difficulty: Difficult – Very rocky, extremely steep and dangerous obstacles requiring high clearance, large tires, lockers and excellent articulation. NOT for stock vehicles. Complex route-finding.
Length: 29 mi.; Time: Full day; Open: Year-round.
Location: Start: 10.8 mi south of McDonald's in Moab on UT-191, half-mile past mile-marker 115, turn right on unmarked road over cattle guard.
Return: UT-191 14.8 mi from end of trail.
Features: Two of the most dangerous obstacles in Moab, High Dive and White Knuckle. White Knuckle bypass goes miles out of way. Other features insluce: Hummer Hill, Roller Coaster and Hunter Canyon. Scenic points are: Terra Cotta Warriors, Lone Rock, Balcony Arch and Picture Frame Arch.
Strike Ravine TrailDescription: Difficulty: Difficult – Steep, rocky climbs and descents, high-clearance and good articulation required, side-trips only for rock buggies.
Length: 9 mile loop; Time: 5 hrs; Open: Year-round.
Location: Start: County road 129, south of mile-marker 114 on UT-191 11 miles south of Moab.
Return: UT-191 2.8 mi from end of trail.
Features: Raw, rugged, scenic spots; near privately-owned "Area BFE" extreme riding area.
Picture Frame Arch TrailDescription: Difficulty: Easy – Alternates between smooth, well-packed sand and rocky. Rutted sandy road around Lone Rock hikable to arch if too difficult. Small ledges, simple route-finding. Stock 4WD when dry.
Length: 14.4 mi (One-way); Time: 4 hrs plus to and fro time from Moab; Open: Year-round.
Location: Start: 12.2 mi south of McDonalds in Moab on UT-191 turn right after long "Blue Hill."
Return: Same way.
Features: Two impressive arches, best overlook in Moab. Great trip for kids due to short length and stops along the way. Overlook of Kane Creek Canyon nd Hurrah Pass Road. Good camping - portable toilet required. Side trip to sand dunes.
Learn A Little MoreThe entire Moab area has been formed by the mighty Colorado and Green Rivers over hundreds of millions of years in a tremendously complex manner involving: tectonics, innundation by oceans, tons of deposits, upheavals, regressions and erosions.
The Colorado Plateau was pushed up ten million years ago and exposed the land to massive amounts of runoff fairly consitently ever since. Differential erosion rates form nooks and crannies which sometimes coalesce into tunnels or arches or bowls or hoodoo's or domes or even sometimes just plain dust. White Rim Sandstone lasts longer and often form caps of spires and Hoodoo's.
Cracks often slice domes like bread – erosion rounds slices into fins – soft spots on fins break away and form pockets – water and ice wear through pockets creating windows – windows enlarge into arches… and we all drive by and say: "WOW!"