Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Moab 4WD Backroads: Northwest - Part 3

My guess is that these posts about the Moab Trail System Map which Offroading Home has produced will go on to become one of the all-time most downloaded before this is done.   From the looks of my "site analytics" either Google has finally found us OR there are an awfully lot of you who are planning a trip to Moab Utah in the next few weeks!

This is the third (of three) posts about the fifteen trails in the Northwest Moab area of those listed in "Moab, UT Backroads & 4-Wheel Drive Trails" by Charles Wells and includes those around the Secret Spire and Mineral Point section.   There are three other areas listed in the book which are under construction; but, this one being done, I felt like y'all would like to see it now and from the looks of things it was fairly timely.   [A free Google Earth file of this route is available at: Offroading Home on the "Utah" tab.]

You should be aware that Wells prepared his book of trails from the back of an SUV and a Jeep so they might not be directly transferable to ATV rides as they stand.   Looking at the satellite image however, there are definitely alternate trailheads for these trails which avoid paved roads.   Check with local shops for better details when you get down there – then please let us know if we need to change anything.   AND please turn on your GPS so you can send us your track which will allow us to verify the map.

Wells claims that he has spent 12 years and worn out his thesaurus trying to come up with words to explain or describe the Moab area – and I believe him.   There really are no words which adequately describe the volume and grandeur of these rocks.   As Google Earth areas go, there is a lot greater density of Panoramio photographs clustered all over this area of people trying to do with photographs what they can't do with words.   I've pulled a representative photo for each trail but you would do well to download the map, zoom in to each trail and see all the photos in each area for yourself.

Hopefully you are already aware of it, but this riding area is NOT the area to go to if your "style" is to need to rev to the top of every hill you see!   Even though there is slick rock it is NOT open riding and the law is to "stay on trails."   The locals know this and have done it for many years; however, the increased "out-of-town" traffic has seen aberrant ruts being formed which increasingly tick-off the BLM and National Park Service as well as local clubs who would loose the most if the area was closed to vehicles due to damage.

Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, and I'm not sure about the former.”
Albert Einstein
Many new trail markers have been placed for the BLM by the local clubs.   Even white marker lines have been sprayed to mark the trail over slick rock.   If you are riding and haven't seen a marker in awhile – then you probably aren't where you are supposed to be!

Additionally, many (if not most) of the trails in this area become dangerous, if not impassable when they get even the slightest bit wet.   Some entire roads are so clay-based that even rescue vehicles can't make it.   And, like in deserts everywhere, a flash-flood, torrent of water far over your head can scream down any wash in seconds without enough warning to let you climb out.   And nearly every trail goes through or across at least one of them – so, even the prediction of rain should weigh heavy upon your head.

Wells points out what I have seen as well, in that it isn't only the rangers that a law-breaker needs to watch out for, it's the entire Moab 4-wheel community who is watching, especially locals, who are under the urgent and very real threat of closures under the BLMs ubiquitous Travel Management Plan system.   They consider ignorance as bad as deliberate violations.

Northwest Moab Area

Nearing the same scale as that on Mt. Everest – there are places where rescue is almost impossible amid these canyons and rocks and your very survival may be called into question at any moment without warning.   "Stupid Kills" here as much or more than anywhere else so plain intelligence demands different behaviors from you than you may be used to doing on a ride, such as: Always file a flight plan, Travel with another vehicle, Carry extra maps (including GPS and/or computers), Be constantly aware of the changing weather and conditions, Think "High water and flash floods," Meticulously inspect your vehicle before departing (tighten anything loose), Wear your seat belt, No appendages outside a moving vehicle, Assume ALL cliff edges are unsafe and even Protect yourself against lightening in a storm!

Most locals change their plans and stay home if there is even a forecast of any rain.   You won't see many of them out when its wet; except when called to try and attempt a rescue of an idiot who didn't.   Fortunately, this is the desert and there really aren't that many "rain days" – but, it does happen.

Secret Spire - Dellenbaugh Tunnel Trail

Description: Difficulty: Moderate – steep slickrock and soft sand.   Aggressive stock SUVs may be able to make it with experienced driver.
Length: 1.8 mi to Dellenbaugh Tunnel, 0.4 mi to Secret Spire; Time: 2 hrs.; Open: Year-round.
Location: Start: 12 mi north of Moab on UT-191 turn left on UT-313.   Right on Dubinky Well Road after view area (8.5 mi).   At 1.4 mi turn right at fork, another 4.9mi turn left on Spring Canyon Point Road.   West 2 miles to Tombstone Rock and turn left on single-lane road.   Secret Spire is 2.6 mi west on Spring Canyon Point Road.
Return: Same way.
Features: Unique Dellenbaugh Tunnel below ground arch; Spring Canyon; photo next to gravity defying Secret Spire; dangerous cliffs.

Spring Canyon Point Trail

Description: Difficulty: Easy – Gravel road, intermittent sandy stretches, ruts and occasional washouts possible.   Optional spur to Cliff Hanger Arch is moderate with small rock ledges and mild ruts requiring high-clearance, patience and careful tire-placement.
Length: 13.5 mi.; Time: 2 hrs - round-trip plus extra time for side trip to arch; Open: Year-round.
Location: Start: 12 mi north of Moab on UT-191, left on UT-313, right on Dubinky Well Road at 8.5 mi.   Right at fork in 1.4 mi then 4.9 mi turn left on Spring Canyon Point Road.
Return: Same way.
Features: Relaxing drive, open range land, high view of Green River, difficult to find Cliff Hanger Arch.

Spring Canyon Bottom Trail

Description: Difficulty: Easy – Wide, maintained road into Spring Canyon then narrow ledge dramatically cut into vertical rock cliffs.   Rock fall possible.   Extremely dangerous when wet.
Length: First 9 mi easy then heart-pumping descent to river; Time: 3 hrs for round trip; Open: Year-round.
Location: Start: 12 mi north of Moab on UT-191, left on UT-313 8.5 mi, right on Dubinky Well Road (unmarked), north to fork (1.4 mi) stay left on Spring Canyon Bottom Road.
Return: Same way.
Features: Open range land; rugged 800 ft drop into isolated Spring Canyon; magnificent views; little traffic.

Hey Joe Canyon Trail

Description: Difficulty: Moderate – narrow, flat along rivers edge.   Sandy road interspersed with challenging rocky sections.   Scratchy brush, steep and rocky climb at end into Hey Joe Canyon.   Water crossings when river is high prone to washouts and rock slides; check BLM for conditions before leaving.   Hot and buggy in summer.
Length: 8.5 mi to Hey Joe Canyon (one-way); Time: 2-3 hr round-trip without Spring Canyon Bottom.   Total round-trip from UT-313 is 6 hrs.; Open: Year-round.
Location: Start: North on UT-191 12 from Moab, left on UT-313 then right at 8.5 mi on Dubinky Well Road (unmarked).   At 1.4 mi turn left at fork on Spring Canyon Bottom Road.   Go west 9.5 mi and descend into Spring Canyon 14 mi.   Right along river to wire gate at start of Hey Joe Canyon.
Return: Same way.
Features: Unique, remote river route; views descending Spring Canyon; mining equipment of Hey Joe Mine; travel with companion to avoid long walk out if problems.

Mineral Point Trail

Description: Difficulty: Easy – Graded road, then mix of sand and embedded rock.   Small ledge 0.3 mi from end may stop low-clearance vehicles, but you can walk the rest of the way.   Easy to get lost.
Length: 12.9 mi from UT-313; Time: 2 hrs round-trip; Open: Year-round.
Location: Start: 12 mi north of Moab on UT-191, left on UT-313 for 12 mi.   Southwest and turn right at sign for Horsethief Campground.
Return: Return same way.
Features: Easy drive with few bumps and turns to make it interesting; secluded view at end; part of the Easter Jeep Safari Hellroaring Rim Trail.

So that's it… the 15 trails in the northwest Moab riding area along with those in Arches National Park. The next area I'll be working on are the trails in the Central Moab area, which contains the greatest percentage of difficult trails (14/20 to be exact); then, the Manti-LaSal National Forest (where grandpa helped build the roads) followed by the Canyonlands National Park area and the "extreme" areas.

I'll make the plea one more time for any of you with the where-with-all to give to the community by donating one of Wells' other books, to please do so. Use the "Donate" link to navigate to the "wish list" section OR if you already have one of his books contact us for a possible temporary loan. It'll mean more maps – we're especially desirous of doing his ATV book for this same area.

Learn A Little More

On a lighter note now – here is some light-hearted fun with a bit of nostalgia attached; or, maybe it too is a bit too close to being timely for comfort – "Don't Fence Me In (Or Out)."


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