Family Mountain Biking at Utah’s Dead Horse Point State Park
Jen Charette, velomom.com
When most people think of mountain biking in Moab they think of the Slickrock trail. Slickrock is a classic trail with beautiful overlooks but it is also hard, I mean really hard. There are steep climbs and unforgiving terrain. For a gentler introduction to the trails, and beauty of Moab, try Dead Horse Point State Park. Dead Horse is located 32 miles west of Moab. In the Spring of 2009 the Park Service built a new trail and opened it to mountain bikes.
The Legend of Dead Horse Point is that Cowboys corralled wild mustangs on the point, then chose the horses they wanted. One time, for an unknown reason, horses were left corralled on the point where they died of thirst all within site of the mighty Colorado River 2,000 feet below. Aside from this tragic story, the point does have one of the best overlooks in Moab. You can see into Canyonlands State Park and miles of the snaking Colorado River. There are also plenty of picnic spots along the point to sit and enjoy the scenery.
Since the point is accessible by car, you’ll be sharing the view with more than a few other people. To get the same amazing views with out the crowds it’s time for the family to hop on their bikes and hit the Intrepid loops for some amazing singletrack. The Intrepid Trails System has three loop options ranging from 1-9 miles with varying degrees of difficulty. The easiest and shortest loop is Intrepid, followed by Great Pyramid, with Big Chief as the most challenging. With these nested loops it’s ideal for both your intrepid and cautious family members.
Intrepid Loop – Starting from the north end of the visitor parking lot the trail is two-way for a short distance until it forks into a loop. Take a right for a 1.1 mile option. This short loop is very easy.
The Great Pyramid Loop – At 4.2 miles it is nested within the middle of the larger 9-mile Big Chief Loop. The Great Pyramid ride is ideal for beginners and the trail is easy to follow. There are signs at every intersection.
Big Chief Loop – This is technically the hardest trail in the system. It has a few tricky rock sections and the length (9 miles) makes it more of a commitment than the others. It will take an intermediate rider about one hour to complete. I suggest you ride it first to determine if it’s suitable for your little ones. At the Big Chief Canyon overlook the Intrepid Potash operation is visible below along the banks of the Colorado River. Intrepid financed $20,000 for the building of the trail system.
After a fun day in the sun riding and sightseeing at Dead Horse you have the option of returning to Moab or camping up at Dead Horse. If you return to Moab there are numerous choices to refuel in downtown. You can’t go wrong at Milts for a diner style hamburger or La Hacienda for Margs and Mexican on the north end of town. Camping up at Sand Flats Recreation Area near the Slickrock trail is always a fun place to pitch a tent. If you want cushier digs, check out The Gonzo Inn. Camping at Dead Horse is located at Kayneta and costs $20 per night.
If your family gets hooked on mountain biking and is ready to go again the next day there are several other great family friendly riding areas near Moab. Gemini Bridges and the Bar M trail system are two to put at the top of your list.
When you go…
Season: Ideal in spring and fall.
Directions: Nine miles northwest of Moab on US 191 and then 23 miles southwest on Utah 313 to the end of the highway.
Fees: The entrance fee is $10.00 per vehicle or $2.00 per bicycle or pedestrian.
Elevation at Trailhead: 5900 feet
For Hiker’s of All Ages….Corona Arch
Kristen Lummis, braveskimom.com
Just as most people think of biking Slickrock when they go to Moab, most people also think that to hike to an arch, they have to go to Arches National Park. While Arches is incredible and well worth a visit (the Visitor’s Center is outstanding and just moments off of Highway 191), one of the most spectacular family hikes in the area is the Corona Arch Trail on the opposite side of Moab.
The Corona Arch Trail isn’t long, just 3 miles roundtrip. But the payoff is huge. Formed from a massive sandstone fin, Corona Arch is 140 feet long and 105 feet high. It’s massive. Urban mythology (or is it rural mythology when you’re talking about something in Moab?) holds that small aircraft can fly under the arch. While we’ve never seen anything like that, our family has spent many restful moments in the shade of the arch, lying on our backs and contemplating its majesty. That is when we’re not scampering over the slickrock, climbing the trail ladders and hoping to see a train rush by at the trailhead.
The trail to Corona Arch is not difficult but it’s a great “adventure” trail for kids. After you park, climb up an embankment and cross the railroad tracks. Follow a jeep road into a small wash. At this point, another arch, Pinto Arch is visible. Cairns mark the well-used trail, so there’s no danger of a wrong turn. Soon the trail goes left, sweeping onto a wide expanse of sandstone. Handrails and ladders built into the slickrock get you up steep sections and add to the adventure.
While Corona Arch deservedly dominates the landscape, just a few hundred yards before Corona is a different type of arch, Bowtie. Sometimes known as Paul Bunyan’s potty (but not to be confused with his other potty in Canyonlands National Park), Bowtie Arch was formed when a pothole in the upper cliff eroded into a cave below.
The trailhead for the Corona Arch trailhead is found off of Highway 191 on the Potash Road (Utah 279) along the Colorado River. The trailhead is well marked and is 10 miles from Highway 191 on the right.
Sink Your Hands Into Some Sandstone Goodness
Erica Lineberry, cragmama.com
For families that are looking to sink their hands into some sandstone goodness, Moab is truly a choose-your-own adventure destination. Moms and Dads with babies or toddlers will appreciate the ease of access at the some of the Potash Road crags, where you could literally belay from the back of your pick-up truck! Potash Road (US Hwy 279) is a mere 5 minutes from downtown Moab, and the “Wall Street” area alone boasts over a hundred lines, ranging from casual romps up 5.4 slabs to 5.12+ , with a healthy mix of both traditional and bolted routes. For families with older children that prefer alternating time on the rock with time on the desert sand, be sure to check out “The Scar” and “Mars”. Located just a few miles away from the intersection of Potash Road and Hwy 191 (you’ll see a large, obvious scar about 200 feet up from the road), these two areas are loaded with tons of steep, pumpy, well-bolted sport routes. This is definitely a change of pace from the stereotypical splitter cracks of Indian Creek.