The time finally came. After my longest stay in one location since leaving Seattle, finding peace, connection and badass mountain biking here in Moab, I knew I needed to push on to stay ahead of the impending cold of Winter. I began asking around the local bike shops about interesting off-road routes near Canyonlands National Park. I’d ridden the White Rim Road 6 months back and loved the terrain, but riding it again would not send me towards my intended destination of Southwest Utah and the amazing canyons of the area. In order to get from Moab across canyon country to St. George is to find a way across or around the Colorado River. You can ride the big busy interstate 70 to the North, another major highway to the South, or cross the Colorado at Lake Powell within Glen Canyon National Recreation Area (NRA). Given the option to ride jeep roads and stay off of the pavement, deep in the canyons, I found a route that would carry me to Lake Powell.
The first leg of the route was riding out through the Amasa Back biking/jeep trail area toward Lockhart Basin. Given the potential for all the river beds to be dry by this late time in the season I overzealously carried 11 liters of water to get me to the Needles area of Canyonlands NP, some 70 miles away. The distance was short, but I had no idea how rough the road could be and didn’t want to be stuck thirsty. But why must water be so heavy?? Given that 1 liter of water weighs 1 kilogram, I realized I had an extra 24 pounds of water on my bike all said and done. It’s the heaviest my bike has been so far, and on some of this terrain, it was a beast to ride around. BUT. So very worth it….
View from Hurrah Pass, the entrance into Lockhart Basin Road via the Chicken Corner Jeep Safari Road.
Inside the basin, the colors were glowing red. And the sun was piping hot.
While the road was mostly rideable, there were good sections that required a little walking.
From a distance, the area actually looks somewhat flat…
… But the closer you get, the various layers of rock formations force continuous up and down riding, ad nauseam.
As the evening drew closer and the sun casted it’s growing shadows upon the canyon walls, I opened my gaze to possible flat campsites.
This little perch, in a high point listed on a map as The Divide, seemed perfect. Good sunset and subsequent sunrise viewing.
Awakened by the sun’s early rays, I set off heading South through the basin. It has been quite a transition into ever shortening days as the Fall presses on towards Winter. I sleep more. I ride less.
If you’re looking for a cheap 5th wheel, look no further. I think you’ll get a great deal on this little number.
At long last, the dirt lead through Indian Creek and up onto the paved route 211 toward Needles and a water refill. I’d taken about 1 1/2 days to travel there, and certainly had too much water on me. Lesson learned. I can survive in the desert on about 3-4 liters per day if I need to. I arrived at Needles with about 4 extra liters. Alas, better safe than sorry. Though the weight did make me a LITTLE sorry!
Once I got settled in my campsite at Needles, I decided to ride the extra 10 miles on jeep roads to see the Confluence of the Colorado and Green Rivers. In order to get there, I had to climb up and over Elephant Hill, which the park service describes as one of the hardest jeep roads in Utah. I can’t speak to that, but it was certainly a bit rough at times!
Looking down at the descent from Elephant Hill. It’s rougher than it looks. And steeper.
10 miles of sandy rough road and a short hike later, I made it to the Confluence. Pretty amazing.
Watching the sun set over Needles, I crashed from a long day. From here I’ll ride out to Beef Basin to get down towards Lake Powell…