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Bar M Loop

The Bar M Loop is a fairly easy ride technically. Elevation change is modest at about 300 feet. Many families ride this trail, including baby trailers and trail-a-bikes. (Occasional washouts and other erosion changes may occur -- ask for current conditions.) The loop is 8 miles long.

View into Seven Mile Canyon, near the north end of the loop. Photos April 2006.

You can ride this trail either direction from the Bar M trailhead (named for the Bar M restaurant near the trailhead). Most do it counter-clockwise. I like clockwise -- I'm going slightly uphill for the interesting parts, so I can take more time to watch the scenery, then flying downhill after leaving the sandstone.

Handlebar view as we skirt the edge of Seven Mile Canyon. This is the only "nervous" part of the ride, and can be bypassed by staying on the doubletrack.

Despite its reputation as an "easy ride," the Bar M is definitely worth doing. Use it as an afternoon "quickie" or a recovery-day ride. Advanced riders will get their fill by branching off the Bar M onto the Moab Brand Trails.

Riding clockwise on the west side of Bar M. You'll hear the highway sounds as it runs parallel to the trail on the west side.

There's only one spot on the trail that will make new riders nervous. At the far northeast corner of the loop, a singletrack takes you along the edge of the cliffs of Seven Mile Canyon. If you're riding with kids, you might want to keep right (clockwise ride) and stay on the doubletrack away from the cliff.

Riding along the edge of Seven Mile Canyon.

The "business side" (east half) of the trail hugs the border between red dirt and the top of the Entrada sandstone. There are a couple of spurs that take you to overlooks. Along the loop are connections to new trails. To the east are slickrock trails Circle O and Rockin A. On the south are tech singletracks Bar B, Deadman's Ridge, and Longbranch. On the west is the easy beginner singletrack Rusty Spur. Inside the Bar M loop are two singletrack loops, the easy Lazy-EZ and the intermediate North 40.

More typical riding surface for the Bar M's eastern side -- flat slickrock alternating with red dirt doubletrack.

One popular riding option is to climb from Moab on the Old Highway 191 paved trail. After riding the Bar M, you bomb back to town the way you came. This makes a fairly quick 17-mile ride. The north end of the Bar M connects to the Sovereign ATV trail, which heads north to the Sovereign Singletrack mountain bike trail. 

You'll notice a lot of agate lying around on the trail, as well as occasional volcanic cinders. You'll see the slope of the salt-dome anticline that produced the Moab. This is an interesting ride geologically.

View west from the trail, looking at cliffs of Wingate sandstone on top of the Chinle formation. The rock layers to the west of the highway have been thrust upward above those on the east side by the Moab fault.

Several "shortcuts" go between the eastern and western half of the trail. There are little roads everywhere! But the trail is well-marked. Just follow the signs. At the southern end of the loop, you'll notice a lot of tires continuing straight where the trail does an "almost-180". These bikers were heading for the box canyon overlook, just a short distance south. It's worth taking the trip. After passing the canyon, double back. There's little of interest further south.

At the far southern end of the loop, we're getting a glimpse of the box canyon "feeder" to Courthouse Wash.

New slickrock and singletrack rides have been added since the original trail review. Together these make the "Moab Brand Trails," and include the Rockin A, Circle O, and Bar B. This is great riding, with a lot of not-scary but challenging rock. For those who crave gnarly, there's Killer B and (less gnarly) Deadman's Ridge. For those looking for mellow singletrack, try Rusty Spur or the Lazy-EZ loop. Experienced beginners can ride Circle O or North 40.

Heading back northwest as we're closing the loop.

Riding waypoints Bar M Loop counterclockwise:
Parking on Old 191 N 38 38.864' W 109 40.156'
  (Moab Old 191 Trailhead N 38 34.945' W 109 30.587')
Bar-M turnoff N 38 38.444' W 109 39.462'
Bar-M turn-north N 38 38.311' W 109 38.500'
Right turn N 38 39.915' W 109 40.583'
Bar-M meets pipeline N 38 39.905' W 109 40.631'
Left on 191 N 38 40.192' W 109 41.045'

Getting there:
From the north: Drive south on US-191 for 22 miles south of I-70. From Moab, drive 7 miles north from the Colorado River on 191. When you see the Gemini Bridges parking area, look for a gravel road on the opposite side (east, away from the cliffs). Turn onto the gravel road and immediately go right. The first parking area GPS N 38 39.38' W 109 40.66' is restaurant parking, although many riders park here. The road you're driving on is the western side of the traditional Bar M loop. Keep driving another 0.2 miles then turn left to the official Brand Trails parking in the valley. Backtrack up to the Bar M trail on the eastern side of the fence -- across from the paved Old Highway 191 Trail.
Alternate: From Moab, ride the Old Highway 191 (paved trail) until you reach the Bar M sign. That's the southern tip of the loop, through the fence on your right. You can also connect further north, just before Old 191 passes underneath Highway 191. Instead of ducking under the road, step through the break in the fence on the right.  The gravel trail is the Bar M trail.
Riding Resources:
Single-page riding guide
Large-format topo map to print (1.1 MB):   View
Topo including all Moab Brand Trails:   View 
Lodging, camping, shops:     Links to Moab area resources
GPS Track Files (right-click and "Save as...") 
      GPX Bar M + paved route from Moab  
      GPX file all Moab Brand area trails

Copyright 2006 Mad Scientist Software Inc
Updated 2009