||Behind the Rocks
The Behind the Rocks trail is a tough, advanced-technical ride located just south of Moab. Used mainly as a trials-motorcycle trail, Behind the Rocks has stiff climbs, technical descents and ledges, and life-sucking sand. Only riders who are bored with the "easy stuff" should consider this trail.
Looking down the trail at unusual rock formations, early in the ride. Photos April 28, 2003 by Bruce
|The Behind the Rocks trail is the site of the Moab's October 24-hour race. (Imagine riding the technical sections of this trail in the dark!) For this race, riders do a shorter loop version.|
We offer you directions to the standard point-to-point one-way ride, plus five different loop options. Most riders go 19 miles one-way, losing 1400 vertical feet of altitude. You'll need a shuttle car for this, and while the shuttle commute is a bit long (about 18 miles), it's on pavement.
Throttle-twisters push through one of Behind the Rock's many technical sections. No bikes the day I rode.
|Most riders who aren't using a shuttle should opt for
"Loop 1 -- A Bit of Behind." This 11.3 mile loop is reasonable,
and covers the best of the tech sections. (About 3 miles of this loop are
advanced technical.) There's a fair amount of sand, but it's almost all
The view back towards the La Sal Mountains, before the trail heads down into the sandstone canyons.
|Loop 2 offers more miles, but the extra distance doesn't offer anything
particularly exciting. Loop 2.5 has some more technical stuff, including
some nice open slickrock playgrounds just before you branch off the main
route. Loop 3 has more tech riding, with some really spooky but short
drops on rock, and involves a bit more climbing coming back. But it
avoids the deep sand in Hunter's Canyon, and avoids 500 vertical feet of
Prostitute Butte. If you're riding the short loop (Loop 1), you'll be heading back now on tame dirt road.
|Don't even think of doing the 28-mile Lunatic Loop unless
you're in great shape and well-prepared. It's hard to pack enough water on
the bike to complete this loop. A mile of sand in Hunter's Canyon will
suck the strength out of you. Then you have to climb 1300 vertical feet
back out, over 15 miles.
About 9 miles into the ride, we're heading towards the technical descent into Hunter's Canyon. We'll be dropping off the Navajo sandstone onto Kayenta.
|The point-to-point route is a bit hard to navigate. There
are only a couple of trail markers on the whole ride. Forks are unmarked,
and the correct route is often the less-traveled path. Don't dream of
riding this trail for the first time without an odometer, a by-the-mile
trail description, and a map! I also recommend a GPS.
"The Beast" at the crossroads where Behind the Rocks joins the Pritchett Arch trail. From here, it's either onward to White Knuckle Hill and down to the Colorado, or a mean climb back up Pritchett to complete a loop.
|This trail is mean and tough. There's deep sand to fight
through, technical climbs and descents, often dusted with slippery dirt
from the motocross guys. Behind the Rocks separates the real bikers from
those who just hang at the Slickrock parking lot to meet chicks. Yeah, the
Lunatic Loop -- you know you wanna do it.
View back into the valley where Behind the Rocks joins Pritchett. We're going to climb 1300 vertical coming back out on the loop version.
|Point-to-Point Ride -- Requires Shuttle
(Critical forks, loop connectors marked in boldface)
0.0 North on dirt road
N 38° 25.300' W 109° 25.930', Alt=5500'
0.25 Veer L (R=camping)
0.4 Fork R, N 38° 25.521' W 109° 26.014'
1.2, 1.3 Keep straight
1.6 L at fork, N 38° 26.415' W 109° 26.578'
2.1 Steep sand downhill, Alt=5850'
4.0 Keep straight
5.1 Fork hard R onto smaller DT (L = Loop 1)
N 38° 26.440' W 109° 29.380'
6.0 Keep L as trail comes in on R
6.3 Cross DT, keep straight
N 38° 27.146' W 109° 29.739'
7.6 R on Pritchett, 100 ft, R again (L = Loop 2)
N 38° 26.722' W 109° 29.949'
8.0 Keep straight (L)
8.3 R goes over slickrock, L main route
N 38° 27.177' W 109° 31.258'
8.6 Fork R (L = Loop 2.5)
N 38° 27.28' W 109° 31.63'
9.5 Keep straight, cross DT
N 38° 27.640' W 109° 32.202'
9.6 Keep straight
10.0 At bottom of steep hill, fork R (L = Loop 3)
N 38° 27.658' W 109° 32.476'
11.5 Drop into Hunter Canyon
Deep sand in bottom!
13.4 Fork R to Pritchett Trail (L = Lunatic Loop)
END of BTR Trail
N 38° 29.640' W 109° 33.773', Alt=4500'
13.5 Straight (R)
14.0 Spur to view of Pritchett Arch, keep straight
15.2 White Knuckle Hill
N 38° 30.70' W 109° 33.00'
15.5 Keep R (L = Pritchett Arch)
N 38° 30.78' W 109°33.37'
15.8 Keep L
17.0 Keep L
N 38° 31.4' W 109° 34.0'
19.5 Parking at Kane Creek Blvd. Alt=4100'
|Loop 1 -- A bit of Behind -- 11.3 miles
Follow Point-to-Point to Mile 5.1
5.1 Keep straight
6.0 L onto Pritchett trail
N 38° 25.70' W 109° 29.00'
Stay on main road back
Loop 2 -- A bit more -- 14.3 miles
Lunatic Loop -- Brutal 28.2 miles
|Getting there: To leave a shuttle car,
drive south on Moab's main drag (US-191) to the McDonald's, and turn right
onto Kane Creek Blvd. After 1.5 miles, go
straight at the "Yield" sign where the road seems to turn right. Continue
along the Colorado River until the road turns to gravel. There's a parking
area on the right. The trail's end is about 100 feet back, on the south
side of the street where it exits private property. (The property
owner has installed a fee box. Take $1 per biker with you to pay the toll as you exit.)
Now drive your second vehicle to the trailhead. Head back to Highway 191 and turn right (south). Drive 12.5 miles, and watch for a small road on your right. You should see a sign that (among other destinations) says Pritchett Arch. GPS is N 38° 25.30' W 109° 25.95'. Park near the cattle guard and begin riding.
|Single-page printable riding
GPS track files (right-click and "Save as..."):
Garmin GPX (may differ from route above)
Topo map for printing: Lower Res High-Res
Lodging, camping, shops:
Links to Moab area resources
24 Hours of Moab: Topo GPX
Copyright 2003 Mad Scientist Software Inc