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Gold Bar Rim Singletrack

The Gold Bar Rim Singletrack (formerly known as the Blue Dot trail) is a technical route along the edge of the cliffs north of Moab. The trail follows the cliff edge four miles from the Gold Bar Overlook to the intersection of Poison Spider with the Portal Trail. This is a double black diamond expert-level trail. Riding season is April through November.

View from the rim. Photos and track by Bruce on April 12, 2016.

The Gold Bar Rim starts at the Gold Bar Overlook. The trail is designed to flow north-to-south. (There are drop-offs and steeps that are impossible to ride in the other direction.) The Overlook can be reached via the Gold Bar Singletrack with a piece of Gold Bar 4x4, or via Rusty Nail plus a bit of Golden Spike. Either way, you'll have a bit of nasty and occasionally non-rideable jeep route on your way up. Don't let it spoil your mood.

Heading up the Gold Bar Singletrack on Kayenta sandstone.

The Gold Bar Rim trail has become popular as a variant of the Magnificent 7, an epic ride from Highway 313 to the Colorado River. A shuttle drops riders at the top of Highway 313 to descend Bull Run, Arth's Corner and Little Canyon (or alternately Great Escape plus Getaway). It will be 12 miles before you even reach the Gold Bar ST to start climbing to the rim.

We're now on the Gold Bar 4x4 route. Instead of a steady climb, the road goes up and down, with some spots (like this one) I had to walk.

Because of the effort required to reach the trail -- then to pedal back to civilization -- only strong well-conditioned riders should attempt it. The shortest possible ride still involves brutal climbing and significant technical work. And even experienced experts would be wise to walk some of the drops. The trail is dangerous, and it is difficult.

At the Gold Bar Overlook. To the north, the cliffs are formed of Kayenta (cap rock), Wingate (vertical), Chinle, then Moenkopi (deep red) formations.

The "Grand Tour" GPS track below is a extreme 44-mile suffer-fest. It starts at Highway 313 and drops down the singletrack, then climbs and hits Gold Bar Rim. Then instead of dropping The Portal, it curves around Poison Spider before taking Golden Spike back to Rusty Nail. Then it heads back up to 313. The total climb was about 5700 vertical feet. I was on the bike for 8 hours and -- full disclosure -- I accepted a shuttle ride that skipped four miles at the end because I was long out of water and muscle.

Looking south at the trail marker about 100 feet south of the overlook.

From the Gold Bar Overlook at 5300 feet elevation, backtrack just a few feet past the rocks and juniper. Turn south, as close to the rim as you can find open rideable rock. You'll pick up the yellow stripes and a trail sign quickly.

Don't backtrack to the more-prominent route 100 feet down the hill. That's Golden Spike and it's not the trail you want.

View southwest to the Colorado River.

You'll immediately appreciate that the riding is made for skilled bikers. There will be ledges you must drop without "helper rocks" and cracks you have to throw the front tire across. There are tricky rough descents. Follow the yellow stripes on the rock. 

One of the first drops. The rock goes Very Vertical before hitting the run-out slabs below.

The famous "photo spot" is at mile 0.5 from the Overlook. You may not see it as you ride across. After pedaling past, I rode my bike in a big circle at the point where the photographer would stand -- as in the picture at right -- so look for that circle on my GPS track.

Photo stolen from Gene Poncelet. That's Gene on the witches tongue, 1/2 mile into the Rim.

The route stays pretty close to the cliff edge for the entire four miles, sometimes within a couple of feet. Most of the extreme technical spots are far enough away from the cliff that you won't go over. But there are some cliff-side spots where a bad move could be fatal, and many of the drops are dangerous all by themselves. I lost count of how many times I decided it was a good day to hike.

My bike rests in a wheel trap half-way down this double-diamond rockpile. I walked down.

From time to time, you'll note that the Golden Spike route has returned to the cliffs. When the routes touch, keep to the left and follow the yellow paint, not the white spots on rubber-stained rock.

The path is generally downhill -- although it won't seem like it -- with about 150 feet of elevation loss over the four miles.

A "cruiser" area of the Rim, southbound.

The trail returns again and again to fabulous views. The cliff line is the western side of the Moab Fault with Highway 191 at the bottom. Arches National Park spreads out to the east. The Colorado River bridge is to the southeast. In the southwest, you can see the Colorado again after it exits the Portal. The buildings in the distance are part of the potash extraction plant.

Approaching the domes of Navajo Sandstone that mark Poison Spider.

Once you've reached the end of Gold Bar Rim, you're at the junction of Poison Spider with the Portal Trail. If you're headed for Highway 278, as in the classic Mag 7 ride, drop down the Portal. As a less cliff-exposed alternate, you can take the longer route on Poison Spider down to the highway.

Here's Hunter Ransom hucking a ledge on Gold Bar Rim in spring 2016. I stole this photo from his dad's Facebook post.

The return via Poison Spider and Golden Spike (the Grand Tour ride) is very strenuous and longer than you'd think. And I swear there's more climbing, rougher rock, and steeper slopes every time I hit Golden Spike. Don't underestimate it.

Instead of the Grand Tour, consider descending the Portal Trail and taking 278 to the paved bike path. Connect to Highway 313 for the ride back to the top. I've done this a few times, and it's a long but reasonable commute. And there are calories and drinks at the 191-313 junction.

View to the east into Arches. Note the road winding around the fins of rock as it heads back toward the camping areas.

Bottom Line: 
Great ride for experienced expert riders in good condition. Highly technical and very difficult aerobically. Lots of challenges, incredible views. A ride like none other in Moab.

View southwest with about a mile to go. The Colorado is upper mid-photo, with the La Sal Mountains partly hidden in clouds.

Riding notes, Getaway / Great Escape / Rim / Portal:
0.0   Getaway TH, top of Gemini Bridges road
        L on Getaway ST N38 34.409 W109 47.504
0.6   Keep R (L = Mustang)
        N38 34.710 W109 47.295
1.5   Straight (7-up crosses)
        N38 35.013 W109 46.666
3.1   Keep L (R = to Bull Run)
        N38 35.646 W109 45.594
3.2   Keep straight (L = 7-up connector)
        N38 35.691 W109 45.493
7.8   Straight (R = Bull Run, L = Arth's)
        N38 35.258 W109 42.221
        Cross Gemini road to Great Escape
9.6   Cross Bull Canyon Road
        N38 34.966 W109 40.963
11.2 R on Little Canyon ST
        N38 35.683 W109 40.627
11.8 Confusing area, head toward ledge
        (L = out to Gold Bar road)
12.1 Cross Gold Bar 4x4, begin Gold Bar ST
        N38 35.881 W109 40.143
13.5 Drop down to old DT
14.3 L on Gold Bar 4x4
        N38 36.427 W109 39.240
15.8 Gold Bar Overlook
        N38 36.880 W109 38.508
        R along Gold Bar Rim
        Keep L when Golden Spike touches
19.1 L to Portal Trail
        N38 35.039 W109 35.680
21.1 Highway 279
        N38 33.510 W109 35.272
        L to 191, R to Poison Spider parking
Getting there:
Take the Gemini Bridges Road 4.5 miles from Highway 191 then turn left at the Gold Bar Rim road. If you're driving, find a parking spot here. Head uphill on the Gold Bar Rim Road then turn left onto the Gold Bar Rim ST. Follow the paint until you rejoin the Gold Bar 4x4 route. At the cliff edge, head right (southwest) on the slickrock.
To leave a shuttle at the Poison Spider trailhead: On 191 at the bottom of the canyon (just past the old tailings pile), turn west onto U-278 (also called Potash Road). Drive 6 miles then turn right up a short dirt road with a sign that says "Dinosaur Tracks." There's a bathroom at the parking area.

See the area topo (link below) for connecting trails.

Bathrooms:  Poison Spider trailhead, campground
Camping:  Horsethief on Highway 313
Water:  Campground

Riding resources:
Single-page riding guide, Getaway to Portal
GPS track file (right-click and select "Save Target as..."):
      Rim Trail only   Mag 7 with Rim   Grand Tour (44 mi)
      Getaway to Rim, down Portal   Area Multi-track file 
Topo maps for printing:   High-Res Area Topo
Lodging, camping, shops:     Link to Moab area resources

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