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Golden Spike Trail

Here's the good news:  The Golden Spike Trail runs on tilted Kayenta bedrock. This type of sandstone forms gazillions of ledges, so there are stretches of smooth stone alternating with drop-offs and uphill ledge attacks. This trail is a technical-rock lover's dream -- 7 miles of up-and-down hard-hitting tech riding.

Matt stands at one of dozens of viewpoints on Golden Spike. To the south, the dark line is the canyon of the Colorado at the entrance to Moab. Photo and review by Bruce, May 17, 2002 with latest update 2016.

Now the bad news:  To ride Golden Spike, you need to get there. That means you have to climb up the Gold Bar Singletrack, the Gold Bar 4x4 or Poison Spider Mesa trails. On your bike. These trails, with their ledges and stiff climbs, will get first crack at you. By the time you hit the stunts on Golden Spike, you'll be a whimpering jelly-legged wannabe. Or maybe not. But I warned you.

Handlebar view as we climb uphill -- yet again -- on Golden Spike. White spots painted on the rock mark the trail.

The Golden Spike trail undulates up to the edge of the cliffs, then backs away, again and again. Tough technical climb followed by technical descent. Fun, if you have the strength left to attack. The trail never seems to be level. It's always climbing uphill or descending.

View southwest toward the Colorado River.

The Golden Spike forms the 5th trail segment of the new epic Magnificent 7, a ride of 26 miles from Gemini Bridges road at Highway 313 to the end of the Portal Trail. For information on riding this route, see the Magnificent 7 page. Many riders substitute the newly-approved Gold Bar Rim singletrack route for Golden Spike.

As we climb once again back towards the rim, the La Sal Mountains form the background. April 2011.

To reach the Golden Spike Trail from the Gemini Bridges trailhead, you'll follow the Gold Bar 4x4 or Singletrack trail. This is 8.5 miles (5 easy, 3.5 tougher) with about 1500 total feet of climbing. Just before the viewpoint that marks the end of Gold Bar, you'll turn right as the Golden Spike begins.

Mike watches Matt repair his 3rd flat in the days before tubeless tires. When there aren't views off the cliffs on the east, there are fantastic views of canyons and mesas to the west. May 2002.

To get to the Golden Spike via Poison Spider Mesa, you'll climb about 800 feet, then gain and lose a few hundred as you push over the Navajo sandstone domes of Poison Spider. As you follow the little "Jeeps" painted on the rock, the Golden Spike trail forks left at about mile 7.5.

Mike launches off a ledge.

The northern half of the trail is almost all slickrock. On these slickrock areas, the trail is well-marked with painted spots on the rock. (You may see older faded painted "spikes" as well.) The occasional short side-trail to the rim is usually well-marked.

The Golden Crack. You'll share the Golden Spike with motorcycles and 4x4s. Motos usually drive the trail south-to-north.

This trail is remote. Some days, you may not see anyone else on this trail. Be sure you're well-prepared with plenty of water, food, tools, and spare parts.

Matt shreds 4 inches of tire jumping the Golden Crack. What do you do with a 4-inch slash along the rim? Wrap the new tube with strips of old inner tube, glue a piece of old tube to the tire casing, add duct tape, and strap the tire down with cable ties around the rim. He rode it back to Moab.

Golden Spike tilts from north to south, losing about 700 vertical feet. But you'll put in 1500 feet of climbing when riding north-to-south. For every 100 feet you descend, you'll climb another 70 feet back uphill. Over and over. The Gold Bar to Golden Spike to Poison Spider route is a monster ride, over 20 miles point-to-point with 4000 vertical feet of climbing.

View north from a viewpoint on the Golden Spike. There are several.

At the southern end, the character of the trail changes. You'll ride over red dirt and ridged mudstone. You'll roll over domes of Navajo sandstone and drop into a wash between cliffs of sandstone. Then you'll hit a sandy stretch, which some riders avoid by catching a connector to Poison Spider found at mile 5.5 of Golden Spike.

Descending Navajo sandstone into a shady wash, as a couple of powered riders lead the way.

A shorter version of the Golden Spike ride involves climbing Rusty Nail. You'll avoid about 300 vertical feet of climbing and cut a couple of miles off the trip.

Nearing the end of Golden Spike, as domes of sandstone alternate with sandy stretches.

Riding notes, north to south:
0.0   South from Gold Bar below overlook
        N38 36.846 W109 38.533
0.8   Keep L (Downhill R to Rusty Nail)
        N38 36.511 W109 38.245
0.9   Golden Crack N38 36.509 W109 38.138
1.2   Back to Rim N38 36.549 W109 37.554
2.4   Turn away from rim N38 36.204 W109 36.887
2.9   Stay L N38 35.883 W109 36.816
3.2   Back to rim N38 35.875 W109 36.510
4.1   Keep L N38 35.299 W109 36.472
5.5? L for Portal Connector (exact spot not noted, sorry)
6.7   At Poison Spider N38 33.710 W109 35.788
        L for Portal, R to descend Poison Spider
Getting there, Gemini Bridges - Gold Bar Rim Trailhead: Drive south on US-191 for 16 miles south of I-70 (about 15 miles north of Moab). Spot the parking area on the west (right as you head toward Moab) side of the road. GPS N 38 39.381' W 109 40.672'. Park in front of the railroad tracks, and head out west on the road.
Poison Spider trailhead:
Go 6 miles down U-278 then right up a short dirt road with a sign that says "Dinosaur Tracks." GPS is N 38 31.917' W 109 36.473'.

Riding Resources: 
One-page printable trail guide
GPS track files (right-click and "Save as..."):
     Magnificent 7 path     Mag 7 area master GPX file  
     GPX Golden Spike area tracks    GPX  route Golden Spike 4x4
Topo maps for printing:
     Low-res Gold Bar to Poison Spider 
     High-Res Golden Spike
     Magnificent 7 low-res
Lodging, camping, shops:
      Links to Moab area resources

Copyright 2002 Mad Scientist Software Inc
Updated 2015