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Great Escape

The Great Escape trail is a bikes-only singletrack in the Gemini Bridges area near Moab. Great Escape itself is 3.5 miles long with just over 400 vertical feet of elevation change. It's intermediate in technical requirement, and is not too tough aerobically. The top altitude (near Gemini Bridges) is 5120 feet. 

Handlebar view of slickrock riding on Great Escape. Review and photos by Bruce on March 23, 2012.

The mountain bike trail begins on the Gemini Bridges Road (straight across from Arth's Corner and Getaway singletrack trails), about 0.4 miles downhill from the Gemini Bridges hiking trail and main parking area. It extends downhill to join the Little Canyon Singletrack about 1/2 mile from where Little Canyon ST becomes the Gold Bar Singletrack as it crosses the Gold Bar Rim road.

On the lariat loop from Bull Run (about 20 miles), we're looking down the Bull Run Trail toward the Gemini Bridges area. We'll hit Great Escape at about mile 6. This is also the route you'd take if you were using Great Escape as an alternate in the Magnificent 7.

Although Great Escape joins two trails of the Magnificent 7 trail system, it's NOT part of the official Mag 7. Riders descending the Mag 7 (part 1) can, however, substitute Great Escape for Arth's Corner and the upper 1.6 miles of Little Canyon Singletrack. Ridings can also go directly from downhill Getaway to Great Escape, or from Great Escape to Getaway when riding uphill.

Bike and vehicle parking at the Gemini Bridges hiking trail. This is where the Short Loop ride (7.5 miles) starts.

I think the best way to ride Great Escape is to combine it with the upper Little Canyon Singletrack and Arth's Corner to form a loop. From the Gemini Bridges parking, the loop will be 7.5 miles with 500 vertical feet of climbing. This is suitable for intermediate riders. See the "short loop" ride description below. I did a counterclockwise loop, but the trail rides well in either direction.

This signpost parks the spot on the Gemini Bridges road where (if heading downhill) Arth's Corner is on the left and Great Escape forks to the right. Note trail map on post.

Advanced riders will want to start on Bull Run near Highway 313 (see lariat loop ride description below). This ride is 19.7 miles with 1700 vertical feet of climbing. Ride Bull Run downhill, do the loop, then ride Bull Run back uphill. This ride is upper intermediate technical, but will be quite strenuous because of the constant bike motion required to ride uphill on the ledge-filled trail. Remember it's a reverse-profile ride: you'll be grunting uphill when you're the most tired.

Trail view heading south, with spots of open rock separated by dirt and brush, and a sparse forest of pinion pine.

Great Escape can serve as an alternate climbing route to the Gemini Bridges Road, and takes you directly to Getaway, which climbs on uphill toward 7-Up. The trail can also easily be incorporated into a ride to Two Tortoise Rock or Bull Canyon.

Shortly after the trail begins, a 30-foot spur takes you to this view of Gemini Bridges to the west.

The trail is marked with cairns, trailside logs, and stripes of light-green paint on the rock. It's easy to navigate either direction.

Heading southeast over slickrock, with Behind the Rocks in the midground and the La Sals on the skyline. Note the green pain, and the line of rocks marking the trail.

The riding surface is about 80% rock, 20% dirt. On my ride (just a few weeks after the trail opened), some of the dirt spots were a little soft. There were two sharp dirt turns where the tires dug and washed out. These were spots that required a bit of power to hit an uphill slope after the turn. Not a crash, but a fishtail. With time, these spots should pack and berm. There were no sand bogs like on Bull Run.

For a while, the trail approaches the edge of Bull Canyon from above.

The biking is similar to Arth's and Little Canyon -- smooth rolling sandstone alternating with some small ledges and occasional strips of dirt singletrack. Occasional pinions and junipers dot the slope, with bitterbrush and sage where the roots can find some dirt. There are views of the La Sal Mountains to the southeast, and occasional glimpses of Two Tortoise Rock.

Smooth Entrada sandstone, with the trail plainly marked.

The rock is Entrada sandstone. It's mostly smooth and tacky under the tires. But as the trail gets lower in the rock strata (closer to the underlying Navajo), the Entrada becomes striated with dirt and rock in pancake layers that form ledges.

The La Sal Mountains and Bruce's Superfly 100 bracket Two Tortoise Rock.

Most riders will want to start from the Gemini Bridges parking area. The easiest way is to drive up Highway 313 (10 miles north of Moab), then turn left on the Gemini Bridges Road at mile 13 from US-191. Drive 6 miles downhill on the dirt road. (You can drive there on the Gemini Bridges Road from 191, but it's spooky narrow and steep.)

More typical trail surface, looking northwest and slightly uphill.

Park in one of the Gemini Bridges spots. There are several three-car spots along the little loop. Then pedal downhill to where the parking loop rejoins the main Gemini Bridges road. This will be 0.2 miles from the bike rack and the hiking trail.

As of 2012, there are now a few parking spots directly at Arth's Corner TH across from Great Escape.

Lower on the mountain, broken rock and dirt create a more ledge-filled riding enviroment. We're looking northeast toward the canyon of the main Gemini Bridges Road. (The gooney bird is around there somewhere.)

From Gemini Bridges, ride 1/4 mile downhill until you see signs for Great Escape and Arth's Corner. Turn right on the Great Escape singletrack. After 150 yards, stop at a short spur on your left to look at the Gemini Bridges to the west.

End of the trail. This is the spot where the Great Escape ends on the Little Canyon ST.

Now pedal on to mile 2.2 from the Gemini Bridges hiking trail and cross the Bull Canyon Road. FYI, the Two Tortoise Rock doubletrack is about 100 yards south of you (to your right), on the left (uphill) side of the road. That's in case you want to mix it up and follow Little Canyon to Gold Bar, then catch Two Tortoise back uphill.

Heading uphill on the Little Canyon Singletrack.

At mile 3.9, Great Escape ends on the Little Canyon Singletrack. You're about 1/2 mile from where Little Canyon ends on the Gold Bar 4x4 road. If you go right, you can descend to Gold Bar, where you can pick up the Gold Bar Singletrack or the Two Tortoise Rock trail.

At the end of the Little Canyon ST, we enter the Metal Masher (Little Canyon Rim) road for 0.1 mile before turning left onto the Arth's Corner singletrack.

If you go left, you'll climb about 1-1/2 mile on Little Canyon ST (crossing the Bull Canyon Road again on the way) until it ends at the Gemini Bridges Road. To reach Arth's Corner, stay straight and go 150 yards up the Metal Masher road, then find the ST on your left. Arth's will take you back to the beginning of Great Escape, or to Getaway if you're climbing further uphill.

Handlebar view as we head uphill on Arth's Corner. Very similar terrain and riding.

Lariat Loop with Bull Run, Little Canyon, and Arths, 19.6 miles:
0.0   Park immediately after turning L off 313
        N38 34.401 W109 47.523
        Pedal downhill on Gemini Bridges Road
1.2   R to Bull Run TH N38 34.921 W109 46.581
1.3   R on Bull Run ST
3.1   Join DT, keep R N38 35.443 W109 45.156
3.3   R off DT onto ST N38 35.434 W109 44.903
4.9   Cross Crips Hole Road N38 35.389 W109 43.508
5.8   R on Gemini Bridges Rd N38 35.307 W109 42.589
6.0   R to Gemini Bridges parking (why not?)
        N38 35.309 W109 42.589
        Trail and parking N38 35.228 W109 42.595
6.3   Rejoin Gemini Bridges main road, keep R
        N38 35.271 W109 42.396
6.5   R on Great Escape
        N38 35.246 W109 42.238
6.6   Short spur to view of Bridges on L
        N38 35.147 W109 42.241
8.3   Cross Bull Canyon Road
        N38 34.971 W109 40.960
10.0 L on Little Canyon Singletrack
       N38 35.652 W109 40.540
10.7 Cross Bull Canyon Road
        N38 35.732 W109 41.007
11.6 ST ends, straight across Gemini Bridges Rd
        to Metal Masher road N38 35.776 W109 41.624
11.7 L uphill on ST Arth's Corner
        N38 35.885 W109 41.673
13.2 R on Gemini Bridges Road N38 35.246 W109 42.238
13.4 Keep R on main road
        N38 35.271 W109 42.396
13.6 Keep straight (R) on main road
        N38 35.309 W109 42.589
13.8 L on Bull Run singletrack
        N38 35.307 W109 42.589
14.8 Cross Crips Hole road N38 35.389 W109 43.508
18.4 Bull Run TH, uphill on Gemini Bridges Rd
19.6 Back at parking
Short Loop (Gemini-Great Escape-Little Canyon-Arths), 7.5 miles:
Park in one of the Gemini Bridges spots, then pedal downhill
to where the road rejoins the main Gemini Bridges road,
at 0.2 miles from the bike rack and the hiking trail. Because
parking spots are all along the turnout, we'll start the odometer
from the road fork:

0.0   Keep R to continue downhill
        N38 35.271 W109 42.396
0.2   R on ST (Great Escape)
        N38 35.246 W109 42.238
0.3   Short spur to view of Bridges on L
        N38 35.147 W109 42.241

2.0   Cross Bull Canyon Road
        N38 34.971 W109 40.960
3.7   L on Little Canyon Singletrack
        N38 35.652 W109 40.540
4.4   Cross Bull Canyon Road
        N38 35.732 W109 41.007
5.3   ST ends, straight across Gemini Bridges Rd
        to Metal Masher road N38 35.776 W109 41.624
5.4   L uphill on ST Arth's Corner
        N38 35.885 W109 41.673
6.9   R on Gemini Bridges Road N38 35.246 W109 42.238
7.1   L to Gemini Parking N38 35.271 W109 42.396

Bottom line:
This ride is worth doing. But it's not much different in feel, tech factor, or views than Arth's or Little Canyon. So if you've already done the other Mag 7 trails, ride Great Escape to mix things up a little. But don't feel bad if you're forced to miss it as you're doing Mag 7.
I really liked the lariat ride using Bull Run to descend to the loop, then climbing back up Bull Run to 313. But the constant bumpy tech riding was a lot of work. For a 20-mile ride with only 1700 vertical, it left me pretty worked over.

View uphill on the return up Bull Run.

Getting there:
From I-70 and Crescent Junction, drive south on US-191 for 20 miles. Or, drive about 9 miles north of the Colorado River if you're driving out from Moab. Turn west on Highway 313 (the road to Dead Horse Point and Canyonlands). Drive 13 miles on 313 to the Gemini Bridges sign and turn L onto dirt road. 
For Bull Run lariat ride: Find a spot to park immediately after turning off 313. Begin riding down the dirt road and turn right to the Bull Run trailhead at mile 1.3.
For the loop ride from Gemini Bridges:  Drive down the gravel road 6 miles to the Gemini Bridges parking area N38 35.232 W109 42.597. Pedal downhill 0.2 mile from the fork where the parking lane rejoins the main dirt road. Arth's is on your left (your return route if going counterclockwise), and Great Escape is directly across the road on your right.

Riding resources:
Printable one-page ride guides:
    Lariat Loop w Bull Run     Loop from Gemini Bridges
GPS track file (right-click and select "Save Target as..."):
     Great Escape only      Great Escape Loop     Lariat Loop w Bull Run
     Area trail tracks master file  

Topo map for printing:
    Low Res Mag 7 area    High-Res Great Escape
Lodging, camping, shops:
     Link to Moab area resources