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Little Canyon Rim
Eagles Nest, Metal Masher

The Little Canyon Rim ride resembles the Golden Spike and Gold Bar Rim rides, but it's on the opposite (north) side of Little Canyon. It visits the highest point above highway 191, in an area called the Eagles Nest. The ride is long, but is big on views and puts great Moab terrain under your tires.

The ride can be done as a lariat-loop ride from the Gemini Bridges trailhead. After doing the loop, take a side trip to Gemini Bridges. As described below, this combination ride is 27 miles with 2200 vertical feet of climbing. But it's not as hard as it sounds, because 18 of those miles are on easy dirt road.

Photo: Chris Hornsby and Jon Peacock on the rim above highway 191.

Some riders do this ride as a downhill point-to-point, starting on highway 313 (the road to Canyonlands). The distance is about the same, but there's 1000 feet less climbing. And lots more descending.
 You spend 8 miles riding downhill on dirt road before connecting via the Metal Masher trail near Widow Maker (see map). For this route, most riders will do the loop clockwise. Navigation can be a little tricky in the region just before you hit the loop. (2009: missing signs, complex roads with multiple interconnections, etc.)

Looking east on the Gemini Bridges road, this is the Gooney Bird. Following trail photos by Bruce. Write-up May 1, 2009.

If you decide to do the downhill shuttle, I suggest you download a track file and take your GPS. That will help you find your way through the mess of branching trails just south of Widow Maker. On the day I rode, I passed two riders at the Metal Masher fork, and two hours later I met them again after they'd ridden several circles in the Widow Maker area trying to find their way out.

View up toward Little Canyon Rim as we start uphill on Metal Masher.

The out-and-back ride starts from the Gemini Bridges parking area. First, you'll climb along ridges in the Moenkopi skirts of the escarpment. Cliff above, cliff below. Up 350 feet in one mile, then a little drop into Little Valley. Turning west, it's level cruising for a couple of miles until you hit the Gold Bar Rim turnoff. After forking right, you'll push your bike up a short hill in loose slop.

Heading counterclockwise up the loop, rock alternates with dirt. In rock areas, the trail is marked by white paint spots.

The road surface gets firm at the top of the hill, alternating between grated rock and hard-pack dirt. Keep climbing. Fork right at the Bull Canyon turnoff to stay on Gemini Bridges road.

Higher up the mountain, 4-wheeler tires have stained the slickrock. Navigation is easy here.

At 0.8 miles after the Bull Canyon turnoff, fork right, leaving the Gemini Bridges road. Pass the Metal Masher sign and ride another 1.2 miles to where Metal Masher forks to the right off the larger road. A half-mile later, keep right at two trail forks. You should see paint spots on the rock areas if you're on the right path.

Looking south toward Little Canyon as the trail continues its climb toward the rim. 

After another mile, you'll reach a critical fork. Turn left 90 degrees. (Straight ahead takes you to an alternate route, and I don't know where you'll wind up.) Now just follow the tire tracks and dots up the hill.

Almost to the top.

The last 1/3 mile has some tough ledges. Keep climbing. At the top, you'll arrive at a T intersection. To your right, you'll see the eagle. First fork right and ride downhill about 0.4 miles to a view area.

This is the eagle, framed against the La Sal mountains.

After the viewpoint, turn around and climb back to the T. Keep straight, riding along the edge of the cliffs. The trail will begin to descend on rock alternating with dirt. There are multiple little ledges. Fun stuff.

Looking north, we see skirts of the Chinle and Moenkopi Formations. We're standing on ledges of Kayenta sandstone.

As you descend, you'll appreciate that this road would be an easier climb than the way you came up. If you do a point-to-point from Highway 313, riding up the hill clockwise, this would be your uphill route.

Past the Eagles Nest, we're looking toward the La Sal Mountains. The green spot in the valley is Moab.

After a couple of downhill miles, you'll come to an intersection. The main road is on the left, which is where most riders will want to go. To the right is the continuing Metal Masher route.

View north as we descend away from the canyon rim.

If you want to add some additional miles, you can hop on Metal Masher. But you may wind up going around in circles. I did. But maybe the trail signs will be replaced for your ride. My GPS track has a few of these back roads so you can find your way through. Or use the Metal Masher shuttled ride file and follow it backwards to the Gemini Bridges Road.

Looking north as we continue dropping downhill.

Assuming you skipped the complex maze of this section of Metal Masher, keep left past a couple of branching roads. Pass the spot where you originally headed uphill on Metal Masher. If time allows, turn uphill on Gemini Bridges road and visit the arches before going back to your car.

If you venture further on Metal Masher, you'll come to Widow Maker. This drop is about 8 feet. You can get up via the rock and ledges to the right.

Out-and-back loop from 191, with side trip to Gemini:
0.0   Cross tracks and veer L
        N38 39.385 W109 40.667
4.7   Fork R, up sloppy loose hill
        N38 36.004 W109 40.404
5.3   Fork R (L=Bull Canyon under arches)
        N38 35.807 W109 40.868
6.1   Fork R toward Metal Masher
        N38 35.773 W109 41.623
        (leave Gemini Bridges Road)
6.9   Keep straight (R) N38 36.207 W109 42.062
7.3   Fork R (L=clockwise loop)
        Metal Masher N38 36.525 W109 42.234
7.8   Viewpoint on R N38 36.896 W109 42.030
7.9   Keep R N38 36.944 W109 42.006
8.0   Fork R downhill N38 36.973 W109 41.980
8.9   Fork L (R=alternate)
        N38 37.133 W109 41.363
9.7   Viewpoint on R N38 37.354 W109 40.964
10.9  Gets tougher
11.3  T - fork R for Eagles Nest
         N38 38.204 W109 40.320
11.7  View area, turn around
         N38 37.913 W109 40.163
12.2  Back at T, straight (R)
14.3  Keep L (R=Metal Masher)
         N38 38.201 W109 42.073
15.6  Straight (R=bailout from Metal Masher)
         N38 37.291 W109 42.604
15.7  Keep L N38 37.166 W109 42.728
16.6  Straight (pass Metal Masher entry)
17.4  R to Gemini Bridges
18.8  At Gemini, veer L past viewpoints
         Trail N38 35.222 W109 42.600
         Backtrack downhill
26.3  Back at parking.
An alternative, shorter ride is to drive up Highway 313 towards Canyonlands and Dead Horse Point, then take your vehicle down the gravel Gemini Bridges Road (it's easier to drive down from the top) and park at Gemini. Do the loop from Gemini, and you'll skip over 12 miles and a whole lot of climbing. The Gemini Bridges road forks off on the left about 12.5 miles from Highway 191 at GPS N38 34.412 W109 47.507. 

Getting there: Drive south on US-191 for 22 miles south of I-70 (about 7 miles north of the Colorado River at the edge 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 toward Gemini Bridges. As of 2009, a $5 fee is required to park here (it's private land). But you can park across the road in the Bar M lot, ride south to the tunnel under 191 and follow the paved bike path back to the the Gemini Bridges Road.

Riding resources for this trail:
Single-page riding guide, out-and-back loop
GPS track files, all area w waypoints (right-click and "Save as..."):
    Garmin       GPX
GPS track shuttled Metal Masher + Gemini only:
    Garmin       GPX
GPS track Little Canyon Rim loop only, starting Gemini Bridges Road:
    Garmin       GPX
Large-format topo map (800K):   View
Large topo, shuttled ride (1.8 MB):   View
Lodging, camping, shops:    Links to Moab area resources

Copyright 2009 Mad Scientist Software Inc