Miners Run as an "adventure trail." It's hard to find, hard to
follow, hard to ride. This is NOT a trail for your typical "ride a famous trail next
month" bike rider. But it's an interesting and rewarding ride for
those who're willing to give the effort.
"trail" view as we roll over waves of rock. The Book Cliffs form
the background. Photos and ride description March 23, 2011 by Bruce.
|The trail is an 11 mile loop on the northeast edge of the
San Rafael Swell, 7.6 miles west of US-6 near I-70. The ride starts at
4600 feet, with only 200 feet of absolute elevation change. Up-and-down
vertical adds to 1300 feet of climbing.
There are no campsites, water
or bathrooms nearby. There's no trailhead and no signs. In fact, there
really isn't a trail. There's a route marked by occasional cairns (rockpiles).
And if you don't have a map-display GPS unit, you won't find the route at
On the Four Corners Road as we ride
from the parking spot, looking for the connection to the sandstone.
||Let me emphasize that point: until this route gets fully
ridden-in, you must have a GPS unit that
displays the track as you ride. Without high-resolution GPS navigation,
you won't find this route and you won't be able to stay on it. Don't even
think about riding this trail with only a map. Until this trail sees a
whole bunch of bike tires, staying on-course requires a track-display GPS
unit that's zoomed to show about 400-600 foot width on the display.
This is the sandstone ramp leading to
the top of the cuesta at the far south end of the ride.
|It's also a good idea to have sharp-eyed riders watching for
the next rockpile. In some areas the trail is very well-marked with cairns
every 20-30 feet. In other spots, there's no sign of where you're supposed
to go, and you'll have to compare your little "I'm here" pointer
to the track line of your GPS display to figure out where you're going.
Here frequent rockpiles show the
riding route. In other areas, navigation requires a sharp eye and careful
following of the track on GPS. The rolling sandstone waves are the Salt
Wash sandstone, formed in a river delta in the late Jurassic.
||The west side of the loop is the fun part. It's over 95%
slickrock. The rock rolls like a petrified ocean. I found it a very fun
type of technical. Lots of upper body work, bike constantly shifting,
rarely in the saddle for long.
On the cliff edge looking west, we see banded
mudstone under the sandstone we're riding on. (I think this banded layer
is the Summerville Formation of the San Rafael group, from the middle
Jurassic. The white layer just above the valley floor would be the Curtis
Formation, and the red dirt in front of the Navajo -- the white rock on
the skyline -- is the Entrada. The Entrada doesn't form solid sandstone
here because the environment was different than in the Moab area.)
|From the trailhead (see below), ride 0.9 miles south on the
gravel road. When you see a ramp of slickrock above you on the right,
that's where you want to be. For my ride, there were no signs, no cairns,
no tire tracks. You have to know where you need to go, and get through the
dirt and brush up to the slickrock. Find the cairns and begin riding
uphill to the west.
Looking to the southwest, the
sharktooth edges of the San Rafael Reef are composed of up-tilted Navajo
||The trail will crest the ridge and turn south, then climb
another slope to reach a view over Tidwell Draw to the west. You can see
the San Rafael River gorge, and you might spot a little bit of river.
To the east are constant views of the Book Cliffs. There
will be occasional views to the west of the San Rafael as you continue on.
Looking west to the San Rafael River
gorge (the dark line in the cliffs).
|The trail heads north with occasional short bits of dirt
between rock outcrops. About mile 2.3, the trail turns away from the edge
of the escarpment and heads east to enter an area of tiny old mines.
Landmark: the trail heads up behind
this monolith to the mine area behind it.
||I'm going to ID the sandstone as the Salt Wash Member of the
Morrison Formation, from late in the Jurassic Period about 150 million
years ago. The softer Brushy Basin Shale of the upper Morrison has eroded
away, leaving a tilted tabletop veneer of sandstone. The tilt was caused
by the upwelling of the San Rafael Swell.
A timber sits in front of a small
|The Salt Wash Sandstone is a uranium producer. Meandering
streams in a river delta during the Jurassic Period accumulated organic
debris and occasional deposits of lime. While these
rocks were buried far underground, hot water brought uranium which
substituted for the carbon in these small river channels. The result is small
uranium deposits scattered here and there, perfect for small wildcat
This appears to be the wooden frame of
a shaking screen from a mining operation.
||After descending east out of the mine area, the trail turns
north again. Route-finding is sometimes easy, often tricky. Watch
your GPS track, and watch for cairns in the distance.
The trail runs down this wash with
small mines scattered in the sandstone outcrop.
|The track crosses a dirt road at mile 3.4. If you need to
bail, head east then southeast on the doubletrack, and you'll be back at your car. The loop
ride continues north, and for a while it isn't as nice as what you've been
riding previously. Keep riding and cairn-finding.
Back out in the open desert, we roll
past mine debris on the sandstone. Flora consists of ricegrass,
bitterbrush, and sage.
||At mile 6.8, the trail reaches a small crest heading
northwest, then turns to northeast and begins descending a rock wash. The
rock disappears, and soon there's no sign of trail. Well, maybe in future
years there will be a trail. The descent
follows an old road. On the Garmin map, anyway. In reality, it just seems
like open desert. Follow the GPS track east downhill to a doubletrack and turn south.
Another exploration hole in the
Now navigate south through an odd moonscape back to the main road. For the southbound ride, the road is at times barely
perceptible. At other times, it dumps into the soft hateful loose dirt of
a shallow wash. Watch your GPS display to stay on the right ghost-road.
Again, it's not obvious where you should be going.
Undermined "waves" in the sandstone with daylight showing at
the back end.
||Riding notes, clockwise loop:
0.0 South on gravel road N38 58.689 W110 22.168
0.9 As road veers L, note slickrock above you on R
N38 57.968 W110 22.443
Head uphill toward slickrock,
1.5 Trail turns from S to NW N38 57.734 W110 22.828
2.0 On edge of cliffs heading north
2.4 Mine area N38 58.348 W110 22.707
2.5 Descending east in ravine
2.6 Trail turns back north N38 58.309 W110 22.463
3.4 Cross DT (DT returns east to TH)
N38 58.802 W110 22.390
The gray thing just below and to the
left of the arrow is my house key, placed to show the size of this
petrified tree trunk protruding from the sandstone. (The arc at the far
left is the edge of the trunk protruding from sandstone. The chunk
mid-right has fallen away.)
|3.7 Dirt area, keep N, follow GPS
6.8 Trail reaches small crest, turns E and downhill
N39 01.127 W110 22.225
Follow rock edge of wash
7.0 Path disappears, keep east and downhill
7.3 R on DT N39 01.297 W110 21.639
Branching paths, head south
Follow GPS track when in doubt
10.5 DT climbs up to gravel road, L
N38 58.790 W110 21.978
10.8 Back at parking
The trip back is a weird moonscape of
bare shale. This is the Brushy Basin shale of the Morrison Formation.
||Getting there: Go east through Price on US-6,
heading toward I-70. When you're almost there, US-6 comes over a small
rise, and you'll see the interstate in front of you. Immediately look for
a gravel road on the right, only 1/3 mile before the lanes of US-6 split
to join I-70. Turn right onto this small road, County Road 1029, also
called Four Corners Mine Road. At mile 6.8 from US-6, continue straight as
another dirt road crosses. Head slightly uphill and the road will veer a
bit toward the south. At mile 7.4, you'll pass a small dirt road on the
right, which is your return route. Keep straight. The road drops down into
the canyon bottom. At mile 7.6, a small doubletrack comes in at 90 degrees
from the right. Park here at N38 58.689 W110 22.168. Begin the ride by
pedaling south on the main gravel road.
Campgrounds: Green River, or further into the San Rafael at Buckhorn Wash
Bike services: Moab or Price, an hour either way