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Navajo Rocks - West
Big Mesa, Big Lonely, Coney Island

The western half of the Navajo Rocks riding area consists of three connected trails:  Big Mesa, The Big Lonely, and Coney Island. Taken together, they form a 10-mile route that can be ridden as an 11-mile loop (by including Middle Earth, a trail that cuts across the loop), or as part of a big 18-mile loop with the addition of Rocky Tops and Ramblin from the eastern half of Navajo Rocks.

Ramblin and Big Mesa are combined here at the western trailhead along Highway 313. Photos and review by Bruce on December 9, 2014.

Big Mesa

The Big Mesa trail shares a common start with the west end of Ramblin. From the western parking area on the north side of Highway 313, it's 1/4 mile to where Big Mesa forks westbound as Ramblin heads east.

I like riding Big Mesa from east to west (counterclockwise), so I can finish downhill on Coney Island, but many riders prefer the clockwise direction.

Bruce's bike leans against the sign marking the split where Big Mesa leaves Ramblin.

Big Mesa is a very scenic ride, as the trail meanders alongside cliffs of Entrada sandstone. Ridden east-to-west, there's about 200 vertical feet of total elevation gain, with up-and-down riding bringing the climbing total for Big Mesa to 500 feet. Overall climbing for all three trails of west Navajo Rocks will be 1000 feet when done as an 11-mile loop.

Heading east toward the edge of Big Mesa, we see spires of Entrada sandstone, with the Merrimac butte sticking out behind.

The riding is intermediate overall in technical requirement, with only a couple of tricky spots. The first two miles hug the shoulder along the cliffs, then the trail heads out onto an open area of low rolling hills and flat expanses of Navajo sandstone.

We've reached the cliffs of the mesa. This is the view back to the east (as I'm pedaling west).

On the rock, the path is marked with purple paint stripes. A couple of times, the trail crosses an ATV route. There are posts and cables in these areas to keep the paths separate. Just aim for the narrow opening that looks like a bike trail. Other than the ATV path, the only trail fork is the split between Ramblin and Big Mesa near the western trailhead.

A helper-bridge crosses a cleft in the sandstone. It's possible (but difficult) to ride through the dip just to the right of the bridge.

When the trail drops away from the Entrada sandstone shoulder, the surface is hardpacked dirt. The central riding line is usually very firm. 

The trail meanders past the mouths of two side canyons.

Compared to elsewhere on Navajo Rocks, there's a bit more sand here. It's probably caused by sand runoff from the Navajo sandstone higher on the mesa. (Navajo erodes to ugly loose sand.) Depending on traffic and storms, you may bog down once or twice, especially in washbottoms. Consider the soft stuff a riding challenge, just like hills or ledges. Or the price you pay to ride the nice rock.

Looking back at a challenging ramp. The dirt sucks your momentum right as you need to hit the slope.

After the second mile, the character of the ride changes. You drop off the orange Entrada shoulder to a base of white Navajo sandstone. There are expansive views to the north and west. 

We're about to leave the mesa. The posts below mark the ATV route that crosses the trail twice.

As you circle around the north slope of a small hill, Big Mesa will end on the dirt road to Mineral Bottom and Dubinky Well (BLM 137) at mile 3.5 from the western parking area. If you're due to return, you can turn left and follow the dirt road back to Highway 313 and turn left to coast back to parking.

Straight across is The Big Lonely.

The blue mountains in the distance are the Book Cliffs, 30 miles away.

The Big Lonely

The Big Lonely looks relatively non-inviting from the trail's beginning on Mineral Bottom Road, but rapidly leaves the sandy brush to cruise on white Navajo sandstone. The trail meanders west , then back a bit east, before heading south and crossing Highway 313 to join Coney Island.

Looking west as The Big Lonely heads away from Mineral Bottom Road.

There's no overall elevation change, but up-and-down riding adds around 200 vertical to your climbing total. I don't recall any steep pitches or tricky stuff. It's fairly straightforward pedaling.

Green paint stripes mark the route up the dome of Navajo sandstone. This short climb is the only one on The Big Lonely that made me push hard.

To the north, views extend all the way to the Book Cliffs north of Interstate 70. For the first mile, the trail tracks along the northern edge of a gentle mound of white sandstone, broken up by juniper crawling upward through pockets in the rock.

Another look to the north as we cruise west.

To the west, you're looking toward the gorge of the Green River. On a clear day, you can also spot the slopes of the San Rafael swell. The riding here is mellow. It's beginner-level biking on the rock.

The cleft near the skyline, just to the left of midline, is the canyon of the Green River.

As the trail turns back eastward, it follows the green paint stripes as you get a distance view of Big Mesa, where you were riding a few miles ago. Just pedal and look around. You don't have to pay much attention to the bike on the open sandstone.

Heading back east toward Big Mesa. Navajo under the tires, Entrada forming the mesa.

To the east are the peaks of the La Sal Mountains, as the trail turns south and follows the sandstone outcrop. Enjoy this while you can. You're about to drop down to dirt.

As the trail drops down toward Highway 313, you'll reach a fork with the Chisholm trail, which connects uphill to the Horsethief area trails. Keep left. 

Fall snow coats the La Sal Mountains.

Pedal on hard-pack dirt singletrack through sage brush as you cross Highway 313 and climb up toward Coney Island. (Although it might seem intuitive that the trails would change at the highway, Coney Island starts when you hit the doubletrack long after crossing the road.)

Following the edge of the sandstone southeast.

Pedal slightly uphill from the road. It will be 0.6 miles before you reach Coney Island.

Dirt ribbon as we approach Coney Island.

Coney Island

Coney Island begins as a continuation of an old jeep road. After about 1/4 mile, it turns to the left along the mesa edge and narrows to fast singletrack. There are occasional bits of rock to roll over.

This is the junction between The Big Lonely and Coney Island. The route follows the dirt road. a little ways before it narrows to singletrack on the mesa's edge.

The slope here is gradual as Coney Island heads northeast along the edge of the mesa. 

Looking southwest uphill. Many riders like doing Coney Island in the uphill (clockwise) direction.

You'll have almost constant views of the eastern end of Big Mesa, and of Monitor and Merrimac straight ahead. 

Looking northeast toward the Monitor and Merrimac buttes.

Once you reach the sandstone, Coney Island changes character dramatically. I found it great fun. But new-intermediates will struggle. You'll be dropping 400 vertical feet over this last 1-1/2 miles -- but you'll climb 200 vertical of it again. The sandstone is mostly Navajo of the snow-white variety.

Yellow paint markes the route as we mercifully reach sandstone. This appears to be a thin mound of Entrada on top of the Navajo.

There are frequent stretches of dirt singletrack here as well, but the rock is a welcome change after the dirt stretches of the upper mesa. The route is marked with yellow paint stripes.

Eastbound.

The most technical spot comes in the final push up and over a sandstone dome at the east end. This is the only stretch that makes me hesitate to recommend a fat bike for the whole ride. Cuz I'm not that good on a fatty yet. Maybe you are.

Looking west, downhill, at the slope we just climbed. The trail does a rim-around on the rock above the juniper.

The trail ends after a long descent down the sandstone slope. There's a trail fork just before the valley. To the left is Middle Earth, which returns to the west trailhead. If you're doing a half-loop, turn left on Middle Earth.

If you continue straight on Coney Island, you'll hit the doubletrack at the bottom in 1/10th mile. You'll note that the spots on the rock have changed from yellow to turquoise. Cross cross over and head for Rocky Tops. You'll see the Rocky Tops trail sign to the east.

You can also finish up a half-loop by turning left on the dirt road and heading toward the highway, where a left turn will take you up to the trailhead.

The final ramp down to the doubletrack and Ramblin.

Riding notes, western half-loop counterclockwise:
0.0   West trailhead, start Big Mesa/Ramblin
        N38 38.260 W109 47.092
0.1   L on Big Mesa

        N38 38.357 W109 47.100
3.5   Cross dirt road to Big Lonely
        N38 38.085 W109 48.445
6.0   Keep L (R = Chisholm)
        N38 37.257 W109 48.795
6.1   Cross road  N38 37.210 W109 48.720
7.7   Transition to Coney Island
        N38 36.919 W109 48.351
10.5 L on Middle Earth
        N38 37.834 W109 47.008
11.1 Cross road to parking
Riding notes, clockwise loop from west trailhead:
0.0   West trailhead, start Big Mesa/Ramblin
        N38 38.260 W109 47.092
0.1   R on Ramblin
        N38 38.357 W109 47.100
3.4   Cross 313 from East Parking
        Rocky Tops N38 37.809 W109 46.825
8.0   Cross DT to Coney Island (L = to 7-up)
        N38 37.809 W109 46.825
8.2   Stay L (R = Middle Earth)
        N38 37.834 W109 47.008
11.1 Veer R, start Big Lonely
        N38 36.919 W109 48.351
11.6 Cross road N38 37.210 W109 48.720
11.7 Keep R (L = Chisholm)
        N38 37.257 W109 48.795
14.2 Cross DT to Big Mesa
        N38 38.085 W109 48.445
17.6 Keep L to Ramblin (R = west TH)
        N38 38.357 W109 47.100
20.7 Back at parking

See Navajo Rocks East page for riding notes for full loop from eastern trailhead.

Getting there, East Parking:
From I-70 and Crescent Junction, drive south on US-191 for 20 miles. If coming from Moab, drive about 9 miles north of the Colorado River on Highway 191. Turn west on Highway 313. (At mile 4.1, you'll go around a hairpin turn above the cliffs. If you're interested in connecting trails, the unmarked bottom of Seven Up is on the slickrock just around the turn.) At mile 5.3, turn to the right into a fenced parking area. This is where the loop crosses the highway. Ramblin is at the west end; Rocky Tops is across the road.
West Parking (recommended for the West End Loop counterclockwise):  Proceed on Highway 313 as above, but at mile 6.1 keep driving straight as you pass the main parking area. At mile 6.4 just as you reach the top of a hill, look for a gravel turn on your right just as you pass through the cut in the hill. Turn right onto the dirt road and drive 50 feet. As you pick your parking spot it's not smart to block access to the ATV trail, which also starts here. (Note: If you missed the turn, you'll have another chance 100 yards further down the highway, as the parking area is on a little loop of dirt road.) Ignore the wide ATV path and take the singletrack just to the left. Ramblin and Big Mesa share the first 1/4 mile of singletrack trail.
Old Trailhead and Seven-Up access:   At mile 6.1 of 313, just as the paved road begins to climb up towards the west trailhead (above), turn left onto dirt road. 100 yards downhill on the left side of the dirt road is a little loop, which is the parking area. N38 38.031 W109 46.815. To reach Coney Island's eastern end or the start of Rocky Tops, head south on the doubletrack 0.3 miles and spot the paint-marks as they cross the road. To continue to Seven Up, follow the doubletrack down into the valley.
Facilities:
Bathrooms and water:  None at trailheads
Camping:  BLM campgrounds southwest of loop via gravel road from 313
       commercial campground on 191 across from 313; state park campground at Deadhorse Point.

Riding resources:
Navajo Rocks East page 
Riding guide, west half-loop, loop from west TH
GPS track file (right-click and select "Save Target as..."):
     Big Mesa   Big Lonely   Coney Island
   
  Navajo Rocks Loop, from East 313 TH
     Full Loop, west TH   19-mile loop, old DT TH
     West end loop (Big Mesa, Big Lonely, Coney, Middle Earth)
     Area trail tracks master file  

Maps for printing:    Higher-Res Aerial View    High-Res Topo map
Lodging, camping, shops:     Link to Moab area resources

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Updated 2016