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Salt Wash Singletrack
with connections to Sovereign Trail

The Salt Wash Singletrack is a 5.8-mile route located just north of Moab. It can be done out-and-back, or as a loop by combining the Sovereign Singletrack or two possible ATV routes. This trail is advanced technical due to ledges, sand, steep descents and grunt climbs. The ride I describe here is 10.5 miles, advanced technical.

Photo above:  View to the southeast as the La Sal Mountains peek over the sandstone terrain. Photos and write-up by Bruce, April 2009.
The Salt Wash trail is used by motorcycles as well as bicycles. (Some of the turns are too tight for a full-sized cycle. During my ride I saw two throttle-jockeys pull their bikes out of the dirt and manhandle them back into position.) The motorcycles will chew up some of the steeper pitches, making it impossible for you to ride uphill. These hike-a-bikes are short, 50-60 feet at the most.

My climb up this bluff is interrupted by a couple of gas-powered trail enthusiasts. Neither rider was able to clean this switchback turn.

If you're planning to do Salt Wash along with Sovereign, my advice would be to ride north on Sovereign and south on Salt Wash. Going southbound puts 95% of the sand on downhill stretches, so with appropriate sand-digging skill it's possible to keep riding. (I bogged down only twice when southbound.) It also makes the fun center section ledge-to-sand downhill, rather than an unrideable sand-to-ledge uphill.

View of typical tight singletrack on the northern end of Salt Wash.

Heading south, we'll have to climb over this bluff. Northbound pitches are more gentle on the north half.
There are three short connector trails (and two trail crossovers) that entangle Salt Wash with Sovereign. You can easily hop between trails to do more of the fun stuff. Salt Wash is marked with green paint; Sovereign with blue. Connector trails have black paint spots.

On the southern half, Salt Wash follows the western edge of the rocky ridge. This is fun stuff.

Salt Wash has less continuous slickrock than Sovereign. The rock tends to be mounds that the singletrack goes over. Add a bit of sand between rocks, and Salt Wash is a more difficult ride than Sovereign. Do both and see if you agree.

My ideal ride would be: North from Willow Springs on Sovereign, switch over to northbound Salt Wash at the top connector, climb over the bluff and descend the steep Salt Wash DH to the Dalton Wells-area slickrock. Then I'd climb Sovereign and descend the tough Sovereign DH off the bluff, take the connector again and return southbound on Salt Wash. See my ride description below.

Absolutely don't ride north on Salt Wash from the Willow Springs trailhead. If you must go northbound, take Sovereign up to the first connector trail. Avoid the sand!

The trail is heading northwest, as sand alternates with mounds of rock.

But if you follow my ride plan, you've got to have good switchback technique. Make that "switchback in deep loose slop on a cliff edge" technique. I was able to go cleanly down the Salt Wash DH northbound, and the Sovereign DH southbound. But the turns are tight, steep, and deep with moon dust. If you freeze the front wheel by being too timid in the turn, you'll pitch outward and down the mountain.

Switchbacks are DH-only (this is actually the Sovereign Trail), but you can skip them by jumping over to the climbing route for your descent.

Loop ride, Sovereign and Salt Wash:
0.0   From trailhead, go E on Willow Springs road
        N 38 41.876' W 109 39.868', alt=4350
0.1   Fork L on DT
0.6   L on ST as DT crosses wash
        Northbound on Sovereign
        N 38 42.277' W 109 39.485'
1.1   Salt Wash ST crosses, follow blue dots
        N38 42.597 W109 39.431
1.8   Connector, keep R, N38 42.907 W109 39.511
2.5   Connector, keep R, N38 43.247 W109 39.440
3.4   L onto connector N38 43.695 W109 39.378
3.6   R on Salt Wash, N38 43.864 W109 39.590
4.0   Stiff climb onto mesa
4.3   Fork L, N38 43.864 W109 39.590
5.1   Trails join. 40 feet later, fork R
        N38 44.083 W109 39.351
        Steep switchbacks downhill!
5.3   Bottom, go L on edge of rock
        N38 44.203 W109 39.368
5.7   Hard L out of wash on DT
        N38 44.230 W109 39.769
5.8   Fork L to climb Sovereign
        N38 44.151 W109 39.819
 
        Option:  R into wash for upper Sovereign
        (Connects to Cedar Mountain)
6.3   Keep straight past Salt Wash DH
        N38 44.083 W109 39.351
        40 feet later, keep L on Sovereign
7.0   Fork L (stay on Sovereign)
        N38 43.736 W109 39.527
        In 0.1, begin steep DH plunge
7.3   Fork R on connector (you've been here)
        N38 43.695 W109 39.378
7.5   Fork L on Salt Wash southbound
        N38 43.631 W109 39.601
        Struggle over a couple of bluffs...
8.2   Connector, keep R, N38 43.228 W109 39.535
        Fun stuff here!
9.1   Connector, keep R, N38 42.873 W109 39.540
9.6   Pass bailout to ATV on R, N38 42.670 W109 39.517
9.8   Cross-over, stay on Salt Wash
        N38 42.597 W109 39.431
10.0 R on ATV track N38 42.491 W109 39.330
10.3 Pass Sovereign Fork
10.5 Back at parking
For directions to ride upper Sovereign to the Cedar Mountain loop:
      See Upper Sovereign Loop (Cedar Mountain) page.

Getting there, Willow Springs Road Trailhead:  On US-191 north of Moab, about 10 miles after crossing the Colorado, turn east on dirt Willow Springs Road. Keep L at fork at mile 1.3. At mile 2.0, park in the rock-outlined area on your left N 38 41.876' W 109 39.868', just before a natural gas pump building on the R. Start the ride by continuing down Willow Springs Rd.

Getting there, Dalton Wells Road Trailhead:  On US-191 north of Moab, about 11 miles after crossing the Colorado, turn east on dirt Dalton Wells Road. As the cindered path turns R, go straight onto the dirt road. Reclose the gate at mile 0.2, and cross the broad sandy wash. At mile 1.7, park at the fork in the road N 38 43.584' W 109 40.783'. The R fork takes you to the top of the trail for the Dalton Loop. The L fork takes you further on Dalton Wells Road, where you can connect to the southern 6 miles of trail.

Riding resources for this trail:
Single-page riding guide
GPS track files (right-click and "Save as..."):
   Garmin      GPX
High-res topo (500 KB):  View 
Lodging, camping, shops:
      Links to Moab area resources

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