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The One and Only Slickrock Trail!

This is the world-famous Slickrock Trail near Moab, Utah. This 10.6 mile loop twists and rolls through Navajo sandstone to a breathtaking view over the Colorado River. The Slickrock Trail is rated high technical difficulty and high aerobic requirement. But many MANY "not-very-good" bikers ride this trail, with a few short hikes over the tough spots.

Matt, Chad, and Mike ride a typical section of trail. 99% of the riding is on sandstone!  October 2001 by Bruce

The sandstone is sometimes smooth, sometimes rough. While Slickrock is best on a full-suspension bike, a hardtail is fine, and we see many riders on old rigid bikes. If your bike hasn't seen rock before, it's best to stop every few miles and check all the bolts and cables. Bike parts tend to rattle loose. If you're riding a cheap bike, check the fillings in your teeth, too.

Chad cruises uphill, with a piece of the Moab valley showing in the background. The trail is marked by white dots on the rock. You won't get lost.

Spring and fall are best for biking southern Utah. (It gets pretty hot in the middle of a mid-summer's day.) But we've done Slickrock in both December and July, and had a great time. Just dress for the weather, bring emergency clothing, and make sure you're prepared to spend longer on the trail than you'd planned. Pack plenty of water.

The crew drops from a sandstone dome and turns above the cliffs. In the middle of the photo is the Colorado River -- a 400-foot drop.

As the home of the most famous bike trail in the world, Moab has more bike stores and motels than most large cities. It's about four hours from the Salt Lake City airport, and you can rent your bike equipment when you get there.

Alexander Rodriquez, age 8, launches off the Navajo sandstone on the Slickrock trail. Photo by Randy Klein, April 16, 2006.

The rock you're riding on is Navajo Sandstone, laid down in desert sand dunes during the Jurassic Period, about 200 million years ago. The rock weathers into domes and mounds that allow a bike to grind uphill -- if you're strong enough. 99% of the riding is on awesome, undulating rock -- that's why Slickrock is famous. The trail is well-marked with white dots on the rock.

Mike gets up over the handlebars to tackle a steep section.

Did we tell you that it's possible to ride Slickrock on a cheap bike? Your experience will be better with good equipment, but here's proof it's possible. In the photo at left, Steve is tackling the trail in an antique rigid-body Scott 21-speed bike with cable-pull brakes.

Steven (the Mad Scientist's #1 son) descends from a viewpoint overlooking the Colorado River. The dark cliffs behind him are also Navajo sandstone, covered with organic deposits called "desert varnish."  Photo March 1998.

Descending in front of the Colorado's cliffs

There's a short (2 mile) "practice loop." It's not quite as tough as the terrain on the main loop, and for a lot of riders, the practice loop lets them say they "rode the Slickrock trail." For those who want more, there are spurs and side routes on the main trail offering more challenging rock.

Although most riders come for the rock, the scenery from the Slickrock Trail is terrific. Here's Earl Underwood in a photo by Randy Klein, April 16, 2006, with the La Sal Mountains in the background.

More Slickrock photos...

Getting there: The Slickrock Trail begins on the Sand Flats Road, reached by turning left off Moab's main drag onto 300 South, then right when the road ends, then second left. From the entry gate (where you pay your fee), drive about 0.6 mile. You'll see a large parking lot on the left, with bathrooms (but no water.)

Slickrock Trail Map

Riding Resources for Slickrock:
  Topo map:  View Hres   View Lres
  Single-page riding guide
  Lodging, camping, shops:      Links to Moab area resources
GPS track files (right-click and "Save as..."):
     Garmin     Nat Geo     Google Earth     GPX

Original review 1998. Copyright 2000 Mad Scientist Software Inc.