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Sovereign Upper Loop
(Cedar Mountain)

The Cedar Mountain loop is formed from a continuation of the Sovereign Singletrack plus the Cedar Mountain singletrack. The loop can be ridden as a ride in itself, although I wouldn't suggest you skip any of Moab's classics in order to ride it. 

View southbound on the Cedar Mountain Trail. This smooth and firm singletrack is the exception. Photos and write-up by Bruce, May 1, 2009.

The main role of the Cedar Mountain loop (as I see it) is as an add-on to the Sovereign and Salt Wash system for very strong and experienced riders. If you've done the Moab classics too many times, crank out some miles on this loop.

Upper Sovereign offers a few optional detours. Terry's Tunnel is an advanced technical route that includes a rock wash.

The loop itself is about 6 miles, but getting there will make your shortest ride 8.5 miles with total climbing around 600 vertical. This ride starts near the highway on Dalton Wells road, climbs up the loop and descends. I also describe a 10-mile option that includes the upper Sovereign, starting at the inner Dalton Wells trailhead.

On upper Sovereign, we're approaching the main trail from a side trip on the more technical detour. The green slopes are shales of the Morrison Formation, famous for dinosaurs. The loose rock is Buckhorn Conglomerate that's fallen from the cap of the mesa.

Strong riders can start from Sovereign's Willow Springs trailhead, ride Sovereign to the Cedar Mountain loop and return via Salt Wash. This ride is 20.5 miles with 2000 feet total climbing, and it's a tough ride. (See the Salt Wash page for riding details below Dalton Wells road.)

Heading south on another limb of an optional more-technical detour route off upper Sovereign. The riding is fun, but not  for everyone. Intermediates will want to stay on the main trail.

For details on some other riding options, see the Sovereign Singletrack trail page. Arriving at the base of the loop from the upper Sovereign trail, you'll face a stiff climb of over 300 vertical in 1/2 mile. The track is narrow, with occasional loose spots and rough angular rocks. If you don't enjoy challenges, you won't like this.

We've arrived near the top of the climb to the loop from upper Sovereign, and are looking back down at the trail. The trail's sweet spot is very narrow, so you need both strong legs and excellent bike control.

Once you arrive at the T intersection at the top of the loop, you need to pick a riding direction. I suggest you go counterclockwise. You'll quickly get to an area with great views, then smooth singletrack, followed by a fun descent down a long arroyo.

View west as we head slightly downhill riding clockwise. The trail is rough here, so even though it's slightly downhill overall, it seems like a lot of work. That's why I recommend a counterclockwise ride, putting this stretch on the uphill.

The trail surface here is very unlike the lower portion of Sovereign. Yes, there's some open rock (see photo) on the west end that will remind you of the fun stuff to the south. But most of the trail here features rock with sharp edges, plus loose angular babyheads. It was rough enough to separate the batteries in my GPS from the spring contacts (turning the unit off) three times.

Seriously, if you're an intermediate rider who likes cruising, you'll hate this trail. The rough Buckhorn Conglomerate at the top of the mesa breaks into tire-hating chunks! But if you enjoy challenges and relish conquering a trail that throws nasty stuff at your tires, just follow my tire tracks.

At the loop's lowest spot on the west, the trail often follows wash-bottoms. The riding surface here is loose and granular, with occasional open rock.

The highest point of the ride is Cedar Mountain. There are views in all directions. To the west, you can see the Monitor and Merrimac buttes. The La Sal mountains dominate the southern view, with rocks of Arches National Parking forming the skyline to the east. The crags of Cedar Mountain have a stark beauty.

At the top of Cedar Mountain, we ride along these fissures. Pieces of the mountain are breaking away, ready to fall from the cliff into the valley below. Here you'll get to appreciate the rough nature of the Buckhorn Conglomerate.

If you're riding counterclockwise, you'll find great fun between Cedar Mountain and the loop's western end. The Cedar Mountain trail descends on smooth twisting singletrack, then enters Ann's Arroyo for a mile of downhill in a small canyon.

Handlebar view in Ann's Arroyo.

The short riding option I describe below uses the Bushy Basin singletrack to climb to the (lower) west end of the loop. This is a quick ride you can knock out in about 90 minutes.

The second option is a longer "tour" of upper Sovereign. If you're riding into the area from lower Sovereign or Salt Wash, you can pick up this route at mile 1.2 where Sovereign crosses the ATV route after descending from the bluff.

View downhill on the Bushy Basin trail.

Quick loop via Brushy Basin:
0.0  East on Dalton Wells from parking right off 191
       N38 42.720 W109 42.108
0.3  Fork L on DT, N38 42.821 W109 41.858
1.0  Go to north end of basin, take ST
       N38 43.187 W109 42.380
1.5  At loop, fork R, N38 43.420 W109 42.457
3.0  Keep straight (L=to DT)
       N38 44.091 W109 41.602
3.4  Keep L onto Cedar Mountain trail
       N38 44.180 W109 41.358
4.0  Cross DT, N38 44.478 W109 41.200
4.4  Veer L along wash, cross DT
       N38 44.612 W109 41.350
       Enter arroyo
5.7  Cross DT, N38 44.120 W109 42.361
7.0  Back at Brushy Basin Trail, go R
8.5  Back at parking
Upper Sovereign plus Cedar Mountain loop (tougher):
Drive or bike to trailhead at mile 1.7 on Dalton Wells Rd
0.0   R fork (ATV route) eastbound
        N38 43.586 W109 40.782
0.2   Keep straight, N38 43.66 W109 40.54
1.2   Hard L to Sovereign ST in wash
        N38 44.152 W109 39.823
1.7   ST reaches slickrock, keep L
1.9   ST exits slickrock on L
2.1   Stiff climb
2.3   Top of hill, fork L (gets sandy)
        N38 44.485 W109 40.124
        (Alt R, then R on road to bypass sand)
2.8   Fork L, N38 44.127 W109 40.073
        (straight = alternate, R at road to trail at 3.4)
3.3   L on road, N38 44.178 W109 40.470
3.4   R up smaller road, N38 44.145 W109 40.499
3.6   L on ST and drop into wash
        N38 44.254 W109 40.577
        (straight = easier alternate, rejoins 4.5)
4.2   L and out of wash, N38 43.936 W109 40.744
4.5   Fork L, N38 44.119 W109 40.956
4.6   Fork R uphill into wash
        N38 44.084 W109 41.019
5.2   Fork L on Cedar Mountain
        N38 44.180 W109 41.358
5.8   Cross DT, N38 44.478 W109 41.200
6.2  Veer L along wash, cross DT
       N38 44.612 W109 41.350
       Enter arroyo
6.5  Cross DT, N38 44.120 W109 42.361
6.8  At Brushy Basin Trail, keep L
       Option: R to Dalton Wells Rd
8.3  Keep straight (L=to DT)
       N38 44.091 W109 41.602
8.7  Fork R off loop, begin descent
       N38 44.180 W109 41.358
9.3   Bottom of wash, veer L
       
N38 44.084 W109 41.019
9.4   R onto ST on rock,
N38 43.936 W109 40.744
9.7   Fork R downhill in wash
N38 43.936 W109 40.744
9.9   Exit wash, R on road, N38 43.846 W109 40.794
10.2 At parking
From the north, Dalton Wells road is 17 miles south of I-70, on your left. Willow Springs Road is exactly 1 mile further south, also on the left. Coming north from Moab, Willow Springs Road will be on your right, 1.8 miles past the junction with Highway 313 (Canyonlands and Dead Horse Point).
Getting there, Willow Springs Road Trailhead:
  On US-191 north of Moab, 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. For this ride, you'll need to finish Salt Wash or Sovereign northbound before connecting to the upper loop -- big ride!
Getting there, Brushy Basin at Dalton Wells Road:
  On US-191 north of Moab, turn east on dirt Dalton Wells Road. Keep straight to the trees and park just off the dirt road. Start riding the same direction you were driving. Cross the sandy wash. At mile 0.3, fork L on DT. The DT becomes ST just uphill from the stock pond. 
Getting there, Dalton Wells Upper Trailhead:  On US-191 north of Moab, turn east on dirt Dalton Wells Road. As the cindered path turns R, go straight onto the dirt road. If the gate at mile 0.2 is closed, pass through and shut it. 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 various upper Sovereign riding options. The L fork takes you further on ATV track into the valley where you can connect to the southern 6 miles of trail.
Riding Resources:
Single-page riding guide
GPS track files upper Sovereign/Cedar Mtn (Right-click and "Save as..."):
    Garmin      GPX
GPS track files for Salt Wash and lower Sovereign:
    Garmin      GPX
Large-format topo map:     View
Lodging, camping, shops:
      Links to Moab area resources

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