Little Grand Canyon Overlook
This ride is often called The Wedge Overlook, although it rides
ON top of The Wedge and doesn't overlook it. So it should really be called
Little Grand Canyon Rim. Or San Rafael River Overlook. It does offer
fabulous views. And as for the bike riding, well, it offers fabulous
views. We're talking "improved graded dirt road" here.
The Rush leans against an educational
sign at the Little Grand Canyon Overlook. Photos and ride description by
Bruce based on a ride October 19, 2010.
If you want to spend a really really long
time on dirt road, you can start from Highway 10. It's do-able at 44
This big corral is on the south side of the dirt road, with
parking nearby. If you see this, it's the right way. Drive on.
|Normally, I don't bother with "mountain bike
rides" that you could cover in your Honda Civic at 45 mph. But this
ride is well known, and it's listed in the recreation section of the local
web site. And, butt-ugly as the road is, the views at the end are
It's a great ride for families and beginners. But you'll probably need
to use the family sag-wagon to drop the weaker riders off closer to the
goal. Or drive them there, then hop on the bikes to coast the 7-mile
downhill return trip.
The Wedge road, the day after a heavy
rain. Wide enough for two pickups pulling trailers to pass without slowing
down. The speed limit is 45 mph. Don't pedal faster than that.
||The official ride starts where The Wedge road forks south
off Oil Dome Road, 12.2 miles from Highway 10 north of Castle Dale.
There's a trail kiosk and a bathroom there. (No water.) If you go to both
the east and west viewpoints after hitting the first overlook, the ride
will be 19.5 miles. Don't let the distance scare you. It's a pretty easy
cruise. Shorter options are available by skipping the more remote
viewpoint or starting the ride further down The Wedge road.
As you arrive at the viewpoint, you're
looking into the part of the San Rafael River gorge called The Little
Grand Canyon. We're looking east.
|The trip is gradually uphill during the 7 miles from the
trailhead to the overlook. You'll gain 1700 vertical feet.
Navigation is easy. The roads are marked with signs. And if the signs
are gone, just keep heading straight south. You'll pass a "Welcome to
the Wedge" kiosk at mile 4.5. The smaller road on your left returns
from an alternate viewpoint east of Good Water Canyon, about 3 miles away.
Looking south at a side canyon (Cane
Wash) entering the San Rafael.
||The road is surrounded by gradually increasing numbers of
juniper and pinion pine. You may see occasional glimpses of the mountains
to the west, and of the pillars of Entrada in the cliffs to the north.
View to the west. The shelf in the
left foreground is formed by ledges of Kayenta sandstone below the cliffs
|When you arrive at the rim, there's a bathroom (no water)
and parking for cars.
The main road turns along the rim and goes 0.6 miles to a higher
viewpoint. There's a small ribbon of rock extending out over the canyon
from the road. That's the viewpoint. From here, you can get a better look
at the canyons to the east.
At the Little Grand Canyon Overlook. You
can see how it got the name.
||At the Little Grand Canyon viewpoint, there's a smaller
doubletrack heading north. It hugs the cliff edge for about 1/2 mile, then
turns away. Explore if you want.
At the overlook fork (where you passed the bathroom) there's a smaller
doubletrack heading west. It's 2.2 miles long, hitting several viewpoints
before it turns around.
Doubletrack heading west to secondary
|My mileage assumes you went to both viewpoints, but no
further. The smaller (westbound) doubletrack has a lot of loose
slab-shaped rock, and probably isn't appropriate for beginners. If you go
only to the main viewpoint and back, your ride will be around 14.8 miles.
If you need a still-shorter ride, start from the second kiosk 4 miles down
the road for a 7 mile round trip.
View into the canyon from the smaller
(westbound) doubletrack, as the San Rafael River creates goosenecks.
||You're riding on a limestone layer within the Carmel
Formation, formed when the ocean covered the sands of the Navajo
Sandstone. (You don't see this layer to the east in Moab.) The Navajo
Sandstone forms the first set of cliffs. There's a band of Kayenta ledged
sandstone that forms occasional shelves.
At the western end, the San Rafael
swell is subsiding. The Wingate is sinking into the ground. On the
horizon, there's a red band of Entrada, then the mountains of the Wasatch
|The lower cliff line is Wingate sandstone, rising up above a
skirt of red Chinle formation mudstone and shale. Very nice. It may look
like the Grand Canyon, but the rock is sandstone (not reddened limestone
as you see in the Grand Canyon) and is from a geologic time 200
million years later.
View into the mouth of Good Water
|Riding notes, from kiosk on Oil Dome Road:
0.0 Head south N39 10.517 W110 47.453
2.2 Keep straight (on L is road from Buckhorn Wash)
N39 09.080 W110 46.200
4.3 Kiosk, keep R (L returns from alternate view)
N39 07.377 W110 45.431
6.7 At canyon edge, go L
N39 05.582 W110 45.537
|7.3 At Little Grand Canyon
N39 05.731 W110 44.937
Look, and head back
7.9 Back at BR, keep L along edge on small DT
10.1 Final viewpoint, turn around
N39 05.418 W110 47.191
12.3 Back at fork, L for return trip
19.6 Back at car
||Getting there, from the north: Exit US-6 in
Price, southbound on highway 10. Go through Huntington. (In Huntington, there's an alternate road
that ends up at the trailhead. I haven't tried it.) As you approach Castle
Dale 28 miles from Price, watch for a sign that says "San Rafael
Access" and a broad dirt road on the left (heading east). There's a
huge corral near the start of the road. Once you're on the dirt road, go
12.2 miles and find the trailhead marked by a kiosk and bathroom at an X
intersection of dirt roads. The trail is the road on your right.
From the south: On I-70, take the Sinbad or Ranch Exit
131, 25 miles west of Green River. (Note: the freeway exits have been
renumbered recently. This exit is also "129".) Head north. The road will veer
east along the freeway, then turn north again. After 21 miles on dirt
road, cross the San Rafael River and enter Buckhorn Wash. Nine miles
later, turn left on Oil Dome road and drive about 2 miles to the trailhead.
Bathrooms: trailhead and overlook
Water: bring your own
Camping: group sites around The Wedge
Bike services: Price