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Amasa Back

The Amasa Back trail is one of the classic rides of Moab. It ascends from Kane Creek on the Colorado River just west of Moab, climbing up onto an outcropping of rock surrounded on three sides by the Colorado.

Chad Hunter rolls along a smoother stretch of slickrock trail, with the Navajo Sandstone bluffs of Kane Creek in the background. The horizontal layers at the base are Kayenta. Photo April 15, 2000.

General Information:
The trail is a rocky Jeep trail with ledges and drop-offs. There are technical challenges that will stop all but the most advanced riders. Strong intermediates can manage this ride, but will walk most of the rougher climbs. As of 2014, most cyclists prefer to climb the Hymasa Trail for the first segment of the Amasa ride.

The initial drop-in. The trail veers R off the road and drops over a series of techy ledges.

As an out-and-back, the trip is 10 miles round trip. Altitude change is 1050 feet, with about 1300 vertical feet of tough and rough climbing. The jeeps driving this trail create slippery undercut ledges with chunky cobble complicating the approach.

The plunge through Kane Creek.

Amasa can take you to other area trails. For example, when combined with Pothole Arch, Rockstacker, and Captain Ahab, it's a 17-mile 3000-vertical festival of technical challenges. 

Smoother section trail during the initial climb. A 4x4 road climbs the ledges of Kayenta sandstone.

On the way uphill, you'll climb ledges in the Kayenta Sandstone of the early Jurassic Era (about 200 million years ago, when this area was near the ocean on the edge of the continent). Above the Kayenta is the Navajo Sandstone, a course-grained sandstone deposited by the wind in a broad, flat desert area.

About 1.5 miles into the ride, looking back to the east at the Navajo domes with skirts of ledge-forming Kayenta.

As you ride uphill, the Hymasa singletrack will cross several times. The lower two miles of the trail is a tricky series of ledges and rock challenges. Clearing the multiple rock obstacles will test your skills on the way up and again on the way down. 

Lots of big ledges. Don't head for the obvious black tire marks. Instead scout for the riding lines along the sides.

Navigation is easy because the route is well-marked with signs, and with paint stripes in slickrock areas. You'll run into a few side routes. Just stay on the main jeep-width path. Follow the route with the most bike tire tracks when in question.

View north from the ridgeline toward the potash plant.

Amasa Back has plenty of Moab's great sandstone to play on. At the top, there are wide areas of slickrock. On the way, you'll have eye-popping views of the canyons, as well as a cliff-side cruise overlooking Jackson Hole and its rincon (called Jackson "Not-Hole".

Matt Flygare takes some air near the top of the Rock. Of course, you don't have to go over every cliff in the trail. There are easier cheater routes around most obstacles. April 15, 2000.

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The Ride:
From the Amasa Back parking, ride your bike 1/2 mile uphill on the Kane Creek road. The trail falls quickly down a series of rock steps, then descends to the creek.

At the bottom of the canyon, you'll splash through Kane Creek, then bog down in the sand uphill.

After cresting the ridge, riders head downhill towards a set of gnarly ledges.

If you succeed in powering up to the first ledge through the sand, you'll probably find it impossible to clear the 4-wheeler cobble pile. Get used to lifting your bike up ledges. You'll do a bit of it on this ride.

At the first right turn above the creek (mile 1.0 of the ride), notice the Captain Ahab trail coming in on your left. It's one-way -- downhill only.

View to the south, with Jackson Not Hole to the right.

At mile 2.3, you'll spot the connector to the midpoint of Captain Ahab. The connector is two-way. It serves as a delivery system to get you to the bottom half of Ahab for a shorter ride, to Hymasa for an alternate climb, or as a bailout after riding upper Ahab.

Mike Engberson, manager of the UMB store, in front of "Jackson Not Hole".

There's a temporary reprieve from the uphill attack at mile 2.7 as you cross a ridgeline. Stop and take in the views. On your left is the entry to upper Captain Ahab and Hymasa. Descend the doubletrack along the cliffs. Pass a dead-end doubletrack on your right at mile 2.8. (It goes uphill about 1/2 mile to an overlook. Go ahead and explore if you want.)

The top of the tilted mesa in the right half of the photo is our destination. On the left is Jackson Not Hole.

As you cruise the cliffside, notice "Jackson Not-hole," a rincon where the Colorado formed a gooseneck, then cut it off to form a new straighter channel past the rock "island."

At mile 3.6, cross under a power line. One-tenth mile later, the route to the Jackson Hole portage to Hurrah Pass is on your left (mile 3.7). After another 1/10 mile at mile 3.8, the doubletrack connector to the Jackson Singletrack forks right. Just obey the signs and keep straight.

At mile 4.3, there are two options. The left (straight) fork is more direct -- in fact, you might find yourself on a narrow bike track without knowing there was a fork. The official jeep road forks 90 degrees to the right. It will descend a bit before climbing back up to rejoin the straight path. The routes rejoin in about 0.1 mile.

Gary Argyle cranks up the stone to where Matt Flygare and Dominic Bria are waiting. April 15, 2000.

At mile 4.5, keep left as the route to Pothole Arch and Rockstacker forks off on your right. The ledgy jeep road turns to slickrock about mile 4.8. Just keep straight southwest on slickrock as you climb, watching the white stripes. Notice a wide circle painted with stripes at mile 5.0. That's the official end, and the viewpoint is just beyond the circle.

Matt overlooking the Colorado River valley west of Moab. April 15, 2000. This is the official "end of the trail."

From the official top of the ride, backtrack 1/2 mile to the Pothole Arch  trail. This can take you to the Rockstacker Trail, from which you can reconnect to Amasa. 

Mike Engberson shows his jumping form. The fins above are Navajo Sandstone. April 15, 2000.

If you're looking for hairy technical riding, you can continue downhill on Jackson Singletrack. Another technical option for descending is Captain Ahab, a difficult technical singletrack on the south side of the hill.

On the way back. We'll need to climb back up to the ridgeline in the center of the photo, which is where we'll find Captain Ahab.

Riding notes, Amasa:
0.0   Exit parking, uphill on road N38 31.710 W109 35.705
0.6   Drop R off road N38 31.435 W109 36.096
0.7   Take air off ledge, turn right on DT
        Alt = ST straight shortcut
0.8   Cross creek N38 31.589 W109 36.080
1.0   Turn R (L = exit from Captain Ahab)
        N38 31.521 W109 36.261
2.3   R at fork (L = mid-way Ahab connector)
        N38 31.057 W109 36.804
2.7   R on DT (L = Captain Ahab)
        N38 31.098 W109 37.114
2.8   L (straight), R = to view
        N38 31.161 W109 37.126
3.0   Cliffside along Jackson Not-Hole
3.7   Pass Portage connector, keep straight (R)
        N38 31.721 W109 37.678
        (L=cliff scramble down into Jackson Hole)
3.8   Keep L at fork (R = Jackson ST)
        N38 31.761 W109 37.756
4.3   Straight (or R = jeep route)
        N38 31.788 W109 38.198
4.5   Keep L on Amasa  (L = Pothole Arch trail)
        N38 31.876 W109 38.369
5.0   View - End of Amasa 
        N38 31.619 W109 38.554
Getting there: Head south on Moab's Main Street. When you reach the McDonald's on your right, turn right onto Kane Creek Blvd. After 0.6 miles, go straight where the road seems to turn right (500 West). Drive along the Colorado River about 5 miles until the road turns to gravel, and head uphill about 2/3 mile. Watch for the "Amasa Back Parking" area at GPS N 38 31.329' W 109 35.501'. Park here. Pedal further up the gravel road 1/2 mile, and turn right onto the trail at the sign.

Chad Hunter shows a group of "Jeepies" how a real man handles a trail.

Amassa Back Trail Map

Riding resources:
Printable one-page ride summary
GPS track files (right-click and select "Save Target as..."):
        GPX area trails    Amasa track only
Topo map for printing:  View high-res map
Lodging, camping, shops:  Link to Moab area resources

[ Overview page for Amasa Area trails ]

Original review 2000. Latest update ride 2013.
Copyright 2000 Mad Scientist Software Inc