Scenic Roads Happenings May 2010
Gemini Bridges/Long Canyon
Article and photos by Rob Cassingham
This scenic drive will lead visitors on an easy-to-moderate four wheel drive trail to the impressive Gemini Bridges, discovered in the early 1960s by Moab legend Lin Ottinger (Lin still operates a great rock shop on the north end of Moab, and it is well worth a visit). After Gemini Bridges is visited, the route briefly joins with the paved Utah Highway 313 before a thrilling descent of Long Canyon. If you do not have a capable vehicle and you do not mind a little dust AND the road is dry, you may still visit Gemini Bridges by driving north of Moab to Highway 313, then heading west to .5 miles past milepost 10, turning left and following the main road and signs for 5.5 miles. Accessing Gemini Bridges from this direction does not require 4wd and presents no clearance issues.
Please note that the only restrooms or water found near this route are at nearby Dead Horse Point State Park, which requires an admission fee. Plan accordingly!
This route is popular with Jeepers, atv/motorcycle riders and bicyclists. Drive safely, and use caution on blind curves.
Mile 0.0 You are at the intersection of Main and Center Streets. Head north on Main Street, which will transition to US Highway 191.
Mile 9.8 The trailhead for Gemini Bridges is to the left. Turn here and reset your trip meter.
Mile 0.0 Gemini Bridges Trailhead.
Mile .8 There is a kiosk here that provides more trail information should you desire it. The route then turns right and begins climbing.
Mile 2.1 A narrow pullout on the left provides fine views of Arches National Park to the west and the Moab valley to the south. If you are uncomfortable stopping here, there is a wider pullout at mile 2.3, but the view of the Moab Valley is obscured.
Mile 2.9 There is some good rock hounding to be found on both sides of the road. You will find nice pieces of yellow-brown jasper here, and there are some pieces of petrified wood awaiting the sharp-eyed rock hunter.
Mile 3.8 The large rock pillar before you is known as the “Gooney Bird”.
Mile 4.3 If you wish a good photo of the Gooney Bird, stop here and look behind you.
Mile 4.7 Turn right at this intersection and climb the steep hill. Four wheel drive may be required.
Mile 4.9 Just before the cattle guard is a pullout on the right. Stop here and walk to the cliff edge to view a small arch.
Mile 5.1 There are nice views of the La Sal mountains to the south. Note how many more Pinyon Pine and Utah Juniper trees there are after gaining just a hundred feet of elevation. Over the next 2.2 miles, the road crosses over much bare sandstone and small rock ledges.
Mile 5.2 Intersection. Turn right.
Mile 6.1 Intersection. Continue forward.
Mile 6.7 A small pullout on the right marks the location of “The Crack House”. The Crack House is actually a short naturally formed tunnel that has a crack running the length of the ceiling. Rock climbers challenge themselves by sticking their hands in the crack, then clenching their fist, which keeps their hand jammed in the crack. They then swing their feet up into the crack and traverse the entire length of the ceiling upside down.
Mile 7.3 Gemini Bridges intersection. Turn left. From this point, the trail is normally easy traveling on good dirt roads.
Mile 7.3 +100 feet A short walk will take you to an overlook of Gemini Bridges.
Mile 7.5 This is the hiking trailhead for Gemini Bridges and the highlight of this route. A .2 mile stroll will take you to the top of the bridges, which are a pair of spectacular sandstone spans, both approximately 100 feet long and 100 feet above the canyon floor. Yes, it is safe to walk across them, but be aware that there are no fences or safety rails. As such, small children and dogs should be closely supervised.
Mile 7.6 Intersection. Turn left.
Mile 8.5 Intersection. Turn right.
Mile 9.2 Intersection. Turn left.
Mile 13.1 You have reached the intersection with Utah Highway 313. Reset your odometer and turn left.
Mile 0.0 The intersection of Highway 313 and the Gemini Bridges trail. Turn left.
Mile 1.5 Turn left at this intersection, towards Dead Horse Point State Park. If you were to continue straight, you would enter Canyonlands National Park. To the south, on the left hand side of Highway 313, is a small bluff known as “The Knoll”. Though it is an unimpressive sight, The Knoll is actually the high point on this entire plateau (“Big Flat”). The elevation is 6100 feet/1860 meters.
Mile 3.0 The wide and straight dirt road heading diagonally on the left is the Long Canyon Road, and is advised only for four wheel drive vehicles with low-range gearing. Turn left here and reset your tripmeter. If you choose to visit Dead Horse Point State Park (or use the restroom), continue down the paved road for an additional 2.5 miles.
Before starting down Long Canyon, one strong word of caution: When wet, the steep downhill section of this route is very treacherous-the author of this article knows from personal experience. Absolutely do not attempt this route when wet!
Mile 0.0 The intersection of Long Canyon and Highway 313.
Mile .9 Intersection. Continue going forward.
Mile 2.6 As you top the hill, you are rewarded with a great view of the sandstone fins of the area known as “Behind the Rocks” west of Moab.
Mile 3.0 A pullout on the right affords nice photo opportunities of Long Canyon. This is also a good spot to shift into low range four wheel drive. The reason for this is that the next 2.6 miles are so steep, it is best to let your engine compression do most of your braking, thus preventing overheated brakes.
Mile 3.1 This notch is called “Pucker Pass” for good reason. When wet, consider Long Canyon “Pucker Canyon”.
Mile 3.4 Surprise!
Mile 5.6 The road passes over a large metal culvert. This is a good time to finally shift out of low-range as the downhill grade is much more gentle.
Mile 5.8 On the right are several thin balanced sheets of limestone known as “The Mortarboards”, named for the resemblance to the caps worn by graduating high school and college students.
Mile 7.5 Long Canyon intersects with the paved Potash Road (Utah Highway 279). Jughandle Arch juts from the cliff wall to your left. You may get better photographs of it by turning left onto the Potash Road and driving .1 mile to the designated pullout. To return to Moab, turn left at this intersection and drive the scenic byway 13.4 miles back to US Highway 191. Along the way, you will pass hiking trails (the hike to Corona Arch is especially nice), Native American petroglyphs, dinosaur tracks and fantastic scenery.
Thanks for visiting Moab, and look for another great drive in next week’s issue of the Moab Happenings!