Happenings January 2006
by Rory Tyler
You probably drove by
the Gold Bar Rim when you came to Moab. It’s that
long, high cliff north of town that parallels Highway191.
On the other side of the cliff is a giant, stony slab that
slopes 1,300 feet to the Colorado River. Culvert Canyon
has the best access for hikers into this terrain. To get
there, drive 10.2 miles on Potash Road, past Corona Arch
trailhead 200 yards, to a parking area on the right. A
large culvert tunnels beneath the railroad tracks. Pass
through the culvert and you instantaneously transport yourself
into a desert canyon wilderness; a transition that could
only be more remarkable if you were preceded by the White
The Gold Bar Rim includes (in alphabetical order): Arches,
Bridges, Canyons, Drop-offs, Escarpments, Four-wheelers,
Grottos, Hoodoos, Inclines, Jumbles, Kayenta, Lichens,
Mazes, Nooks, Overhangs, Panoramas, Quirks, Rimrock, Sunshine,
Towers, Ultraviolet, Vertigo, Wonder, Xposure, Yodelers,
Arches, Bridges, Canyons - that’s pretty elementary.
But ‘Four-wheelers’? Well, the upper reaches
of the Gold Bar Rim contain the Golden Spike Trail, one
of the most grueling 4-wheel and mountain bike routes in
the region. Happily, all the ledges, ripples, ridges, and
cracks that wheelers find so challenging are simple as
a-b-c for a hiker and endless bliss for a dog. People have
created an informal network of paths in lower Culvert Canyon
that is both efficient and sensitive to the desert’s
delicate ecosystem. The sandstone slopes of the upper reaches
encompass square miles of awesome footing, lending themselves
admirably to the exercise of curiosity - a quality, I’m
told, that is fatal to cats, but essential to human progress.
Progress, on the Gold Bar Rim, consists in resolving such
questions as: What’s that thing? How do I get over
there? What’s down there? Stuff like that.
Gold Bar Arch (also
called Jeep Arch)
Gold Bar Arch is a great
first destination. Hike up Culvert Canyon about a third
of a mile, passing the first two pour-offs to the right.
Once you get by the second pour-off, climb out of the canyon
on the left and find that trail system I mentioned. About
a mile up-canyon you’ll see a huge, monolithic spire
in a saddle, up and to the left. Cross the saddle, continue
north towards the next pass, and you’ll see the arch.
This is a one-way walk of about two miles and takes at
least an hour. You’ll need more time for panting,
gawking, and poking. Gold Bar Arch (also called Jeep Arch)
has an unbelievable view of the La Sal Mountains. But seeing
is believing, so don’t take my word for it.
Once you’ve bagged the big arch, you’re on
your own. All of Gold Bar and Culvert Canyons beckon beneath
your feet. Or, if you want to go to the Rim, the ridge
that starts at Gold Bar Arch takes you to the top. Once
you get there, you might turn left and go looking for a
subterranean double-bridge sunk into a giant crack, well
below the grade of the surrounding cap rock. Round trip
from the Culvert to the Rim is a minimum of four hours.
Make sure, when you come back, that you don’t get
diverted into one of the many fingers of Gold Bar Canyon
to the north of Culvert. The only way out of Gold Bar Canyon
is the way you came in.
If you continue to the north end of the Rim, and now we’re
talking about an expeditionary day, you can begin your
quest for the enigmatic and elusive Ottinger’s Triple
Arch. (Even if I could remember how to get there, I couldn’t
describe it to you.) You can access this part of the Gold
Bar Rim from the Gemini Bridges Road with 4-wheel drive.
Turn at the Golden Spike trail, park at the first hill,
and take the wash or the ridge to the Rim. It’s not
as spectacular as Culvert Canyon until you’ve gained
a lot of altitude, but it is a lot closer to that triple
arch that you probably won’t find anyway.
‘Sunshine’ was on my list because the Gold
Bar Rim is the soul of southern ‘Xposure’.
On a typical winter day, this is the place to soak up some
rays while you wander. Or you may decide to go into ‘Zzzz’ mode
in a cozy, sun-drenched ‘Nook’. Despite more
ambitious intentions, I’ve spent many dreamy hours
on the Gold Bar Rim in the refreshing company of Morpheus
(the Greek god of sleepy oblivion, not that Matrix guy).
To first-time visitors this may seem like a terrible waste
of canyon-time, but that’s one of the benefits of
living in Moab. I’ve got some extra time to waste
on a sunny winter afternoon. Viva la Zzzzz’s!
Rory Tyler is available for cowboy
poetry/campfire song gatherings which include lore, science,
history and lies of the Moab area. (Suitable for all
age groups). Rates are negotiable. Give Rory a call at