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TRAIL HAPPENINGS August 2013

Biking the Moonlight Meadows Trail
Article by Brian Lugers, Photos by Brian Lugers and Whit Richardson
Map by Geoff Freethey

Mountain biking in Moab? Whether you’ve ridden in Moab for years or are a first-time visitor, you will love our new trails. Over 60 miles of singletrack have been added to our trail system in just the past few years, and there are still more to come. Mapmakers can hardly keep up with all the new riding in Grand County! Whether you are riding in the Magnificent 7, Klonzo, or Klondike Bluff areas, remember something that has not changed: you have to get up early to beat Moab’s summer heat.

Moonlight Meadows TrailBut wait! You’re not an early riser? You don’t like to ride in full sun, no matter what time it is? Fortunately you still have options. Head up to the La Sal Mountains, where you can expect stunning vistas, cool temps., and a chance to bicycle in groves of aspen.

The Moonlight Meadows Trail is a great 2–3 hour expert-level forest loop high above the desert. It’s open meadows sprawl below the alpine summit of Haystack Mountain, but at an altitude of 10,500 feet also offer a 100-mile view of the canyon lands far below. Like all trails in the La Sals, this one is rocky and steep. Most people prefer to go up the road and down the trail. The vistas from the meadows, especially those up high along the trail, will make the rocky abuse worth it. Stop and enjoy these views. With a 650’ descent in only 1.6 miles, they won’t last long. Hang on for the rough descent, which is oh-so-sweet in some of the lovingly redone turns. Use the wood bridges placed across the boggy sections halfway down. You’ll find plenty of cows up there in late summer also enjoying the meadows, and these moving targets can make for “muddy” conditions even on the driest of afternoons.

Before you head up, make sure you have both good rain gear and a map. Tops and bottoms for rain gear are a good idea during our late summer thunderstorms, and I know people who have had to wrap their maps around themselves for shelter. Latitude 40’s Moab East map includes the Moonlight Meadows ride, as does the inexpensive MTA “Whole Enchilada Map.” When it is over 100 degrees in Moab, it can be hard to believe it might rain in the mountains, but late summer lightning, hail, and thunderstorms are all common up there. In fact, they are a huge part of the attraction for most of us! Be prepared for the worst, and hope for it!

Moonlight Meadows TrailTo reach the trail, head south on Highway 191 for 8.2 miles. Turn left at the large sign for La Sal Loop Road and Ken’s Lake. You’ll go just a quarter mile, then take the right turn up the paved La Sal Mountain Loop Road. Go 11.5 miles up into the mountains until you reach the signed dirt road on your right that climbs to Geyser Pass. You could park here and add some serious mileage to the “stem” of your “lollipop” type ride, or you could drive 8 miles further up to the actual trailhead.

Most people like to park at one of the parking areas only a few miles up, which is where the good shady stretches of road begin. The road becomes too rough to recommend for passenger cars after the turn for Gold Basin, so park early and breathe that mountain air! On your way up to the pass, be sure to notice where Moonlight reconnects to the road using an old pack trail labeled “Clark Lake Trail 141.“ This will be your trail. After 1.4 miles of descending the Moonlight singletrack, look for the black sign that says “G. Pass Rd.” Go just across the creek and steeply up here at this often-missed turn, or this will be the start of your ride! It’s a long way down to Oowah Lake!

As of this printing, the Forest Service has not released its revised recreation management plan for the La Sals. Perhaps next summer we will have some new brand new biking trails in our mountains. Many people have been working to provide what all involved are hoping will offer something for everyone in this quickly growing desert town. Hope for the best, plan on it, and remember something that has not changed here in Moab: the views from the La Sals are world-class.

Brian Lugers is a mountain biking native of Prescott, Arizona. After 15 years of living the Moab dream, he and his wife Jenna are now raising their 3-year-old twins. They dream of future bike tours in foreign lands.


 
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