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Moab Brands Trails
by Sharon Hogan

Carefully planned and maintained trails help keep visitors safe in Grand County, which has the dubious distinction of requiring the most rescues of any county in Utah. Thousands of visitors and locals enjoy a variety of sports in the backcountry around Moab, but those sports present risks, and Grand County covers a vast area. Arches and Canyonlands National Parks as well as Dead Horse Point State Park have many rescues as well.

In addition to the Moab backcountry’s complex system of roads, trails, washes, canyons, cliffs, rivers, and mountains, trails and waypoints can have many names and nicknames. The Grand County Non-motorized Trail Mix Committee has also recently added many new mountain bike trails to the Moab area. The group keeps Grand County updated with the most current trail maps at

Lost or injured in the Moab area? Even the most experienced outdoors individuals following well-marked trails can have accidents. You will hopefully be able to connect by 911 to emergency personnel. However, being prepared is your responsibility, and preparation could save your life or the life of someone else.

The most serious injuries are often in ATV, motorcycle, and mountain bike accidents, including road rash, broken bones, and scraped up legs, arms, and faces. The usual causes are loss of control and lack of skills, though helmets and proper body and footgear can keep an accident from becoming a fatality. Fortunately, there was only one ATV fatality in 2011.
Every river rafter, kayaker, swimmer, and floater needs a life vest. Wearing a life vest on the Colorado River is required by law. There were two river fatalities in 2011, perhaps partly due to it being a very high water year on the Colorado. Among hikers, rock climbers, BASE jumpers, and Jeepers, there were some incidents in 2011—most of them avoidable—but no fatalities. Hikers sometimes got caught after dark, didn’t know the trails, or did not have a map, light, or compass. Trail safety can include wearing proper hiking footwear, following cairns and obeying signs, and packing a headlamp and appropriate trail and topographic maps. Climbers, jumpers, slackliners, and Jeepers should have training, proper gear, and repair and first aid kits for emergency situations.

Travel with a friend who can go for help or assist the injured person. If you are the one going for help, note the injured person’s location so you can lead others back to The Moab Brands Trail System has become one of Moab’s most popular mountain biking areas for good reason. It features fun rides for a wide range of skill levels on well-designed trails built specifically for mountain bikes. Mostly singletrack and slickrock, the trails radiate from a central parking area trailhead and are roughly connected by the Bar M 4WD road that meanders throughout the system. The choices range from mellow cruising to fast flowing to technical cross-country, with a short section of extreme downhill.

Eight miles north of Moab and bordering Arches National Park, the original four trails including the Bar M, Circle O, Rockin’ A, and Bar B were named for cowboy brands spelling MOAB. Hence, the Moab Brands and the cowboy theme of the trail names here.

On a busy spring day all kinds of riders can be found heading out of the Moab Brands Trails parking area trailhead in various directions. You’ll see families with little kids on tiny mountain bikes, groups of college kids or skiers taking a dirt break, locals on lunch rides or throwing training laps with racer friends, guided tours and instructional groups led by local tour operators.

Families, novices, and anyone looking for a mellow trail can start out on the Rusty Spur Loop, 1.5 miles of easy hills and curvy singletrack reached from the parking area trailhead on a short, flat section of the Bar M road. After conquering Rusty Spur, the next step is the Lazy EZ Loop with a few slightly tougher sections to challenge newly acquired skills. From the parking lot trailhead it’s best to ride the 1.25-mile-long EZ first and return on Lazy’s 1.5 miles of moderate climbs and fun banked downhill turns.

Beyond Lazy EZ to the north, and the next harder trail in the Moab Brands, is North 40, a four-mile figure-eight loop. Hills are steeper and longer with a few rocky and sandy bits and lots of fast swooping fun. This is a local favorite for a quick ride or as a warm up for a long day in the saddle.

Experienced mountain bikers looking for longer, more technical singletrack and slickrock rides can use Lazy EZ to access the trails beyond. Where EZ meets Lazy on the south end, Deadman’s Ridge starts its three miles of rocky climbs and tight turns, sure to inspire and thrill skilled riders. The final mile of Deadman’s Ridge is a rollicking downhill ending on the paved bike path, which leads back to the Bar M road and the Moab Brands Trails. Or, halfway along Deadman’s Ridge, riders can turn off to the Bar B Trail, which is a 2.2-mile challenging ride through ledges and washes in pinyon-juniper woods.

Either direction on Bar B takes mountain bikers deeper into the Moab Brands. Turn right and descend Bar B’s toughest section, then choose from the expert mile-long downhill called Killer B or the aerobic Long Branch Trail. Long Branch returns to Deadman’s Ridge via one tough mile of steep descents, technical traverses, and switchback climbs. Turn left on Bar B and follow its upper ridges to its intersection with the Bar M road and the start of the Moab Brands slickrock routes.
Marked with paint on slickrock, Rockin’ A and Circle O Trails wind through mounds of petrified sand dunes. These trails require riders’ full attention as they traverse side hills and navigate around potholes and across steep crevices. Better to stop on this tilted shelf of sandstone to take in the spectacular 180-degree views of Arches National Park. Ridden together, these two trails are 4.5 miles of slickrock fun, or Rockin’ A is half as long as Circle O and they can be ridden individually. The Bar M road connects these trails to the parking area for riders wanting to skip the singletrack.

One look at the map and you get the picture that the trail combination choices are almost unlimited. All trails are two-way, doubling the options. Go for a 1.5-mile easy cruise or ride the whole Moab Brands Trail System and you will have ridden almost 30 miles. Do a little slickrock, do a little singletrack, have a picnic halfway out Lazy with your seven-year-old, take your mom on a scenic tour, or your racer buddies on a gut buster. Just remember your helmet, food, water, and your camera. Maps are posted at all major intersections. Happy Trails!

Sharon Hogan moved to Moab from Telluride with her husband Scott Escott in 1990. She supports her mountain biking habit by working as a bookkeeper.

Photos: Wes Shannon and Sharon Hogan
Map: Geoff Freethey

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