TRAIL HAPPENINGS April 2014
Prospecting the Prospector Trail
Article by Karen Wenzel
Photographs by Sandy Freethey, Bill Reddington, and Karen Wenzel
Before Moab was known as a world-class mountain biking destination, during the 1950s it was the Uranium Capital of the World. Texas geologist Charlie Steen found uranium south of the Moab area in 1952 and developed a claim that he called Mi Vida (Spanish for “my life”). In support of the uranium industry that followed his find, Moab and much of the Colorado Plateau boomed. Interested visitors can read more about Steen and Mi Vida in Maxine Newell’s book, Charlie Steen’s Mi Vida.
As the need for uranium waned during the 1960s, Moab began transitioning to a tourist and recreation economy, featuring trails for non-motorized use. In 2013, construction began on a short trail close to town and was named “Prospector” for Charlie Steen. This trail opened last summer. Visitors entering Moab from the north might notice runners, hikers, and bikers using Prospector Trail, cut into the cliffs to the east under the Sunset Grill (the Steen family’s former residence).
Just as a prospector uses a pick and a shovel, the Prospector Trail was carved into the hillsides by City of Moab crews and Grand County Trail Mix volunteers. Special thanks to Mark Steen, Mike Bynum, and Jung Park for allowing the public use of a singletrack trail on their land. It was generous of them to do this at no cost to the community.
The Prospector Trail is only one mile in length going one direction, but, because it is divided in the middle with an upper and lower section, you can treat it like a looped trail system and get a couple miles of travel by going both directions, giving you a good, fast workout. The trail dips and winds constantly along the steep hillside.
Prospector is a moderate hiking trail and an intermediate mountain bike trail. For bikers, the lower route requires confident, solid intermediate skills, and the upper route is good for upper-intermediate to early-advanced riders. The lower route near the Sunset Grill is easier than the more technical and narrow upper route, featuring several short climbs and dips and twists as it hugs the slope. You might want to try Prospector if you’ve got time between checking into your motel and your restaurant reservation, or if you need to take the dog (on leash) for a vigorous walk after a long car ride. You could also change it up from the asphalt as you ride back down into Moab on Highway 128 after a tour on Porcupine Rim.
The Prospector Trail is built fairly close to town, but you will be amazed at how far from civilization you feel while hiking or biking this short trail within a red rock’s throw of the highway. Because Prospector sits on fully exposed slopes, you can walk and ride it in colder weather, and it can get pretty hot on a sunny day.
To get to Prospector from Moab, go north on Main Street (Highway 191) until the road bends northwest and you see the Moab Rock Shop (600 N. Main Street) on your right/east. About 200 feet past the rock shop, park on the dirt shoulder and find the trailhead. Access the north end of Prospector via the Raven’s Rim Zip Line (998 N. Main Street) business area. The trail is marked by a large “Trail” sign that will lead you through the willows. Then it climbs up the hill at 90 degrees to 191 and zigs and zags up to the singletrack above the highway.
David Olsen has lived in Moab since 1990 and is a runner, mountain biker, and the Community Development Director for Moab. He is also Vice Chair of the Trail Mix committee. He is always prospecting for new trail opportunities on the eastside
Trail Mix This committee represents non motorized trail users including: bikers, hikers, equestrians, and skiers. Many government agencies and private citizens comprise the “mix” that makes this group work so well. We meet the 2nd Tues. of each month from 12-2 at the Grand Center (500W. 182 N.). Everyone is welcome.
Contact Sandy Freethey 259-0253 or find us online: wwwgrandcountyutah.net/trailmix/ or at firstname.lastname@example.org.