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Rockin’ Good Fun on Captain Ahab and HyMasa Trails
Article and Photographs by Laurel Hunter

Amasa Back is a favorite Moab destination for mountain bikers, and is a challenging but doable climb up the Cliffhanger jeep road, with fun singletrack trails on top. It has great views, is somewhat snowfree in the winter, and is fairly close to town. But have you ever been out riding on Amasa Back and gotten stuck in a traffic jam of jeeps, rock crawlers, and bikes, all working to get over the same ledgey trail? Thanks to the trail designers, expert builders, and volunteers with Grand County Trail Mix, you can now zip right on by the crowds on some sweet non-motorized singletrack via a brand new trail called HyMasa. This is not a long trail but one that has a huge impact on a mountain biker’s experience in this area.

HyMasa is an intermediate trail with a moderate grade that is great for climbing, with a few rocky and techy sections to keep it fun. It mostly parallels the jeep trail and crosses it a few times. The trail’s name “HyMasa” is a combination of two men’s names: early Moab cattleman, Amasa Larson, and popular Moab biker, Jonny Hymas
The trail’s only shortcoming, in my opinion, is that it ends. For riders who are heading out to Pothole Arch, Rockstacker, or Jackson Trail, you are funneled back onto the jeep road; others will begin at the Captain Ahab Trail. If you do ride down HyMasa, please remember to yield to uphill riders as well as hikers.

The views, as always from this area, are amazing, and HyMasa also makes for a fun downhill option. Even though it is still uphill at the end of the ride out of the creek, it is rideable! No more pushing your bike up the sandy rock staircase to Kane Creek Road.

The real awesomeness of the new-fashioned Amasa Back begins at the top of HyMasa with 2013’s greatest hit, the Captain Ahab Trail, envisioned by Tyson Swasey and Nick Badovinac. This trail is a joy to advanced riders, and flows, challenges, and thrills. If you’ve been up on Amasa Back, you may have seen people giggling and hooting at the bottom of the trail where it pops out onto Amasa Back. And then heading back up for another lap.

Upper Ahab begins with more climbing in a beautiful line across and up a slickrock dome. The climb is relieved by a few sporty downhills, mostly armored rock ramps, and challenging uphill ledges and steep downhill sections that carry you around the mesa. I’ve seen many people peering cautiously across the edge of a ledge only to find that the blue paint dashes that mark the trail are totally reliable. Every climb is rewarded by a fast and fun down—it’s the trail that keeps on giving!

The lower section of Ahab is clearly signed and begins when you cross a dirt road. If Upper Ahab took its toll and you want an easier way down, you can hop over to HyMasa at this point and ride out the more intermediate option. Lower Ahab wraps around the tail of the Whale Rock, hence the name “Captain Ahab,” the obsessed captain in Herman Melville’s 1851 classic Moby Dick. Lower Ahab is almost all downhill with some of the fastest, most fun riding in Moab. The trail requires advanced riding skills, but no big air or jumping are required (though possibly optional), as everything rolls.

As you get to know the flavor of the trail, you can ride fast and confidently along the off-camber edges, armored rolling ramps, slotted lines through slickrock bowls, and poppy climbs. The views here, as on the upper section of Ahab, are expansive and beautiful, but best enjoyed when not moving.

Captain Ahab has appeared in ads for Niner Bikes and Ibis Cycles, and was recently a featured trail for component manufacturer SRAM’s new product launch and media event. Magazine editors from all over the world rode the trail and loved it. The popularity of Captain Ahab will hopefully lead to more trails like it in difficulty and style. It’s rocking good fun and not to be missed.

To get to the fun from Main Street, turn west onto Kane Creek Boulevard (McDonald’s and Burger King intersection) and drive along the Colorado River about 5 miles until the road turns to gravel. Proceed about 2/3 mile to the “Amasa Back Parking” area. Bike up the gravel road about ½ mile and turn right onto the trail at the sign.

Laurel Hunter is a mountain biker, pump track enthusiast, the Marketing Director of Western Spirit Cycling, and a member of Trail Mix.

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