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Trail HAPPENINGS April 2015

Navajo Rocks - Mountain Bike Loop
by David Olsen and Sandy Freethey

Exhilarating, breathtaking, and a fun ride! These are some of the words to describe the new Navajo Rocks Mountain Bike Trail System which is full of spectacular cliffs, domes, alcoves, bluffs, buttes, mesas and canyons that rise and fall away from the desert floor. The trail system is named after the geologic Navajo Sandstone formation that is so prominent in the area. The variety of scenery along the eighteen mile Navajo Rocks loop is quite unique. Some sections are full of rollercoaster sandstone cones and domes, while other sections have lonely desert scenes. One rock formation looks like a giant petrified ant hill and has been nicknamed “Round Mound or The Big Round Mound”. Another formation is nicknamed, “The Volcano”. There are several breathtaking and stunningly beautiful canyons and a few hoodoos to watch over you along with the ravens and birds of prey. The fantastic scenery includes the prominent Monitor and Merrimac Buttes, Big Mesa and the North and South Forks of Seven Mile Canyon, and the distant vistas include Arches National Park and the La Sal Mountains.

Navajo Rocks is a cross country trail, and was built for mountain bike riders that like a variety of terrain and scenery. The route encircles part of Scenic Hwy 313 weaving through pinyon and juniper, Mormon tea, blackbrush, rice grass and yucca. The trail is challenging and has its fair share of ups and downs. Although it has technical sections, it is a trail that many mountain bikers can ride without a problem. The skill level is mostly intermediate, with some technical spots. The trail is built on a combination of soil and rock. Some of the sandstone is as smooth as a baby’s butt, and some is quite bumpy, and some sections are steep, tilted and a bit challenging. Most of the dirt sections are fun and flowing, but you also may encounter a bit of sand along the way. It may be possible to ride the entire trail without dabbing (putting your foot down), but no one has reported a “no dab” ride as of the writing of this article.

Scenery tip: A seldom seen arch can be found by stopping near the cute little bridge on the Big Mesa Trail segment and looking towards the east at the top of the cliff.

Paleontology tip: The extremely bumpy sandstone near the west end of Rocky Tops Trail is caused by petrified burrows. The burrows were probably made by a Tritylodon relative, (mammal like reptiles) that were approximately 12 inches long. Google this critter.

The Middle Earth Trail is located in the middle of the 18 mile loop and allows bikers to do a figure eight, rather than a one direction loop ride. Some prefer to ride Ramblin’ and Rocky Tops clockwise, and Big Mesa, The Big Lonely and Coney Islands counterclockwise…..but try various combinations or just a section or two at one time.

Not only is this a scenic and fun ride for mountain bikers, but it is an easy drive on pavement to reach the trail. There are a few small parking areas located along the route, but the main trailhead and parking is at about M.P 15 after climbing a short hill on the north or right side of Hwy 313, (heading towards Dead Horse Point State Park), approximately six miles west of Highway 191. The trailhead is located at the “halfway point of a figure eight ride.

Additional access points to the Navajo System are from the Lone Mesa Group Camp, and from the 7 Up trail which connects to the Rocky Tops trail segment.

The Navajo Rocks Trail Loop is a recent addition by the Grand County Trail Mix Committee to the many new trails being built around Moab. Sandy Freethey, Trail Mix Chair, credits the trail designer and trail champion, David Olsen for his perseverance in the creation of this trail. Building the trail by the Trail Mix crew and many volunteers was the easy part. The approval process began with David trying to convince us that this trail was a good idea, as usual, David was right! After the politics were settled, the trail was adjusted to avoid big horn sheep, birds of prey, and paleo burrows, but with patience, the trail was approved. Go ride Navajo Rocks, it’s thrilling, breath taking, scenic, beautiful, stunning, astounding, incredible, spectacular, amazing and awesome and great fun!

About the author: David Olsen is the Moab City Community Development Director, and the Vice Chair of the Trail Mix Committee. He is an avid mtn. biker who designed the original Brand Trails, Pipedream and Prospector along with the Navajo Rocks Trail System.



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