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Trail HAPPENINGS May 2016

Equestrian rides into John Wayne Country
by Richard Coffinberry

Hooray! Two new Equestrian trailheads have been created along the Hwy 128 river corridor by the Grand County Trail Mix Committee and the Bureau of Land Management, working with private property owners, to select suitable equestrian trailhead locations. Lots of roomy space to park your horse trailers at Ida Gulch or near Professor Creek is now available.

The scenery is stunning at both locations, which some of us remember from the old classic John Wayne classic westerns. This is still a popular area for more current movie and advertising sets.

The first equestrian trailhead is found across from the Rocky Rapid turn off at the mouth of Ida Gulch on the River Road, Hwy 128, at Mile Post 16.4. This is a large parking area suitable for about 6 good sized trucks with their horse trailers. There is an existing trail system created by Sorrel River Ranch in this area. Another favorite ride follows Ida Gulch upstream for about 4 miles before the route becomes impassable. You are very near the base of Castleton Tower when you have to turn back. There are a couple of side washes that can be explored along the main wash. Photos of this ride can be found at:

If you don’t have a horse give Sorrel River Ranch a call; they will fix you up. Also contact the Red Cliffs Ranch about horses, and the Hauer Ranch about mules. All offer guiding services and information.

The second equestrian trailhead is found just past Professor Creek if you are headed east on Hwy 128, at Mile Post 19.1. The highway turn off is currently marked with a small sign for CFI (CanyonLands Field Institute). After turning onto the dirt road, continue for about half a mile, where you will find the large “Professor Creek” equestrian trailhead. This parking area has room for at least 10 trucks with 30 foot trailers. The trails that can be accessed from here are: Onion Creek loop (10 miles loop), Stearns Gulch, the Sylvester Trail, ( at the South end of Professor Valley), as well as a vast amount of open riding for those who enjoy creating their own route in the stunning scenery that is all around. There is some private property in this area so be familiar with the area to avoid and conflicts. Some is of the private property is fenced, and some is not. This area is where many of the movies were filmed. More riding options; you can ride east to Onion Creek and play in the water, follow the creek up the draw, (beware during any rain storms) or continue further to the Fisher Towers area.

Stephen Schultz with the Back Country Horsemen sums up this John Wayne scenery as follows; “For many the Castle Valley, Professor Valley and Onion Creek area is a “Horse Holy Land”. A place where starry eyed children growing up in the 60’s and 70’s, sat on red shag carpets watching John Wayne and other western hero’s ride through this landscape”.

For those interested in the history can visit the Film Museum at Red Cliffs Ranch.

Be prepared to look back over years of black and white filmmaking featuring our most cherished actors and actresses, along with highlights from recent film projects that have taken advantage of the spectacular scenery surrounding Moab. Actor John Wayne made many movies in this area. Some of the older movies are; 1964 - Rio Conchos, 1963 - The Greatest Story Ever Told. 1963 - Cheyenne Autumn, 1961 – Comancheros, 1959 - Ten Who Dared, 1950 - Rio Grande, and in 1949 - Wagon Master. More recent movies include City Slickers 1 and 2, The Lone Ranger and Geronimo: An American Legend. In addition, the Museum of Moab on Center Street has a very good display of many of these movies.

If you need more information on area trails contact the local Moab Southeastern Back Country Horsemen, or go to Richard’s web site listed above.

Needless to say, this area was in need of better horse trailer access and now that the trailheads are established, saddle up your horses and give these areas a try. Please call the Moab BLM office at 435-259-2100, after your ride and thank them and the Trail Mix Committee for providing the new trailheads, they will appreciate it.

About the Author: Richard Coffinberry is the Equestrian Representative, and welder, for the Grand County Trail Mix Committee and a member of the Moab Back Country Horsemen. He enjoys exploring new ride options on his horses and on the new mule when he is not working on old cars or a multitude of other projects.


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