Trail of the Ancients
The Trail of the Ancients takes us to one of the more remote mountain ranges in the Southwest, the Abajos. This range is just south of the Needles District of Canyonlands National Park. The peaks pop right up out of the desert providing us with some of the best possible views of the region. Roughly 1,000 years ago, this area supported a well-established community of Ancestral Puebloans. During this trip we will have the opportunity to visit some of their dwellings which still stand.
The riding is on dirt roads through both alpine and desert terrain. All the climbs are rewarded with awe-inspiring views and fun descents.
This guided mountain bike trip is not technical and is great for those with moderate fitness who are ready to try the dirt.
From our shop in Moab, we will shuttle two hours to our starting point near Natural Bridges National Monument. Our ride begins with a short warm up and rolls right into a six mile 1,200 foot climb up to the Bears Ears. These prominent landmarks are visible from much of southern Utah and reach an elevation of just over 9,000 feet. From here, we descend to the aspen and Ponderosa Pine forests of Elk Ridge and some smooth easy riding. Elk Ridge is a narrow table top plateau, cut sharply on either side by spectacular red rock canyons. From here one can see the peaks of five major mountain ranges; the colorful and strangely eroded canyons of the Dark Canyon Wilderness Area and the Needles District of Canyonlands National Park. Arch Canyon Overlook offers excellent views of this archaeologically rich canyon and the Grand Gulch Primitive Area. Easy cruising on smooth dirt roads takes us to our first night’s camp at Hammond Canyon Overlook. Numerous side roads offer intriguing possibilities and fun riding for the extra energetic. TOTAL MILEAGE: 15 miles
Today, we will ride down to one of the most fascinating Anasazi Indian ruins in southern Utah. The descent is somewhat technical and riders should use caution. We’re sure you’ll agree that it is well worth the trip. A six mile ride and a primitive canyon hike takes us to the ruins, precariously placed on a ledge 200 feet up the cliff wall. We’ll enjoy a packed lunch before we start our hike back. After our visit to these impressive dwellings we will hike back and begin the strenuous climb up the hill. Most of the climb is ridable, but there are a few short steep rocky pitches. Once back at camp, there are many riding and hiking options for the late afternoon. TOTAL MILEAGE: 12 miles riding, 3 miles hiking
From our camp at Hammond Canyon, we continue along Elk Ridge to our high point of the day called “The Notch”. Bordering the Dark Canyon Wilderness Area to the west and Cottonwood Wash to the east, The Notch displays the geologic complexities of this high plateau country. The uplifted Abajo Mountains, the red rock wonderland of the Needles and the broken canyon country in between all signifies millions of years of geologic activity. From The Notch, we roll along the ridge past Duck Lake (usually just a meadow by mid-summer!) and the Gooseberry Ranger Station to our camp at Sego Flat. This is some of the best mule deer and elk habitat in the state and we may see large herds near camp. TOTAL MILEAGE: 17 miles
From our camp on Sego Flat, we will ride into the heart of the Abajo Mountains. This is the big day! Points of interest include Reef of Rocks, Chippean Rocks, Maverick Point Overlook, the Skull and Crossbones Summit and The Causeway. The roller coaster like ride threads an intricate line through spectacular canyon country before breaking out directly beneath the high peaks. At The Causeway the width of the road is all that separates two opposing and deeply cut canyons. There’s a lot of climbing today as we experience this terrain, but each effort is rewarded with a flowing downhill. This entire area was home to the Ancestral Puebloans and hidden ruins are perched high above the canyon floor in natural alcoves. From the final descent into Dry Wash, we’ll begin the six mile climb to our camp in the ponderosas near the headwaters of Johnson Creek. TOTAL MILEAGE: 28 miles (our support vehicle is always an option)
Our last morning begins with a three mile climb to Jackson Ridge. You’ll wind in and out of the aspen trees and pedal past trickling brooks on your way to the ridge. It’s a strenuous way to start out the morning and we’ll enjoy a snack at the pass. At 10,000 feet, the views are as far reaching as they are spectacular. From here, we’ll drop into Indian Creek, one of the main drainages of the Abajo Mountains and begin our second (and final!) climb for the morning. The road takes us up and around the headwaters of Indian Creek to the pass between Abajo Peak and Horsehead Peak, your highest point on the whole trip. From here, the route plummets some 3,000 vertical feet to the town of Monticello, through many vegetation zones. Starting in the fir forests, we descend through the aspens, to the pinyons and junipers, then to scrub oaks and all the way back down to the high desert plateau. In Monticello we are picked up by our shuttle vehicle for the return to Moab. TOTAL MILEAGE: 16 miles
Itineraries are subject to change due to weather, road conditions, rider safety and other factors which may affect the logistics of the adventure.
Riding Surface: Dirt roads. Hard packed sediment and clay. Some sandy sections.
Overall Rating: Introductory
Technical Difficulty: Easy to moderate
Physical Difficulty: Moderate, some strenuous climbing
Altitude: 4,000 - 10,000 feet
For travel logistics and a packing list, please download the complete trip itinerary.