Trail of the Ancients Family Trip
The Trail of the Ancients guided mountain bike trip 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 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 2 1/2 hours to our starting point near Natural Bridges National Monument. We start gently with a paved loop road that provides access to three large natural bridges which have formed in the Cedar Mesa Sandstone. The bridges can be viewed by walking a short distance to an overlook, or we can hike a little farther to actually sit underneath one of these wonders. Archeological sites can also be viewed from overlooks along the rim. After a nice lunch at the picnic grounds we finish the eight mile loop and head up to camp on Maverick Point. Parents can ride the 1,200 foot climb to camp or opt to shuttle up with the kids. Our camp for the night is up in the cool Ponderosa Pines and we will have an amazing view of the sunset. TOTAL MILEAGE: 8 - 15 miles riding, 2 mike hiking
Our ride this morning begins with a gradual 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 tabletop 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. A picnic lunch at Arch Canyon Overlook offers excellent views of this archaeologically rich canyon and the Grand Gulch Primitive Area. Easy cruising on smooth dirt roads makes up the afternoon and takes us to our camp for the next two nights at Hammond Canyon Overlook. Numerous side roads offer intriguing possibilities and fun riding for the extra energetic. TOTAL MILEAGE: 12 miles riding
Today, we will ride down to one of the most fascinating Anasazi Indian ruins in southern Utah. The journey takes the better part of the day, so we will pack a picnic lunch to bring along. We’ll cross the plateau on dirt roads through an area that burned in 2002, an interesting opportunity to observe natural revegetation. Once the road gets too steep, we’ll leave the bikes and start our hike. The hike down the road gives us a chance to take in the view all the way to New Mexico and to see the canyon we are destined for. A primitive trail takes us to the ruins, precariously placed on a ledge 200 feet up the cliff wall. We’ll enjoy our packed lunch before we start back. After our visit to these impressive dwellings we will hike back up the hill and rejoin our bikes for the ride back to camp. A shuttle ride back to camp is an option for the little ones, or tired big ones. Once back at camp, there are more riding and hiking options for those who wish. TOTAL MILEAGE: 10 miles riding, 5 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 signify 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 riding
Our last morning begins with a gentle climb up along Horse Mountain before we start our long downhill ride towards Salt Creek Mesa. We will descend over 3,000 feet from our alpine environment down into the desert landscape with incredible views around every corner. Some rolling climbs will bring us to our lunch spot near Cathedral Butte, with far reaching views into Canyonlands National Park. After lunch there is the option to ride a bit more before loading up to shuttle back to Moab. A quick stop at Newspaper Rock shows us one of the more famous rock art panels in the Southwest. TOTAL MILEAGE: 15 - 30 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
Physical Difficulty: Moderate, optional strenuous climbing for the adults.
Altitude: 4,000 - 10,000 feet
For travel logistics and a packing list, please download the complete trip itinerary.