Round Trip Distance: 6.9 miles
Elevation: 4372 - 5300 feet
Elevation gain: 1,659 feet
Cellphone: 0-3 bars
Time: 3 hrs.
Trailhead: Sylvester/Professor Creek
Attractions: Scenic geology
The Sylvester trail is located in the Professor Valley off of Utah Highway 128 northeast of Moab, Utah. The trail begins at the end of a ranch road where it follows an ancient looking route along a wash that eventually climbs to a ridge and comes to an end at a junction with an unmarked trail. Iconic views of the Castle Rock and the Priest and Nuns geological landmarks are present along the course of the trail. The trail starts out as an easy stroll but becomes much more adventuresome as it skirts multiple steep washes on the slopes below Castle Rock. The trail itself never becomes too steep but the sloping hillside does and on a few short sections where the trail is weathering away the exposure is a little more noticeable.
To get to the trailhead measure 18.4 miles from the intersection of US 191 and UT 128 on the north end of Moab. The turnoff is marked by a sign which reads 'Ranch Road Dead End'. Follow the dirt road for 2.2 miles where it ends at the trailhead. If you are coming from the I-70 direction and approaching the turnoff from the north it should be around 25 miles from Exit 204 on Interstate 70. The dirt road should be passable by passenger cars under dry conditions.
Sylvester is the marked trail that departs from the west side of the parking area. This is the same trailhead where the unmarked Professor Creek trail begins to the east, opposite of the Sylvester trail.
The trail heads west from the parking area toward the Priest and Nuns formation and its first encounter with the wash.
The trail crosses the wash multiple times as it progresses. One could simply stay in the wash but as the wash meanders and the trail takes the more direct approach, the actual trail is much shorter. There are more pretty rock specimens in the wash though so there are always trade offs.
For most of the wash crossings the trail on the other side is straight ahead and easy to find.
The last encounter with the wash is just past the 3/4 mile point and at this spot the trail can be a little harder to find. If you aim pretty much for the butte you should be able to pick it up again. The trail is very old and well packed. The surrounding vegetation, which is very sparse, seems to leave the trail alone so there is virtually no overgrowth.
Just past the 1 mile point the trail climbs a little hill and begins traversing around the lower flanks of the mountain traveling in, out and around each of the drainages as it continues south.
Several of the drainages have sides that are a little steeper and slightly more difficult to climb in and out of.
As the trail passes below Castle Rock and the Priest and Nuns near the 2.1 mile point it passes through a fence line.
The washes below the trail begin getting deeper and turning more and more into scenic canyons and gorges.
At this point of the trail the Priest and Nuns are passing out of view behind the butte but Castle Rock is reaching for the heavens in plain sight as it pierces the skyline above the ridge. That is the moon waning gibbous just above the ridge and to the right of Castle Rock.
The turnaround point is where the Sylvester trail meets another trail that is unmarked on the ridge below Castle Peak. A future exploration will have to be undertaken to learn about the unmarked trail.
The reason we are thinking the trail has been around since ancient times is that a few very faint petroglyphs can be spotted on several of the boulders. One of the rocks at the trailhead even has a faint petroglyph on it.
Looking at the trails profile you can see some of its ups and downs that give it an overall elevation gain of 1,659 feet.
Professor Creek flows through is named 'Mary Jane Canyon'. Down near the Hittle Bottom campground and boat launch is the Richardson Amphitheatre trail so you can see that their names have been well preserved throughout the area. As far as the Sylvester trail goes, if you would like to see it for yourself then all you have to do is 'Take a hike'.