Round Trip Distance: 8.6 miles
MTB Skill level:
4x4 Rating: 4+
Elevation: 3962 - 4802 feet
Cellphone: 0-3 bars
Time: 2 hrs. (one-way)
Trailhead: Amasa Back
Attractions: Scenic landscape/petroglyphs/dinosaur tracks
The Amasa Back/Cliffhanger Road is located in the Amasa Back Trails area near Moab, Utah. The trail is very popular with hikers, mountain bikers and OHV users. The road gets a 4+ rating on the Red Rock 4-Wheelers scale of 1-5 and it is rated technically difficult for mountain bikers. Motorized vehicles must turn around at the end of road and return by the same route. Hikers and mountain bikers have the option of continuing on the Pothole Arch singletrack trail or even looping back to the trailhead via the Rockstacker and Jackson trails.
The Amasa Back trailhead is about 5.3 miles from Moab measuring from the intersection of Highway 191 and Kane Creek Blvd. Turn onto Kane Creek Blvd. at the McDonald's Restaurant and follow it as it parallels the Colorado River for about 4.6 miles before turning up Kane Creek. The Jackson Hole trailhead is at the 4.6 mile point and the Amasa Back trailhead is near the 5.3 mile point. From the Amasa Back trailhead it is a little more than a half mile to the beginning of the Amasa Back trail.
As the trail departs from Kane Creek Road there is a Cliffhanger sign with a little information about the trail. You can get a good feel for what the road is like right off the bat as it begins dropping off the hill toward the creek. The thing to remember for motorized vehicles is that for them the route is an out-and-back so anything that you go down you have to be able to get back up.
If you have any interest in petroglyphs they can be found in several places along the trail. The first panel can be seen on the high wall to the north across the creek. A pair of binoculars would come in handy to get a better look at them.
At the bottom of the first hill the road crosses the creek which has a smooth rocky bottom.
The course is set after climbing out of the creek. The route alternates between uneven slickrock benches and dirt track.
The HyMasa singletrack trail cross the road 3 or 4 times in the first couple of miles.
At the 2 mile point a singletrack departs on the left that heads over to the midpoint of the HyMasa and Captain Ahab trails.
Around the 2.6 mile point the downhill only Captain Ahab trail begins on the left and a short distance later a jeep road departs of the right. That road is a dead end spur that ends at a cliff that looks out over the Colorado River.
The Cliffhanger name becomes evident after the 3 mile point where the road begins following a bench shelf above a valley known as Jackson Hole.
Try not to let the views distract you from hanging onto the cliff.
This is a look back at what we imagine to be the toughest, and probably the most dangerous, spot along the cliff edge.
Jackson Hole is followed by a nice and easy stretch of dirt track. At the 3.8 mile point the Jackson trail begins on the right. The Jackson trail starts out as a double track but after crossing the hill it changes to a singletrack that is open only to hiking and mountain bikes.
Around the 4 mile point of the road we began spotting some alligator and dinosaur tracks that are right in the middle of the road. You can even see some black tire marks on the sandstone around this track. Between here and the end of the road there are more tracks that were made by a variety of different dinosaurs.
The road comes to a small crest where a singletrack marked by blue paint stripes branches off on the left. The Amasa Back road makes a right turn at this point and continues along mostly slickrock to where the Pothole Arch trail begins.
Right before reaching the end of the trail there are some more dinosaur tracks that are worth noticing.
We are ending the Amasa Back road for this post where the Pothole Arch trail begins. The road can be followed to the left for another quarter mile or so where it reconnects with the Pothole Arch trail and comes to its official end. Our plan was to do the Pothole Arch trail next and then loop back to the trailhead via the Rockstacker and Jackson trails for an epic 13+ mile adventure where you can bag all 4 trails in one trip. As far as the Amasa Back/Cliffhanger Road goes, if you would like to see it for yourself then all you have to do is grab your favorite off road toy or 'Take a hike'.