Moab Rim

Rating: 
Round Trip Distance: 6-10 miles
Difficulty: Strenuous
Elevation: 3973 - 5032 feet
Elevation gain: 940 - 1,991 feet
Cellphone: 0-4 bars
Time: 4 hrs. 15 mins.
Trailhead: Moab Rim
Fee: none
Attractions: Scenic views, arches, dinosaur tracks




Moab Rim is a multi use trail near Moab, Utah that is very popular with hikers, mountain bikers and especially 4-wheel drive enthusiasts. The trail begins along the Colorado River off of the Kane Creek Road where it climbs up inclined slickrock ledges that were uplifted by the Moab Fault. The brutal climb of the first mile gives way to a short trip along the rim after which the trail turns southwest and heads into the Behind the Rocks Wilderness Study Area. Near the end it is connected to by the Hidden Valley hiking trail. An alternate route for the return trip leads down Sand Hill where the trail follows a wash that alternates between loose sand and slickrock, passing Butler Arch shortly before rejoining the main route.


To get to the trailhead follow Kane Creek Boulevard west for 2.7 miles from its intersection with Highway 191. This is the corner along the south end of Moab's main drag where there are currently a Burger King and McDonalds on either corner.


With a 20% grade the first mile of the trail wastes little time gaining elevation. For hikers and mountain bikers this is a real grunt. Hikers actually have their choice for an alternate route to get up the first mile by taking the Stairmaster trail which runs in parallel to the lower portion of the Moab Rim.


This is the profile of the Moab Rim trail from the trailhead to the end of the trail and back. It gives an idea of how much climbing is done over the first mile and how much more climbing there is over the rest of the trail. The angle of ascent, or grade, is exaggerated somewhat in the profile map but it is still worth pondering.


The Moab Rim trail is not recommended for stock vehicles. Minimally they will need a lift and a set of 34" tires to conquer the numerous ledges. That said, we watched a couple of old short wheelbase jeeps making a go of it even though they were dragging bottom on all the ledges.


The trail levels off around the 1 mile point where the Stairmaster trail joins in on the right. After a short distance a kiosk for the Behind the Rocks Wilderness Study Area comes up with a sign asking everyone to stop and read the WSA Rules and Regulations. Basically they say for mountain bikers and motorized vehicles to stay on designated routes and for hikers to tread lightly.


Some of the biggest challenges for 4x4s are not on the initial climb to the rim but as the road snakes around through the wilderness area. A few of the hardest spots have permissible alternate routes but those with a vehicle that can handle them and the skills to match will choose to put their metal and wits to the test.


Near the 1.9 mile point the route splits. For vehicles the left branch, which travels through a sandy wash, is the favorable return route. Hikers that are looking to cut off a little distance will find the left branch is shorter and has a few less hills to climb.


The highest point of the Moab Rim trail is at the top of a big sandstone dome. It has a good challenge at the top of it with a steep pitch that offers a good chance to roll you over backwards. There is an alternate route around it on the left side but then you can't play King of the Hill.


From the high point there is a great view of the end of the trail and the options that lie ahead as far as going up to the overlook or cutting things short by dropping down Sand Hill where you can pick up the return route. There is another fork just this side of the where the Overlook trail branches off that also connects to the return route through the sandy wash. It isn't marked in this photo because you can't really make it out but it is on the map and the accompanying GPX file.


The Hidden Valley trail connects on the right at the 4 mile point within a few hundred yards of the end of the Moab Rim trail.


For this post we skipped the branch to the overlook and turned around at the trails end.


There are about 4 different types of dinosaur tracks spread out over the last quarter mile of the trail. One large theropod track, not shown in this photo, was about twice as large as my size 12 boot. It was a solitary track with that of a single sauropod track nearby.


This is a glance down Sand Hill taken on the return trip.


Not too far from where the return route through the sandy wash rejoins the main route you can catch a glimpse of Butler Arch. The arch can also be seen from the intersection of the two routes if you look towards the cliffs to the south. It is easy enough to hike up the sloping slickrock from the wash to the arch if you want to get a better look at it.


We took the pictures for this post on one of the days of the 50th Annual Easter Jeep Safari. It makes for a fun day watching all the jeeps, both old and new, churning their way over the course. We also saw about a half dozen side-by-sides that were all traveling together with one of the guided groups.


Even though the Jeep Safari was going on that wasn't keeping the hikers and trail runners away from the Moab Rim. Everyone was sharing the trail and having fun watching the others. The slideshow at the end of this post is pretty long because we included 4 or 5 short video bursts of a few of the jeeps. It is a YouTube video so you can always fast forward or skip ahead. We tried to include enough pictures for everyone to get a good idea what the trail is like whether you are hiking, biking, or jeeping. If you would like to see it for yourself then all you have to do is grab your bike or your favorite OHV toy or 'Take a hike'.