Portal Overlook

Round Trip Distance: 3.3 miles
Difficulty: Moderate
MTB Skill level:
Elevation: 3937 - 4853 feet
Cellphone: 2-5 bars
Time: 2 hrs.
Trailhead: Jaycee Park Recreation Site
Fee: none
Attractions: Scenic views overlooking Moab

The Portal Overlook trail is located on BLM land near Moab, Utah. The trail ascends Wingate and Kayenta sandstone cliffs, gaining over 900 feet of elevation, to an overlook that provides views of the Moab valley, Arches National Park, the La Sal Mountains and the south portal of the Colorado River. Care must be taken with small children around the sheer cliffs of the overlook.

The Portal Overlook trail begins at the Jaycee Park Recreation site where there are several nice campsites with picnic tables and fire pits. Parking can also be found in a few places along the shoulder of Highway 279.

The sandy bottom trail heads back along the highway for about a half mile.

At the point the trail begins its first section of climbing there is a trail register with a map and short description of the hike. It is interesting to note that the trail sign at the Jaycee Recreation Area gives a one-way distance of 1.5 miles to the overlook and after hiking for about a half mile the sign at the trail register indicates that you have 2 more miles to go. We measured a round trip distance of 3.3 miles so the sign at the trailhead appears to be more accurate.

The trail is primitive in nature but the route is well worn and easy to follow.

After climbing at a moderate slope the trail levels off as it heads away from the river and begins climbing again.

Several switchbacks make the climbing a little easier. There are a few long grades near the end of the trail but the overall distance is still short enough that it never gets too bad.

As you can see, the area around the overlook doesn't have any guard rails. The overlook should be a little over 700 feet above the river. It looks like someone jack-legged a piece of steel into the rock that might be used by rock climbers to repel down the cliff.

Besides the nice views of the valley and the La Sal Mountains you can also see a couple of Arches National Park's many arches.

The Colorado River carves its way through the surrounding redrock cliffs creating yet another scenic canyon. Countless people probably dream of hiking the canyons of the Colorado River. It is pretty much all continuous canyons from here to California with the Grand Canyon being the grand daddy of them all. The Kane Creek road runs along the other side of the river passing the trailhead for the Moab Rim trail.

There are a few places where petroglyphs can be spotted near the registration box and one spot where there is a faded pictograph beneath a ledge that appears to have been a solar calendar site.

The Portal Overlook trail is fairly short but it has enough elevation gain for it to be a respectable hike. It is well suited for anyone camping at the Jaycee Recreation Area and close enough to Moab for people that just want to get a little exercise without spending all day doing it. The views are great and during the hot summer months the towering cliffs provide a nice bit of shade. If you would like to see it for yourself then all you have to do is 'Take a hike'.