Big Chief Loop

Round Trip Distance: 9 miles
Difficulty: Moderate
MTB Skill level:
Elevation: 5841 - 6017 feet
Cellphone: 2-4 bars
Time: 3 hrs. 45 mins.
Trailhead: Dead Horse Point Visitor Center
Fee: $15/vehicle
Attractions: Scenic overlooks

The Big Chief Loop is located in the Dead Horse Point State Park near Moab, Utah. The trail is one of 3 loops, the Intrepid, Great Pyramid and Big Chief, in the Intrepid Trail System that provide hikers and mountain bikers the opportunity to explore the northeast area of the park. A group campsite is located on the Big Chief Loop for parties of 25-30 people.

The Intrepid Trail System begins at the north end of the parking area at the Dead Horse Point Visitor Center.

For the most part the trail is a smooth single track with gentle hills.

The trail splits a short distance from the trailhead where the loop begins.

The of the 3 interconnected trails of the Intrepid Trail System have an overlook that presents a different view into the canyons and distant scenery. Bikers can stow their ride in the rack that is provided at each point and walk the short distances to the overlooks.

There a a couple of rocky places where the trail climbs from one bench area to the next that probably present a little bit of a challenge to mountain bikers.

Around the 2 mile point, depending whether you hiked out to the Colorado River overlook and the Great Pyramid overlook, you will pass the intersection where the Great Pyramid trail splits off to the left to begin looping back to the Visitor Center. Stay to the right to continue along the Big Chief Loop. If a person were to decide they weren't up to the whole 9 mile loop at this point they could bail and take the left fork back.

The trail continues its gradual uphill climb where after a short distance it reaches its highest point and begins descending at the same easy pace.

Just over the 3 mile point there is a pinyon tree that has so much sap beneath it that it looks like a dripping candle. How many years do you suppose it takes to make a wad of pinyon gum as big as a mans hand? We left it where it was so it could continue its amazing growth.

There are plenty of signs along the trail that give you an idea where you are in relation to the overall loop.

The trail begins following above the rim of a different canyon. Through here the trail passes its closest point to the Big Chief rock formation.

After about 5.5 miles the trail makes a hairpin turn and begins heading back on the much shorter side of the loop. The return side is about 2 miles shorter than the outbound side of the loop and it is also much flatter.

This is the view of Big Chief from the overlook with the La Sal mountains in the background.

The return side of the loop looks pretty much like this the entire distance.

There is a restroom with flush toilets and a water spigot at the Group Campground. If a person was staying here they could do just the Big Chief section of the trail and it would only be about a 5.5 mile loop.

Within about a quarter mile of the Visitor Center we jumped over onto the Hiker Only trail so we could get some more looks into the canyon. Clouds were casting shadows on the Great Pyramid near the center of the picture.

Although the Big Chief Loop sees mostly mountain bikers our footprints weren't the only ones on the trail. The trail gives it travelers another perspective on the Moab area but the biggest reason we hiked it is just because it is there. Dead Horse Point State Park has a nice Visitor Center with a gift shop and a little museum. There is also a small sandwich shop where you can buy pop, ice cream and other refreshments. If you would like to see it for yourself then all you have to do is 'Take a hike'.