Athena Loop

Round Trip Distance: 5.5 miles
Difficulty: Moderate
MTB Skill level:
Elevation: 4160 - 4300 feet
Cellphone: 3-5 bars
Time: 2 hrs. 30 mins. (hiking)
Trailhead: Athena
Fee: none
Attractions: scenic badlands

The Athena Loop is located at the old White Sands Missile Range on the west side of Interstate 70 near Green River, Utah. The trail, which gets its name from one of the Cold War Era missiles that was launched from the Green River Site, was designed with mountain bikers in mind but gets a lot of use from hikers and horseback riders.

To get there take exit 164 off of Interstate 70 but instead of turning north into Green River go the opposite direction to the south side of the interstate where there is a 'T' intersection. Go right at this intersection on what some maps label as the New Area 51 Road. In less than a half mile watch for another Athena trail sign where you will turn to the left.

As you drive the last 4 tenths of a mile to the trailhead you will pass by a row of concrete slabs that were used as missile launch pads. Now days people can sometimes be seen camping around them. The way that we understand it the missiles that were launched from here were targeted for the White Sands Missile Range near Alamogordo, New Mexico.

The Athena trail begins a loop just a few yards from the parking area. For this post we followed the loop in the counterclockwise direction.

Going in this direction the trail takes a route along the side of the hill until it crosses a small ridge into another valley and continues in similar fashion until it begins a gradual climb to higher ground.

As the trail climbs up to the mesa it gets close enough to the rim for a nice view of the Green River. There are some nice places to hike and bike on the west side of the river but most of the trails over there are multi-use and don't have official names or get a lot of press.

The Athena trail leaves the high ground and begins working its way down and around a few side canyons and drainages.

For mountain bikers most of the trail stays in the intermediate skills level range.

There are 2 or 3 features that require a little more advanced set of skills like this rocky decent. The rough spot only lasts 10-20 feet before smoothing out.

At the 2.9 mile point the trail turns sharply and begins heading back toward the trailhead. It climbs an area of slickrock at first before taking off along a fun route that is mostly dirt track.

Those that like the colorful mudstone layers of the badlands will get their eyes full on the return trip.

On the day that we took the photos for this post there were more boot tracks from hikers than there were tire tracks from mountain bikers. There were also some fresh horse apples and tracks all along the trail. We didn't see anyone while we were on the trail but there was one other vehicle by the time we got back to the trailhead. Anyone looking for an enjoyable badlands style trail away from the crowds will find the Athena Loop a great option that is very easy to get to. If you would like to see it for yourself then all you have to do is grab your bike or 'Take a hike'.