Some helpful info to help you plan your shoulder season visit to one of the most unique places in the country!
Download the GPX file at the end of the article. GAIA GPS is my recommended dual sport navigation and planning app. I've been using it for many years now.
Known widely as a mecca for 4x4s, this red-rock saturated landscape is also an amazing destination for the dual sport enthusiast. Read along as we outline some of our favorite dual sport destinations, rides, and more in this unique corner of the world for a four day adventure.
Moab’s weather can be vastly different depending on what month you arrive, so plan ahead. Temperatures in the summer can make it almost impossible to ride difficult trails during the day, and winter can bring snowstorms that trap multiple 4x4s in canyons in just the first day.
This place is like an amusement park for offroad riding, but the terrain also carries some very high risks at times...even if the road is perfectly smooth. Riding on the edge of one of the rims will quickly remind you how human you are, and help you sharply focus on “look before you leap” all day long. On a lighter note, the traction is almost too good, as it rips the treads right off of your tires from lifting your front wheel all day long.
One of the most appealing features of the state of Utah is its endless amount of public lands and outright space, but this also makes each supply stop far and few between if you are passing through.
Depending on your definition of “camping”, or even just changing needs for specific amenities, there is definitely a camping spot for you in the Moab region any day of the week.
Camping is plentiful in the area, easy to find, and large enough to space yourself out from other campers. You can find it in almost every corner of the Moab area, even miles and miles from town. Many of these sites are free to use thanks to our public lands, but sometimes require a pass or fee.
Check the GPX file for the camping areas Willow Springs Entrance, as well as Sand Flats Recreation Area, to get you started.
Full/partial service RV parks are common, but are difficult to find or non-existent outside of the city limits of Moab. So, if you require electricity, water, and/or sewer at all times, you’ll be starting your bike for the day somewhere near downtown.
Dispersed camping in this area expands even farther than the campsites mentioned before. Look at the Public Lands map layer on Gaia GPS, and you’ll see how much BLM land spreads across the entire Moab area, let alone the whole state of Utah. Check with local regulations first, but these areas are great for getting way out into the middle of nowhere to camp in peace. Be prepared with fuel, water, a plan, and a good navigation resource before wandering out...sand, surprise rocks, and more can change your schedule quickly, and Utah has some very expansive sections of absolutely nothing but rocks and a very faint two track.
The major fuel stops in town are the Maverick gas stations, offering almost everything you’d expect at a large franchise convenience store, including ethanol free gas.
Just outside of Willow Springs, our favorite free campsite, is the Archview gas station, giving more access to the northern side of Moab, without the need to run into Moab proper to re-fuel every day.
South of Moab (quite a ways), there is another fuel stop, in a convenient location for exploring the La Sal Mountains and the RimRocker Trail (found in the GPX file) or general “South of Moab” area.
Not an entirely exciting topic, and Moab reflects that. There is a City Market, a franchise grocery store. For an alternative option, check out MoonFlower Community Cooperative for a more healthy approach.
Being a highly popular tourist destination, this town has some great eateries. For a nice evening of a steak and cocktails, go to Zac’s. Following, head over to The Spoke for a milkshake. For a wilder night, walk into Woody’s Tavern, grab a pitcher, and sign up for karaoke. Moab also features a small handful of fast food restaurants, as well as small coffee shops and places to grab sandwiches during a re-fuel of your bike.
Zac’s, The Spoke, and Woody’s Tavern can all be found in the GPX file.
Day 1: Sand Flats Recreation Area
As you drive up into the area, about 3 minutes from Moab, there is an overwhelming view of petrified sand dunes in every direction. These rolling hills are what people travel hours and hours to ride, and after rolling around on slickrock, I understand why. Don’t worry about supplying yourself before heading up into this area for the night, you can ride your dual sport back into town to grab beer in a matter of minutes.
If you are up for it and have the daylight, you can complete all of the trails in the SFRA in one day.
If you want to stay in the SFRA, you’ll have to pay a camping fee. In our opinion, it’s worth it to be within minutes of the trails this area has to offer, and there’s plenty to ride to justify an overnight (or multiple!). Think of it as a premium OHV park. Campgrounds are spread out, and categorized by letter. Our favorite site was G6, featuring a large canyon for your fire pit and picnic table, which we found by checking out the campground features using various layers on Gaia GPS.
Slickrock Bike Trail
With a long heritage in this area, this trail is the most unique feature I have EVER ridden on. As you begin your ride, you’ll notice that you’ll ride along what seems to be just one gigantic rock, rolling up and down as you follow the painted dashes. This trail brings you down close to a massive canyon below, and sunsets up here are an amazing sight.
One of the most popular routes in this area, Hell’s Revenge takes you on a wild ride over massive “fins”, which are tall spines of petrified sand dunes, sometimes multiple stories tall. You’ll also ride alongside dinosaur tracks, which have an unfortunate history of being stolen. Right out of the parking lot, you ascend straight up and over “Lion’s Rock”, a small example of the fins you’ll be going over just minutes down the trail after thundering through a small canyon. The big highlight of this route is stopping to view the overlook of “The Abyss”, the perfect spot to line your bikes up for a postcard-worthy photo.
Porcupine Rim Trail
If not for the ride, this trail is worth it just for the view of Castle Valley from above. It’s long, and spans the entire length of the SFRA area, starting from the very back and dropping you off at the front again.
Day 2: Canyonlands National Park
Deftly named, this park has some of the most beautiful canyon views you’ll ever see, especially up close and personal on a dual sport.
If you pull up your Public Lands layer on the Gaia GPS app, you’ll see that just north of the park is a very large area of BLM land. Drive or ride through this area on almost any road, and you’ll see designated campsites marked with the classic brown/white tent logo. Some of these are a bit of a stretch to get to, but are positioned just under massive red rock structures.
White Rim Road
A true full day adventure if you want it to be (or if you get a flat), this old road starts out with a steep zig-zag down the face of a cliff, and drops you into the depths of Canyonland. Anyone afraid of heights might want to close their eyes on the ride down, but once at the bottom, they’ll be rewarded with an incredible view upon reopening them.
White Sands Open Riding Area
True open riding, this sandy section can be seen on the map very clearly bordered where you can overland. If you already camped in the BLM area mentioned above, it’s a short ride, and you’ll pass through Rainbow Terrace along the way.
If you’ve found that riding directly on the red slickrock, hopping up and down ledges, head to the Rainbow Terrace, named after it’s staircase-like ride alongside red cliffs hundreds of feet high.
Day 3: Arches National Park
If you have a comfortable pair of riding boots, take a day of easy riding and short walks to see some of this area’s flagship feature: arches.
The road through Willow Springs dispersed campground continues right into Arches, so camping in this area for free pairs well with a day in this park. You’ll find a handful of vault toilets, but there is no water available. There is very limited cell phone signal (which might be a bonus to you if you are trying to escape the black mirror in your pocket).
These things are plentiful, even outside of the park. As you travel through the outskirts of Moab, you’ll just find them in all sorts of corners. However, these ones are special and all in one place (almost). Delicate Arch is highly recommended, not just for it’s prominence, but the petroglyphs that can be seen on the way up. Wear riding boots you don’t mind hiking in, as you’ll need to hop off of the bike and walk to enjoy them up close.
Day 4: Moab Backyard
Want to get on some red rock just minutes after fueling up in town? Moab has plenty of worthy trails that can literally be seen from town.
Staying in town, even for those who prefer to boondock, is worth doing for at least one night during your visit. Not only does this put you within walking (or jeans-and-a-helmet riding) distance of the downtown amenities, you still have some slickrock action just a few minutes away. Slickrock Campground is just north of town, and is in a good position to access the town of Moab and the majority of the riding found in this article.
Poison Spider Mesa
Through “The Portal”, you’ll find a large grouping of offroad trails that take you up to the top of the Moab Rim. A local favorite, the Poison Spider Mesa, takes you up to a viewpoint to look down on the city of Moab just below your feet. This is a much more difficult trail, so know your limits.
More of a couple hour loop at most, this very easy and scenic route is perfect for a sunset ride after dinner. You’ll pass through the same Portal as mentioned above, but on the other side of the Colorado River, giving you an opportunity to see the other half of the rim.
Day 5: Rimrocker Trail
Not ready to leave Moab? Feeling adventurous? How about riding from Moab to Montrose, CO and back in a day?
This very established trail has more trail markers leading the way than ANY other place I have ever seen. This route can be found on the supplied GPX file, but if you keep your head up, you’ll be guided by brown posts with the “RR” logo and an arrow lighting the way.
Enjoy your dual sport adventure in Moab! Make sure to throw an oversized fuel tank on your bike prior to arriving to fully enjoy it...you won’t want to stop riding!
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GPX FILE HERE!
About the writer:
Jesse Felker is a freelance media professional based out of the Western half of the USA, living full time in a 1983 Chevy van.