Moab and the San Juans

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Day Trippin'' started by Gargantuan, Oct 9, 2017.

  1. Gargantuan

    Gargantuan Been here awhile

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    With almost a week of free time and great weather, I decided to ride out from my home in Colorado Springs to Moab and back, passing through the San Juans each way. I just returned home last night and thought I'd post a quick ride report and post a few photos.

    On the way to the San Juans I rode over Marshall Pass, which is a tame dirt road and an alternative to going over the paved Monarch Pass. A photo from the top:

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    The first day of the trip was mostly paved, with Marshall Pass and Ophir Pass being the exceptions. I had a tough time with Ophir Pass the first time I rode it and wanted to redeem myself a bit. It's also a great way to get from the 550 to the 145. I called around and tried to find out how Ophir Pass was looking, snow-wise (the area has had off and on snow for the past couple weeks) but could not gather any solid intel. Luckily, the road was virtually clear with just a bit of snow at the top. Some views from the pass just during and after sunset:

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    It was my smoothest Ophir Pass run yet (the road is in rough shape and has a few sections of somewhat steep scree) and I made my way up the paved 145 highway just a bit to disperse camp on the road up to Alta Lakes. There are tons of great places to camp for free in the San Juans.

    The next day I rode up 145, to the 141 (great paved road that winds along the river up to Gateway, Colorado) and then took John Brown Canyon up to Gateway Road. I then took part of the Kokopelli Trail from the Polar Mesa down to Onion Creek Road. This stretch of road did not go well for me at all and I dropped the bike numerous times. It was dirt and rocks, but there seemed to be no hardpack and I could get very little in the way of traction. Apparently, some sort of road machinery was just in front of me and was loosening everything up (or so I was told by others on the road). At least the scenery was still great:

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    The road eventually connects with the much more traction-friendly Onion Creek Road, which was an awesome road that passes through the creek countless times. Here is one such creek crossing:

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    I then made my way into Moab and set up my camp for the next couple days. The next morning, I rode out to the White Rim Trail via Potash Road. Potash Road was unlike anything I had ever ridden previously (my off-road experience to that point included dirt, rocks and gravel only). Potash had quite a bit of variety - hardpack dirt, loose rock, solid rock, even a little bit of (not deep at all) sand.

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    What was new to me were sections like that last picture. They weren't especially tough, but at least for me usually required stopping and picking a line beforehand, then gunning it upward - my 1200GSW has lowered suspension and so I have to be careful with ground clearance.

    I rode about a third or so of the White Rim Trail and then came back up to the intersection of the Shafer Switchbacks, Potash Road and the WRT. I rode up the Shafer Switchbacks and then back down. My initial plan was to ride either Long Canyon or Gemini Bridges back to town, but I met a rider at the intersection of the switchbacks, the WRT and Potash Road who had just had a tough time going down the switchbacks and cautioned me going up them. He was to give me 30 minutes before riding Potash by himself back to town. After going up the switchbacks and realizing how much easier they were than the loose sections of Potash, I knew I had to go back down and at least warn the other rider. After much discussion, the other rider was keen on taking Potash Road rather than going back up the switchbacks. I decided to ride back with him as I was relatively certain he would be in over his head. Besides, I ride alone 99% of the time and would not mind the company. Roads are also a difference experience going the opposite way. Unfortunately, the other rider actually ended up fracturing his ankle (unbeknownst to him at the time) on the way back in a fall, but luckily after the loose stuff was already over with. He was able to make his way back to town with his foot in what I imagine was in quite a painful state.

    The next day I decided to ride Chicken Corners. This road was definitely my favorite of the roads I did in Moab. It had even more variety than Potash and was in my opinion a step up in difficulty. There were more sections of line-choosing rock, looser hills to climb up and down and sections of (to me, at least) deep sand. This was my first time riding in sand and though on the way out I dropped it a few times, things went better on the way back. A few photos from the road:

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    That third picture was my favorite stretch of the road. Just before the picture, there was a 4" or so step up that I was happy to clear cleanly. The line I chose for this stretch was to first hug the left through the sand, then turn in and up a little bit. There was then another similar section to negotiate turning upwards the other way, so that the road eventually continued more or less on the top of that picture. Sections like that - that took planning and a bit of finesse - felt like an accomplishment to me. I'll definitely be back in Moab again soon.

    I then made my way back to Colorado Springs but not before hitting some of my favorite roads in the San Juans. The plan was to go up Corkscrew Gulch -> Hurricane Pass -> California Pass -> Animas Forks -> Cinnamon Pass. The weather was very warm and since there was little precipitation since I last passed through a few days prior, I figured I would probably be okay. I was right, at least through Corkscrew and Hurricane:

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    Right past the Hurricane Pass sign, however, the road was very snowy and icy due to the direction the road faces at that point. It looked like this in parts (I walked up it a bit to scope it out):

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    I was told by someone else heading the opposite way on the road that the last switchback up to California was as snowy as the worst of my pictured section, so I decided to play it safe, turn around and head back to Silverton via CR 110.

    I then hit Cinnamon Pass on the way home:

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    And that was the ride!
    #1
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  2. Paul in Colo

    Paul in Colo Adventurer

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    Sounds like a terrific trip! May have passed you along the way. On Friday, I went from Grand Junction to Gateway on 141, then John Brown / 4.4 to Castle Valley (had planned to hit the La Sal loop but found it closed), then into MOAB for the night. Spent Saturday dodging Rain on the way out to Deadhorse Pt.. Had planned Potash Rd, but heavy rain kept me on the hard surface. Then North on 191 towards I-70... hit some BLM dirt roads before heading through Thompson, then the "old I-70" aka Cisco hwy towards Fruita. I plan to return to MOAB again next May / Sept... just too many great places to explore out there
    #2
  3. smalls78

    smalls78 Adventurer

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    Born, raised, and living in the SE, I'm amazed each time I go west into real altitude. Love seeing the pics. I was just in Utah last month, making my way home via Monarch Pass (was on the cruiser this time). To folks who don't live out there or experience altitude, it's a factor and adds to the adventure in these pics you've posted...at least to me. Very cool.
    #3
  4. liv2day

    liv2day Is Anyone Here a Marine Biologist!

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    Incredible pics and scenery! Thank you for taking the time to write this report and post all the images, simply awesome :D

    Living out in the PNW, we have the Cascades, but nothing like the Rockies. Will need to make my way east and explore some year. And I really need to get to Moab.

    Great report and pics, glad your ride was a good one:thumb:thumb
    #4
  5. celltech

    celltech Been here awhile

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    That is some pretty scenery Gargantuan! Thanks for posting up. Great to see a GS tackling terrain like this.
    #5
  6. bad luck

    bad luck Adventurer

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    I liked your pics they turned out really well. But I'm surprised that you found the road to Chicken Corners more difficult than the Potash Road, to me it seems easier, although on my light little bike neither seems too difficult. I'm sure on a big GS it would be much tougher.
    #6
  7. DittyBag

    DittyBag A bag of dirty stuff

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    Excellent job! Thanks for the good intell to add to my bank.
    #7
  8. Oldschoolrocker

    Oldschoolrocker a.k.a. EZE

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    Wonderful post!! Thanks!!!
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  9. BMWs2Dave

    BMWs2Dave Been here awhile

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    Thanks for posting this! Really nice pictures that REALLY make me want to go riding in Colorado next summer.
    #9
  10. TaZ9

    TaZ9 Been here awhile

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    Very nice ride report with great photos. Over the past 11 years, I have been out to Moab many times and still try to get out at least once a year. Despite riding many of the standard trails numerous times, i.e., Potash, White Rim, and Kokopelli, I never tire of the adventure . The place is changing a lot with all the construction, and influx of people, but the scenery is still spectacular!!

    Ride Safe,

    Taz9
    #10
  11. musty40

    musty40 Adventurer

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    Great pics! Love that area.
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  12. HotelYankee

    HotelYankee Adventurer

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    Wife and I flew over that area in early September. Spent the whole time glued to the side window wishing I was riding it instead.great pics! 7644D062-037C-4DC4-A058-E36464C63D30.jpeg
    #12
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  13. enduro16

    enduro16 Been here awhile

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    Great ride report thank you very very much!!
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  14. krautman

    krautman Been here awhile

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    Thank you !!!
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  15. GRinCR

    GRinCR Oppressed Nomad

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    Gotta love adrenaline.

    After reading this I an not sure how any motorbikers in your area can be productive at anything.
    #15
  16. cmfireman

    cmfireman Adventurer

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    Awesome RR! I'm in the infant stages of planning a trip on the TAT from Eastern Colorado to Moab in September, and this gives me some more ideas of what to hit while I'm there. I'll be on a DR650 and am hauling my bike from NC to CO. I don't have the time to waste and I want to get through the flatlands as quickly as possible. I want to hit at least Pikes Peak, Marshall Pass, Cinnamon Pass, Ophir Pass and Moab, as well as maybe visit Arches, Dead Horse, Canyonlands or Grand Starcase Escalante. I've seen Onion Creek mentioned a few times now. Do you have to have a permit to ride White Rim? Being as you're from the area which park would you go to if only one or two? I've only got about 10 days. Every time I see pictures of the San Juans and Moab I get more excited, I've never been west of Nashville TN.
    #16
  17. Gargantuan

    Gargantuan Been here awhile

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    That's awesome and sounds like a great trip! I will try and answer as much as I can - one thing I will say is that I just moved to CO in September and so I haven't lived in the area for long. However, I've gone on a couple long-distance trips where I spent considerable time exploring the state and so I feel equipped to provide at least some advice.

    I think that all of the roads you've listed in CO are absolutely worth it and are great choices. In addition, I highly recommend spending as much time in the Ouray/Telluride/Silverton area as you can. Engineer Pass, Corkscrew Gulch (my personal favorite in the area that I've ridden thus far), Hurricane Pass and California Gulch are all incredible and very worth it. They were all very ridable on my 1200GS. Depending on your skill level, I think that with a 650 you could also ride things like Imogene Pass, Black Bear and Picayune Gulch. I've never ridden any of those and they are certainly a step up in difficulty (especially one section of Black Bear), but I know that people ride them with 650s for sure (some ride them with 1200s as well).

    I've explored Utah as well, but not as much and mostly on pavement. I've ridden Onion Creek though and it was a ton of fun - Chicken Corners in the area was also a blast as was Potash Road and the Shafer Switchbacks. You do need a permit for the White Rim, but it is free and you can grab one I believe 48 hours in advance. I had one when I rode some of it but it was never checked, FWIW. The Grand Staircase is also amazing and is paved - the only dirt I've done in that vicinity is the Burr Trail (mostly paved but some dirt sections) but there might be more.

    I hope this helps a bit! Feel free to reply back with anything that comes to mind.

    Thanks so much for all of the replies everyone, by the way!
    #17
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  18. TwoTiredRiders

    TwoTiredRiders Been here awhile

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    Great Ride Report Gargantuan. Thanks for taking the time to share the pics, general directions, and degree of difficulty....
    Look forward to your next one but I guess that will be a little while now.
    #18
  19. advrockrider

    advrockrider Been here awhile

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    Well done....
    #19
  20. proslider777

    proslider777 n00b

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    Thanks for a great report with most excellent pictures. Really enjoyed your decisions commentary and wise choices.
    #20