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About

From deep red rock and canyons carved by time to soaring mountains ranges and remnants of the past, the Red Rocks to Mountain Tops adventure ride pays homage to the rich culture, mining history, and sweeping frontier that shaped the Wild West.

This adventure route has been years in the making and showcases some of the most spectacular views the West has to offer. Winding with the Colorado River, summiting 13,000’ mountain passes, and traveling by abandoned mines, powerful waterfalls, and varied historical landmarks, the trail is guaranteed to take your breath away.

Download GPS Files

The entire ride has been documented in a video series and companion blog post to help you more easily plan your own adventure. Use the GPS files above to follow our same route, and check out the drop-down boxes for each day to read about other activities you could plan along the way. With this article as a resource, you can begin to prepare for your next adventure.

Looking at the Views, Reflecting on the Ride

Preparation

In our experience, planning the adventure ride is part of the fun. Charting routes, choosing campsites, and prepping bikes are all important parts of the process. For any ride, you need to make sure you have the right gear, supplies, tools, and a plan in case of an emergency. Check out the helpful resources below to get started.

For this adventure ride loop specifically, there are a few special considerations that need to be made. Moab Utah, the gateway to adventure, is the start and finish of the ride. Beginning at 4,000’ elevation and hitting 13,000-14,000’ along the way, this specific ride requires extensive planning. To avoid snow, closed mountain passes, and the intense heat of the desert, timing is everything. Plus, if you play your cards right, you may be able to hit the Flying Monkey ADV Rally on your way to Moab. The annual event always brings a great group of skilled, laid-back, and knowledgeable riders together.

Flying Monkey ADV Rally

Part of our planning for this ride included staging house rentals along the route. We’ve found that having a secured area, especially with a garage, makes it possible to load the bikes the night before and lock them safely in. It’ll have you all rolling out quickly and smoothly in the morning and give you some extra time to fuel up and grab any necessary supplies from town before starting the ride. That said, this loop takes you through several towns and areas where motels and camping sites are widely available.

A House Rental Along the Way

Red Rocks to Mountain Tops is a fitting name for this ride. As such, the terrain is varied – paved and easy-going in some spots, rough and technical in others. It’s important to be confident in yourself and how your bike handles. Some of that can only come with practice and experience, but a sturdy skid plate, reliable tires, and effective ADV luggage can certainly help.

A Fully Loaded Bike Ready for Adventure

This ride isn’t through territory as remote as some of our other adventure rides like the Battle Born North and Battle Born South route, but that doesn’t mean extra food, water, and fuel isn’t useful to have – you never know when a storm, closed pass, or long detours can complicate your trip. Installing a larger fuel tank, having the right tools, and packing just a few more snacks can help in a pinch.

The 4-day ride is packed-full of sweeping views, breathtaking scenery, and memorable scenes from the historic Wild West. As you follow our course through the red rocks and mountain tops or use it as inspiration for your own route, you’ll leave with stories to tell and memories that will last a lifetime.

Shooting Up Imogene Pass


Sections

Day 1: Moab to Ouray

Section Mileage Elevation Range
Approx. 200 Miles 4,026 ft – 7,792 ft

GPS File Name: Moab to Gateway

GPS File Name: Gateway to Telluride

GPS File Name: Telluride to Ouray

Moab
Next Gas Stop: 55 Miles to Gateway

The first section of the ride is Moab, Utah to Gateway, Colorado. After filling up your gas tank and grabbing any last-minute snacks and drinks, head north out of Moab, following the Colorado River up to Castle Valley. As you ascend the La Sal Mountains, the red rock will quickly give way to bright greenery.

Going down the other side of the La Sal Mountains, you’ll lose elevation quickly until you drop into Gateway, Colorado. Cross the Delores River, and stop to fuel up. The next segment of the ride is Gateway to Telluride,130 miles for your bike. Moab to Telluride is 185 miles, but if 185 miles is a little too close for comfort, we recommend topping off in Gateway. You’ll be getting back on the dirt after this stop, so make sure you have something for lunch on the trail.

Two Bikes on the Way to Gateway

Gateway
Next Gas Stop: 146 Miles to Ouray

We call this section of the trail “Ridge Road.” The climb is quick and the view is breathtaking, but the landscape is recovering from a devastating forest fire. All the way up and past the mesa, it’s clear that the land has been charred. In fact, just last year we rode this same pass where firefighters were monitoring an active fire. The flames were towering over the road, but they waved us past the area they were backburning.

A Recovering Forest Along Ridge Road

Continuing on Ridge Road, the dirt quickly opens up and allows you to pick up speed. At this point, the San Juan Mountain Range within the Uncompahgre National Forest starts to come into view, offering a stunning look at one of our favorite areas in Colorado.

Just a little farther down the road and you’ll hit pavement above the city of Ridgeway. If you want to call it a day at this point, it’s a short 15-minute ride down the pavement to Ridgeway and over to Ouray, the ultimate destination for the night. If you’re like us and like to pack as much scenery and riding into your day as possible, continue towards Telluride and head towards Ouray via Imogene Pass. You’ll be running a little low on gas at this point, so be sure to get a little to get you to Ouray. You don’t need a full tank by any means – on the contrary, you may be happier with a little less weight on the upcoming route – but enough to get you up and over the pass without worry is recommended.

The View and the Sun on the Way to Imogene Pass

The scenic way to Ouary takes you off the pavement and puts you back into the dirt. You’ll need to carefully balance taking in the view around you and paying attention to the trail in front of you as it gets fairly technical. An old mining trail from the 1800s, the road takes you past a few interesting stops, one of which is the Old Tomboy Mine Site. At the edge of a hanging valley above Telluride, the site is an old gold mine that’s fun to explore, barring the occasional run-in with a nail – watch out for those if you stop in this area.

A Flat Tire on the Way Up Imogene Pass

Pushing up the pass, the road gets steeper and requires even more attention. If you didn’t encounter any flats or broken levers on the way up like we did, there should still be daylight by the time you reach the 13,000’ summit. Bring a sticker with you to stick on the mailbox at the summit.

The descent, especially in the dark, is tricky and an excellent exercise in brake control. But the view is unmatched and well worth the trip. The falls at Yellow Rose Mine are definitely worth checking out!

Multiple Bikes Climbing Up Imogene Pass

From there, it’s a quick, albeit technical, ride down into the little town of Ouray. There are plenty of spots to grab a well-deserved dinner after a long day of riding, along with several motels, cabins, and camping sites. The next day starts and finishes in Ouray, so it’s worth picking lodging that you’ll be happy with for two nights. We opted for a cabin where we could leave some our camping gear and clothes while we rode.

For even more things to enjoy along the route and in Ouray, check out some of the recommendations and fun facts by clicking on the drop-downs below.

Museum of Moab

In the heart of Moab lies a small, albeit thoughtfully curated, museum dedicated to the natural life and human history of southeastern Utah and its corner of the Colorado Plateau. As of Fall 2019, the museum is completely redesigned with a new hallmark exhibit focused on the relationship between local human presence and geological time. It’s a unique interpretation of humans’ connection to nature, and a must-see for locals and visitors alike.

Moab Rock Shop

The Moab Rock Shop is more of an experience than anything else. Described as a “hole-in-the-wall treasure,” “a free museum,” and “a Moab must,” the rock shop promises to provide an enjoyable visit, if nothing else. But with such an extensive collection of local rocks, gems, fossils, jewelry, and souvenirs, you may end up leaving with less time and more product than you bargained for. No one would blame you, either – the shop promises inexpensive, one-of-a-kind rarities that can commemorate your trip through the Utah desert like nothing else.

The Moab Rock Shop Sign
Rock Shop by Quinn Dombrowski (CC BY-SA 2.0)

The Colorado River

Winding over the central Rocky Mountains of Colorado and flowing through seven U.S. states and part of Mexico, the Colorado River is roaring, rushing, and powerful. Over the last 8,000 years that the Colorado River basin has been inhabited, the water has been the defining feature of the landscape. It’s carved canyons, sustained more than 30 unique fish species, and now it serves as a source of water for over 40 million people. No matter what side you’re on or what state its running through, the Colorado River is a testament to the power of nature and how much we really rely on it.

The Colorado River at Moab, Utah
Colorado by Bernd Thaller (CC BY 2.0)

Arches National Park

Moab is the gateway to Arches National Park, the highest density of natural arches in the world. The vast plane of sandstone arches formed over millions of years, growing from the evaporative layer or salt bed that the park lays above. Over 2,000 natural arches can be found in the park, along with a variety of other formations. Popular stops like Corona Arch, Park Avenue, and Morning Glory are all fairly close to downtown Moab, but the most notable formations like Double Arch, Delicate Arch, and Inside Fiery Furnace are more of a trek. But, with over 2,000 natural arches in the park, along with a variety of other formations, a stop like this can take up as much time as you need it to. The further you venture out, the more you may understand the Desert Solitaire, Edward Abbey, “Wilderness is not a luxury but a necessity of the human spirit…”

Arches National Park at Moab, Utah
Arches National Park, Utah, USA by Edwin Poon (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Gateway, Co. Automobile Museum

The famed Gateway Canyons Resort & Spa has been the passion project of Discovery Channel founder John Hendricks since the mid 90s and has since grown to include the Auto Museum. Hendrik’s own collection of rare, expensive, and pristine cars is continually on display, and the museum is designed to tell the story of how the automobile has impacted society. This vast array of influential cars provides a visual, educational, interactive, and enjoyable experience for history and car buffs alike.

Gateway Auto Museum in Gateway, Colorado
buick by Argyleist (CC BY 2.0)

Ouray Overlook

One stop at the Ouray Overlook is enough to understand why the city of Ouray is nicknamed the Switzerland of America. Just over a mile outside of Ouray, the lookout showcases the city encircled by soaring 13,000 ft peaks. It’s a great stop for a photo-op or to just appreciate one of the best views in Colorado.

Ouary Colorado in Colorado
Ouray by Woody Hibbard (CC BY 2.0)

Day 2: Ouray

Section Mileage Elevation Range
Approx. 130 Miles 7,792 ft – 12,800 ft

GPS File Name: Ouray to Engineer Pass

GPS File Name: Engineer Pass to Lake City

GPS File Name: Lake City to Stoney Pass Road

GPS File Name: Stoney Pass Road to Animus Forks

GPS File Name: Animus Forks to Corkscrew

GPS File Name: Corkscrew to Ouray

Ouray
Next Gas Stop: 130 Miles to Ouray

If you didn’t get gas in Telluride, start your second day of riding by filling up at one of Ouray’s pumps. With 130 miles on the docket for Day 2, you should have a little extra time for a sit-down breakfast.

Ride east out of Ouray on the Million Dollar Highway. It’s a breathtaking road, partly because of the views and partly because of the alarming lack of guard rails. Needless to say, you’ll definitely want to stay within the lines on this one! Pay attention to the road as some stretches are narrow with drop offs as steep as they are long.

Million Dollar Highway, CO

The road follows the Alpine Loop, and you’ll leave the Million Dollar Highway just a few miles outside of Ouray. If you follow that route, you’ll reach the top of Mineral Creek where several old mills and mine sites are well worth a look around.

Old Mills and Mines

Our course deviated slightly on the second day on account of a broken brake pedal. Luckily, we were able to find one near Silverton, so we made the short ride to the cool little town. As we rode into town, we saw a narrow-gauge steam powered train pull into its station. It was a fun stop and even better that we found the part we needed. After quickly passing through Animas Forks, we rejoined the route at the top of Mineral Creek. We took a long break here to have a snack and explore.

Animas Forks, CO

Up from Mineral Creek, you’ll start the final climb to Engineer Pass. This is where you’ll see how far and how fast you can climb. It’s a challenging ride to the top, but the climb offers incredible views that you can’t get anywhere else. And if you’re lucky, you may even see some marmots hanging out in the rocks.

The ride down from Engineer Pass is much more laid back than the climb up. If you complete this ride in the fall, this is a great place to see the changing leaves. We even saw several signs of avalanches from the heavy snow fall Colorado had the previous winter. It’s hard to believe that just one day ago we were riding through red rocks and desert. Today is all about elevation and high mountain scenery, so don’t be afraid to slow down and enjoy the views. The drop down into Lake City is a relatively easy, relaxing stretch of road that lets you look around and enjoy the sights.

Engineer Pass, CO

If you can, time your stop in Lake City with lunch. There are a few great restaurants that never disappoint (we recommend Southern Vittles) and Lake City Auto and Sports Center, a combination motorcycle dealership/gas station at the north end of town is a great place to gas up.

The route picks back up on a slab section running south out of Lake City. With wide turns and expansive views, it’s about as much fun as you can have on the pavement. As you drop into one of the valleys, a waterfall, Clear Creek Falls, is a great place to stop and break up the slab section. It may not look like anything interesting from the road, but it’s a stop you’ll appreciate once you’ve pulled over.

North Clear Creek Falls, CO

If you have the time and are looking to see more along the route, you can head 20 miles east of the falls to the small town of Creede. The town has some interesting historical stops like an underground mining musem and old mining structures where the remake of Lone Ranger was filmed. Since we already made a detour in Silverton, we skipped Creede this time around.

Past the falls and without detouring to Creede, you’ll come up on Stony Pass road. This road is one of the highlights of the whole adventure ride for us. It starts in the big parks, heading along the Rio Grande Reservoir until climbing past the headwaters of the Rio Grande. The road is first gravel, but quickly shifts into a fun, flowy two track. If you were able to leave some of your heavier luggage in Ouray, this is a great place to have some fun, let loose, and pick up some speed. That said, be mindful of the technical sections along the track.

Stony Pass, CO

After crossing Pole Creek, you’ll ascend Stony Pass. The ascent is relatively easy, and the descent drops fairly quickly past old mines until you reach Animas Road. This will take you towards California Gulch and Corkscrew Pass. It started getting dark for us by the time we made it to the gulch, but the route was beautiful in the fading light. Between the gulch and the pass is some technical and steep terrain, so be prepared to take your time. The alternate, harder route through Poughkeepsie gulch takes off here as well. It’s definitely a challenging route, but is a lot of fun. Either way, once you make it down Corkscrew Pass, it’s a short ride back into Ouray for dinner and good night’s rest.

California Gulch, CO

If you’re looking for other cool things to do in or around Ouray, check out the drop-downs below.

Telluride Historical Museum

Hands-on and masterfully curated, Tellurides’ historical museum tells the story of the region’s Ute heritage and mining history, along with the area’s developing ski and festival culture. There are 10 themed rooms with rotating displays that are meant to engage all of the senses. Alongside those permanent artifacts are several annual exhibitions that keep the museum relevant and lively for the locals. And, if that wasn’t exciting enough, there are also weekly historic walking tours of Telluride, taking visitors through the key points and sites of the city’s storied past.

The History of Telluride Sign
Telluride, Colorado Town History by Ken Lund (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Telluride/Mountain Village Gondola

Nestled in a box canyon and between 13,000 ft peaks is the city of Telluride, an old mining camp that is now a celebration of skiing, festivals, hiking, and the beautiful Rocky Mountains. One of the best ways to experience the city is to see it from the Telluride/Mountain Village Gondola, an 8-mile, 13-minute ride that offers incredible 360° views of the San Juan Mountains. The gondola is open 10/12 months of the year, and it provides free, clean (powered by wind and solar power), and beautiful transportation from Telluride to the neighboring Mountain Village. It provides an experience, and view, unlike anything else.

Telluride Gondola
Telluride by Simon Morris (CC BY-ND 2.0)

Allred’s Restaurant

It’s dinner with a view. On top of a mountain and accessible via gondola, Allred’s Restaurant is a fine-dining experience worth every penny. Expansive windows give panoramic views of the surrounding mountain range and the alpenglow over Telluride thousands of feet below, treating you to a night, and meal, that you won’t soon forget.

Ouray Hot Springs Pool

In the heart of the San Juan Mountains lies Ouray and the Ouray Hot Springs, geothermically heated mineral pools ranging from 75°-104°F. History indicates that the natural wonder was once frequented by the Ute Indians, their warmth serving as a stark contrast to the snowy peaks surrounding the pools. Since 1927, the pools have been operated as a paid-access park, and today that park features water slides, an obstacle course, a rock-climbing wall, and workout lanes. Don’t worry, though – there is a large, adult only section brimming with sulfur-free mineral water that includes iron, manganese, zinc, fluoride, and potassium to name a few. It’s a great way to soak in the beauty of Ouray – in more ways than one!

Ouray Hot Springs, Colorado
Ouray Hot Springs, Ouray, Colorado by Ken Lund (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Box Canyon Park

Ouray’s own wonder of the world, Box Canyon Park is a slot canyon formed from the erosion of fault-weakened limestone. The park features several hiking trails varying in length and sights. From incredible city-views and colorful local flora to wildlife sighting and bird watching – the park is a designated bird area by the National Audubon Society, after all – Box Canyon Park contains a little something for everyone. It’s main attraction, however, is the 85 ft waterfall plummeting into a narrow quartzite canyon. Walls overhang the falls by nearly 100 ft, creating a breathtaking ambiance and one-of-a-kind experience.

Box Canyon Waterfall, Colorado
Box Canyon Falls by Jaknelaps (CC BY-SA 3.0)

Frisco Mill at Bagley Tunnel

The early 1800-1900s serve as a rich time period for United States history. It was all manifest destiny, westward expansion, and the gold rush, and Colorado took a central role in all of it. At the height of the mining era, Colorado was home to some of the largest and most profitable mines in the country. To keep up with the ever-increasing demand, the Frisco Mill at Bagley Tunnel was commissioned and prefabricated for quicker set up time. Pieces were pre-cut, pre-fitted, and numbered before being shipped, a distinctive form of architecture to that era. Assembled at Bagley Tunnel, the mill had immediate access to the rich veins of gold ore within the tunnel. From 1912 until all the ore was exhausted in 1920, the mine was a bustling hub of activity, employing more than 40 workers and sitting above the town of Animus Forks. The mine, and subsequently the town, have long since been abandoned, but their skeletal remains serve as a popular stop along the route and glimpse into life during Colorado’s mining boom.

Red Mountain

The Red Mountain, or, more accurately, Red Mountains, is three peaks within the San Juan Mountain Range. Red Mountain is an iconic part of Colorado geography and history – the same distinctive red coloring that drives visitors to the mountain today is what drove miners there centuries ago. Covered in red iron ore rocks, the mountain was a highly active mining site in the late 1800s. Red Mountain Town, a ghost town of the old mining camp, can be found at the base of the mountain along the Million Dollar Highway. The Red Mountain pass we ride today is similar to the route the old railroad would’ve gone through, which was nicknamed “The Rainbow Route” for the views of the incredible scarlet-hued peaks.

Red Mountain, Colorado

Mayflower Gold Mill Tour

Compared to Colorado’s other remaining mines, the Mayflower Gold Mill is one of the best maintained and more comprehensive sites in the entire state. The mill was built near the end of the Colorado gold rush, serving as the last and most advance mill to be built in the San Juan mountains. Much like the Frisco Mill, the Mayflower Mill was speedily built to accommodate for the large ore-processing demand in the region. During its 61 years of action – 1930-1991 – an estimated 9,700,500 tons of rock, 1,940,100 ounces of gold, and 30,000,000 ounces of silver was processed through the mill. Utilizing the process of flotation to recover the metal from the ore, the mine was the longest-running and most successful mine in the San Juans. The flotation process and all of the mine’s equipment is on display in the now designated Natural Historic Landmark and can be viewed through the highly rated, self-guided tour.

Clear Creek Falls

No hike is required to see the stunning 100+ ft Clear Creek Falls – almost as refreshing as the waterfall itself. The falls flow over a volcanic deck – solidified ash from the San Juan volcanic field that was active approximately 27 million years ago. Fed by the meltwaters of the nearby San Juan Mountain Range, Clear Creek Falls boasts a consistent flow year-round. That, paired with the fact that the large pullout is paved and contains a restroom and picnic tables, makes the stop a worthwhile one every time.

Clear Creek Falls, CO

Day 3: Ouray to Monticello

Section Mileage Elevation Range
Approx. 240 Miles 7,792 ft – 7,070 ft

GPS File Name: Silverton to Rico

GPS File Name: Rico to Dunton

GPS File Name: Dunton to Groundhog

GPS File Name: Groundhog to Naturita

GPS File Name: Naturita to Monticello

Day three is a full day of riding – we recommend getting packed and loaded in time for a bright and early start to the day. Head out of Ouray on the Million Dollar Highway. No matter how many times we ride it, the views around the highway always makes it hard to concentrate on the road – the scenery is just so beautiful.

Highway 149, CO

Telluride
Next Gas Stop: 97 Miles to Naurita

Now, there are two route options to get out of Ouray. The regular route takes you up and over Ophir Pass. The alternate, harder route follows up Black Bear Pass and down to Telluride. If you choose the regular route, you’ll want to fill your tank in Ouray. If you opt for the harder route, you can fill up in Ouray or wait to get fuel in Telluride approximately 25 miles away.

On our trip, we took the route up Black Bear Pass. The one-way road and steep descent require some technical skills on the bike and unarguably test your capabilities, but not without some unbeatable views. Directly off of the Million Dollar Highway, the pass ascends above the tree line. Riding along the tundra, you’ll be treated to incredible scenery that only gets better on the descent. You’ll need to pay close attention to the trail, though – the loose rocks and steep incline require some extra care and time. We recommend hugging the inside line and keeping your brakes cool as you approach the final drop.

Black Bear Pass, CO

If the elevation drop down Black Bear Pass doesn’t get your heart pounding, then the rushing of a nearby waterfall, the sound of skidding tires, and the view of Telluride a mile below probably will. Down the steepest part of the pass and through some switchbacks, you’ll quickly come up on Telluride. The trail goes right under Bridal Veil Falls along the way. At 365 feet, Bridal Veil is the tallest free-falling falls in Colorado. Remember to get gas if you need it and spring for any souvenirs as this is the final stop in Telluride for this trip.

Ride out of Telluride towards Rico. The slab section is easy going and just long enough to help you relax and reset before the upcoming dirt section. Turning off the slab, you’ll ride down shady forest roads towards Dunton. The roads travel through pine trees, quaking aspens, and long vistas. Mind the off-camber turns, and stop at Groundhog Reservoir to have a snack and stretch your legs.

Naurita
Next Gas Stop: 104 Miles to Monticello

Naurita

Past Groundhog Reservoir, you’ll ride into Naturita. The section is long and uncomplicated, so turn up the music and enjoy the ride. The scenery is beautiful, and in the high mountain meadows, we’ve even seen a few bears. The road also drops down to Disappointment Creek, part of the TransAmerican Trail. Eventually, the road connects to the highway that leads to Naturita where you can stop for some food and fuel.

Continue the route by climbing through and out of of Paradox Valley. You’ll have another choice here for an easy route or a harder, more technical path. We opted for the latter, and braved a short but technical climb in the middle of the section. That’s what makes the alternate route so difficult, but also a lot of fun. Flowy two-track sections promote an elevated pace and some smack talk through the comms. Plus, the section is great for luggage testing – if your gear isn’t be scrubbed off on trees and bushes, it’s being pounded through the g-outs and wash outs. All things considered, it’s some of the best riding you can get on an ADV bike.

Paradox Valley

Other notable spots along the route include an open pit copper mine, some slower, technical rocky sections, and a sweeping view of Church Rock. Before long, you’ll be in Monticello. This is where the ride stops for the night. We fueled up, got food, and rode a little above town to set up camp. If motels are more your speed, there are plenty of those as well.

For an in-depth look at some of the other stops and sights on the way to Monticello, use the drop-downs below.

Bear Creek Falls

Bear Creek Falls is a roadside waterfall and popular hiking destination right outside of Ouray. Attractions like these are how the Million Dollar Highway gets its name – the waterfall is framed by deep green pine trees and a soaring mountainscape. The optional trail is a long one – 12.4 miles out and back – but the first two miles of the trail are packed-full of smaller waterfalls and abandoned mines.

Lizard Head Peak Vista Overlook

The Lizard Head Peak Vista Overlook is already part of the route, so you may as well take the time to stop and smell the roses – that’s both metaphoric and literal. At an elevation of 10,222 ft, the summit of Lizard Head Pass showcases the San Juan Mountains and the San Miguel Mountain Range in all their splendor – metaphoric. Nearby hiking trails wind through the San Juan wilderness area or lead to the alpine lake Trout Lake and are blanketed in wildflowers over the spring and summer – literal.  Whether you’re stopping to simply soak in the views or to hike around the trails, you won’t leave disappointed.

Wilson Peak

It may not be something you’ll want to hike – 11-mile round trip with class 3 and 4 scrambles to the peak – but it is something you’ll want to take notice of if you’re a pop-culture aficionado. Wilson Peak is *that* picturesque mountain depicted most notably in Coors Brewing Company ads and several Jeep commercials. It also serves as the focal point of cult director Quentin Tarantino’s sweeping film The Hateful Eight.

Wilson Peak, Colorado
wilson peak near telluride by Scott Ellis (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Dan Noble Wildlife Area

The Dan Noble Wildlife Area is 30-some miles off the route, but it’s the perfect stop for riders looking to slow things down. The mixed recreational area offers hunting – waterfowl, deer, and elk – fishing, boating, water sports, camping, wildlife viewing, and horseback riding. Spread over a vast 2,223 acres of land, though, there are several secluded spaces to retreat, relax, and take in the scenery of land that has been left mostly unscathed and undeveloped.

Church Rock

Marking the entrance to Canyonlands National Park is Church Rock, a 200 ft sandstone column that has a disputed history more intriguing than the landmark itself. The urban legend surrounding the rock centers on Marie Ogden, an eccentric syncretist who sought to create a Utopian society in southeastern Utah. She developed a town near the formation she called Church Rock, proclaiming it as the spiritual center of the universe. Rumors that Ogden and her followers planned to hollow out the rock to worship inside it have largely been fueled by the fact that the rock has been partly hollowed out on one side. According to descendants of farmer Claud Young – the people who actually own the rock today – this account is entirely untrue. The hole in the rock was the work of Claud who dynamited and cut out part of the stone to store salt licks and feed for his cattle. Regardless of whatever history is erroneously attributed to the rock, it remains a distinct stop in the Utah desert.

Church Rock in Utah
Church Rock, Utah by John Manard (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Frontier Museum

Like most other cities in Utah, Monticello has a rich pioneer history that the locals are eager to share. That’s why residents came together to found and run the Frontier Museum, a free museum operated in a historic barn that was an original storage facility for the L.H. Redd Mercantile Company. With an eclectic assortment of artifacts and exhibits – all donated by the residents – the museum is a unique way to share and enjoy the storied past of Monticello and the brave pioneers.

Day 4: Monticello to Moab

Section Mileage Elevation Range
Approx. 230 Miles 7,070 ft – 4,026 ft

GPS File Name: Monticello to Blanding

GPS File Name: Blanding to Bears Ears

GPS File Name: Bears Ears to Lockhart Basin

GPS File Name: Lockhart Basin to Moab

Monticello
Next Gas Stop: 60 Miles to Blanding

Start your final day of the ride by fueling up in Monticello. Blanding, the next gas stop, is just over 60 miles away. The road to Blanding is mostly dirt with a few miles of slab right outside of Monticello. You’ll be clicking off several miles on Montezuma Creek Road. On this road, it seems like you never quite know what’s coming next. One second you’re on top of a wide-open vista, the next you’re riding through a canyon – you don’t see the landscape of the canyon coming until you’re in the thick of it.

Montezuma Creek Road

Montezuma Creek Road will keep you on your toes as you continue down. The road gets a bit marbley and is certainly eye-opening first thing in the morning…you definitely don’t want to lose the front end on these corners. Once you hit the bottom, though, the road smooths out and scenery expands. Keep your eye out for some Puebloan cliff dwellings near the road. They can be tricky to spot, but they’re a fun place to take a break and look around. Continuing down the canyon, you’ll have another chance to stop at a Puebloan site. Off of the road is a Kiva, an underground chamber used for religious rites, that you can crawl into.

Riding through Montezuma Valley, UT

After you make your way through the end of the wash, it’s an easy ride to Blanding. This is another great spot to turn up the music and unwind. Our group used the Cardo Pack Talks on this ride, and we really enjoyed how functional the systems were. With each software and hardware update, it seems like the units are just getting better and better.

Blanding
Next Gas Stop: 170 Miles to Moab

Blanding is an important gas stop on this trip. The next gas stop isn’t for another 170 miles, so you’ll want to make sure you fill up.

Riding out of Blanding, you have two route options. Both are equally stunning, but one route is just a little more technical than the other. We chose the technical route this time. After 25 miles, both routes meet back up. Either way, the trail quickly changes into long gravel dirt roads with stunning overlooks of Southern Utah as you ride out of town.

Riding Around Southern Utah

A highlight of this section is dropping off Comb Ridge. We always have a hard time keeping our eyes on the trail because the views are just that incredible. The scenery, coupled with a pretty steep drop, make it hard to believe you’re still on the old Highway 95 route. All along the highway, there are several off-shoots that are practically begging to be explored.

A fun, albeit short, section after Comb Ridge will let you out right at the House of Fire Ruins in Mule Canyon. You’ll then ride through a small slab section before turning off the highway to climb towards Natural Bridges and Bears Ears National Monument. Cruising through the mountains above 8,000 feet, you’ll feel some cooler temperatures and cut through some tall pine trees. It’s a refreshing part of the ride that takes Gooseberry Road on the way towards Lockhart Basin Road.

Lockhart Basin Road, Utah

As you turn off on Lockart Basin Road, you’ll notice a few campgrounds. We’ve camped here before and really enjoyed it, though there is dispersed camping available pretty much anywhere in the area. Reflecting on this ride now, we almost wish we had split the day of riding into two. There are so many amazing places to stop along the way, not to mention the endless places to camp between Bears Ears National Monument and Moab.

Bears Ears, Utah

Lockhart Basin Road has a couple of challenging sections along the way, but it’s definitely more about the scenery. There are several spots that we’d love to have just stopped and pulled out our chairs at – just another reason to extend the ride by one more day! But the continually stunning views and thought of a full belly kept us pushing towards Moab.

On the way to Moab, you’ll pass by the Chicken Corners Jeep trail. It’s a bonus addition that you’ll see on the GPS tracks. If you have the time, the trail takes you out to an amazing lookout over the Colorado River.

Past Chicken Corners, the road works its way along cliffs, through Hurrah Pass, and down Kane Springs Road into Moab. These are some of the most iconic and legendary views of Moab and the dark red rock that Utah is known for.

Newspaper Rock, Utah

And just like that, you’ll be back in Moab. From Red Rocks to Mountain Tops and back again, you’ll be hard-pressed to find another ride as diverse or beautiful as this one. Use the dropdowns below to read up on all of the other things you can do during Day 4.

The Dinosaur Museum

Blanding’s Dinosaur Museum is well-known for displaying the complete history of dinosaurs. If that first sentence isn’t enticing enough on its own, then you may have some revaluating to do. Dinosaurs have long been a fascinating facet of our world’s history, and it’s all chronologized through skeletons, fossilized skin, eggs, footprints, state-of-the-art graphics, and realistic sculptures at Blanding’s Dinosaur Museum. Some of the most complete and rarest artifacts and fossils are housed in the museum, making it a must-see for aficionados and enthusiasts alike.

Blanding, Utah Dinosaur Museum
The Dinosaur Museum! by teofilo (CC BY 2.0)

Edge of the Cedars State Park and Museum

Southeastern Utah and the four corners region offer one of the most complete and diverse looks into Native American culture in the United States. That’s certainly true of Edge of the Cedars State Park and museum; with the largest collection of ancestral Puebloan pottery on display in the four corners region, in addition to an authentic Puebloan village, the park and museum serve as a window to the past. Historians estimate that ancestors of the contemporary Puebloan peoples occupied the village from AD 85 to 1225, making it a realistic, enriching, and enthralling stop for both adults and children.

Edge of the Cedars
Edge of the Cedars State Park by Rob Lee (CC BY-ND 2.0)

Natural Bridges National Monument

Natural Bridges National Monument is certainly a natural wonder – the incredible arches tell the story of ancient peoples and an anciently-formed landscape. Rock art and stone tools left around the bridges can be dated back to 7000 BCE. The area was likely used by ancient peoples periodically between that time and 500 CE. Around 700 CE, the ancestors of the modern Puebloans developed the area with dry farming, laying the ground work for their descendants to build sandstone and mud-packed homes around the bridges. Remnants of those peoples and their lives are still visible in the national monument, along with some unmatched star gazing. Designated as a dark sky area, the national monument is virtually unaffected by light pollution, allowing visitors to bask in some of the most complete and comprehensive skies in the nation.

Natural Bridges
Natural Bridges National Monument by Anna Irene (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Bears Ears National Monument

At one point along the route, the landscape becomes marked by two towering buttes. These buttes are the namesake for Bears Ears National Monument, a tribute to the Native Americans that settled in Southern Utah. Set aside to preserve the traditions and legacy of five tribes, Bears Ears National Monument is home to ruins, rock art, ancient cliff dwellings, artifacts, and more archeological sites and geographical wonders. You could stop for 5 minutes or 5 hours and still be captivated by all the area has to offer.

Bears Ears

Cathedral Butte

Canyonlands is packed full of archaeological sites and stunning views, and most of them are accessible via the Cathedral Butte trailhead. It doesn’t matter if you don’t want to hike, either, because the butte itself is scenic enough. If you do feel up to some time off the bike, one popular hike that starts on the butte is Upper Salt Creek. With natural arches, ancient ruins, and not-so-ancient ruins of a pioneer-era cabin, the hike mixes a little history with breathtaking scenery.

Newspaper Rock Historical Monument

Newspaper Rock Historical Monument is arguably the most impressive and important piece of rock art and Native American history in the region. For a 2,000 year period, local Native Americans took turns engraving over the 200 sq. ft. rock. Over 650 different drawings are scattered over the rock and though there is no actual translation, they seem to depict hunting patterns and crop cycles and tell tribes’ stories and mythologies. The rock is easily accessible, free to the public, and an experience equal parts enriching and thought-provoking.

Newspaper Rock, Utah
Newspaper Rock, UT by Jirka Matousek (CC BY 2.0)

Potash Pond

In the muted reds and tans of the desert lies a brilliant burst of color. Just 20 miles west of Moab, bright blue, orange, and yellow pools of water are a stark contrast to the surrounding landscape. It’s not anywhere you can (or want to) go swimming, though – these pools make up the Potash Evaporation Pond, an area where potash is extracted and utilized to manufacture fertilizer. It’s a complex and arduous process, but part of it involves dying the pools bright colors to help absorb sunlight and heat. As the pools start to evaporate, they change colors, creating the uniquely vibrant landscape that is sure to capture your attention as you ride past.

Potash Evaporation Pond
Potash pond near Moab by Nelson Minar (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Puebloan Kivas

One of the many cultural sites on the route from Monticello to Moab is a kiva. Used by Puebloans for religious rites and political meetings, a kiva is a large, circular room that is mostly, if not completely, underground. Over the centuries, kivas evolved from small square pits to large circular chambers, always serving as a prominent feature of the community. Throughout Southern Utah and across the West, these kivas are a landmark of Puebloan heritage and their ancient way of life. In some cases, you can actually climb down into the kivas to appreciate the architecture that has withstood the test of time.

A Puebloan Kiva in Utah
Three Kiva Pueblo – Afternoon Sunlight by Rob Lee (CC BY-ND 2.0)

Chicken Corners

Chicken Corners is somewhat of an infamous ADV ride. A 41.6 mile out and back route near Moab, the ride provides some hard-fought views and breathtaking scenery. The route follows the Colorado River downstream, passing through the beautiful Kane Springs Canyon before dead-ending 400 ft. above the river and directly across from Dead Horse Point State Park. It’s certainly a challenge, but the views along the way are unlike anything else you’ve ever seen.

Shafer Switchbacks

18.1 miles of expansive views and hours of classic Western landscape – that’s what you can expect from the Shafer Switchbacks. Cut in the 1950s by miners searching for uranium, the well-maintained, well-trafficked road takes you through the canyon, beside the Potash Ponds, past the spot where Thelma and Louise kept going, and all the way to the other side of Dead Horse Point State Park. The route lets you appreciate the magnitude of the cliffs and beauty of the canyon up close and personal.

Shafer Switchbacks, Utah
The Shafer Trail by Robbie Shade (CC BY 2.0)

Faux Falls

A desert oasis just outside of Moab, Faux Falls is guaranteed to take your breath away – if not by its beauty, then certainly by its 44°F temperature. And, if you didn’t already guess by its name, the falls aren’t actually naturally occurring. In 1981 and in a desperate attempt to divert water across a barren landscape, the man-made waterfall was created as part of a water storage system. Needless to say, the attempt worked, and now Faux Falls is a community staple. Take a short walk to the waterfall and swimming hole, or continue hiking past to another popular water spot, Ken’s Lake. Both are a refreshing way to beat the heat and take a break from your seat.

Faux Falls Near Moab


Conclusion

Dark red rock, deep green pines, soaring summits, and breathtaking scenery – the Red Rocks to Mountain Tops adventure ride offers an unparalleled look into the American frontier. A 4-day route winding through the varied beauty of Utah and Colorado, this ride is one to remember.

We loved going on this ride and are excited to share the route with you. If you plan on going on your own Red Rocks to Mountain Tops ride, share your experience with us in the comments below. And don’t forget to subscribe to our YouTube channel and follow our blog to stay updated on future rides.

Red Rocks to Mountain Tops ADV Ride with RMATVMC


Index

GPS Disclaimer

Riding Disclaimer