The Amasa Back trail is one of the classic rides of Moab. It ascends from
Kane Creek on the Colorado
River just west of Moab, climbing up onto an outcropping of rock surrounded on three sides
by the Colorado.
Chad Hunter rolls along a
smoother stretch of slickrock trail, with the Navajo Sandstone bluffs of Kane Creek in the
background. The horizontal layers at the base are Kayenta. Photo April 15, 2000.
The trail is a rocky Jeep trail with ledges and drop-offs. There are technical
challenges that will stop all but the most
advanced riders. Strong intermediates can manage this ride, but will walk most of
the rougher climbs. As of 2014, most cyclists prefer to climb the Hymasa
Trail for the first segment of the Amasa ride.
The initial drop-in. The trail veers R
off the road and drops over a series of techy ledges.
As an out-and-back, the trip is 10 miles round trip. Altitude
change is 1050 feet, with about 1300 vertical feet of tough and rough
climbing. The jeeps driving this trail create slippery undercut ledges
with chunky cobble complicating the approach.
The plunge through Kane Creek.
| Amasa can take you to other
area trails. For example, when combined with Pothole
Arch, Rockstacker, and Captain
Ahab, it's a 17-mile 3000-vertical festival of technical challenges.
Smoother section trail during the
initial climb. A 4x4 road climbs the ledges of Kayenta sandstone.
||On the way uphill, you'll climb ledges in the Kayenta Sandstone of the early Jurassic Era (about 200 million
years ago, when this area was near the ocean on the edge of the continent). Above
the Kayenta is the Navajo Sandstone, a course-grained
sandstone deposited by the wind in a broad, flat desert area.
About 1.5 miles into the ride, looking
back to the east at the Navajo domes with skirts of ledge-forming Kayenta.
|As you ride uphill, the Hymasa
singletrack will cross several times. The lower two miles of the trail is a tricky series of ledges and rock
challenges. Clearing the multiple rock obstacles will test your skills on the way up and
again on the way down.
Lots of big ledges. Don't head for the
obvious black tire marks. Instead scout for the riding lines along the
Navigation is easy because the route is well-marked with
signs, and with paint stripes in slickrock areas. You'll run into a few side routes. Just stay on the main
jeep-width path. Follow the route with the most bike tire tracks when in question.
north from the ridgeline toward the potash plant.
|Amasa Back has plenty of Moab's great sandstone to play
on. At the top, there are wide areas of slickrock. On the way, you'll
have eye-popping views of the canyons, as well as a cliff-side cruise overlooking Jackson
Hole and its rincon (called Jackson "Not-Hole".
Matt Flygare takes some air near the top of the Rock. Of
course, you don't have to go over every cliff in the trail. There are easier cheater
routes around most obstacles. April 15, 2000.
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From the Amasa Back parking, ride your bike 1/2 mile uphill on the
Kane Creek road. The trail falls quickly down a series of rock steps, then
descends to the creek.
At the bottom of the canyon, you'll splash through Kane Creek, then bog
down in the sand uphill.
After cresting the ridge, riders head
downhill towards a set of gnarly ledges.
| If you succeed in powering up to the first ledge
through the sand, you'll probably find it impossible to clear the
4-wheeler cobble pile. Get used to lifting your bike up ledges. You'll do
a bit of it on this ride.
At the first right turn above the creek (mile 1.0 of the ride), notice the Captain
Ahab trail coming in on your left. It's one-way -- downhill only.
View to the south, with Jackson Not
Hole to the right.
At mile 2.3, you'll spot the connector to the midpoint of Captain Ahab. The
connector is two-way. It serves as a delivery system to get you to the bottom
half of Ahab for a shorter ride, to Hymasa for an
alternate climb, or as a bailout after riding upper Ahab.
Engberson, manager of the UMB store,
in front of "Jackson Not
|There's a temporary reprieve from the uphill attack at mile 2.7 as you cross
a ridgeline. Stop and take in the views. On your left is the entry to upper
Captain Ahab and Hymasa. Descend the doubletrack along the cliffs. Pass a dead-end
doubletrack on your right at mile 2.8. (It goes uphill about 1/2 mile to an
overlook. Go ahead and explore if you want.)
The top of the tilted mesa in the
right half of the photo is our destination. On the left is Jackson Not
As you cruise the cliffside, notice
"Jackson Not-hole," a rincon where the Colorado formed a
gooseneck, then cut it off to form a new straighter channel past the rock
At mile 3.6, cross under a power line. One-tenth mile later, the route to
the Jackson Hole portage to Hurrah
Pass is on your left (mile 3.7). After another 1/10 mile at mile 3.8, the
doubletrack connector to the Jackson Singletrack forks right.
Just obey the signs and keep straight.
At mile 4.3, there are two options. The left (straight) fork is more direct
-- in fact, you might find yourself on a narrow bike track without knowing there
was a fork. The official jeep road forks 90 degrees to the right. It will
descend a bit before climbing back up to rejoin the straight path. The routes rejoin in about 0.1 mile.
Gary Argyle cranks up the stone to
where Matt Flygare and Dominic
Bria are waiting. April 15, 2000.
|At mile 4.5, keep left as the route to Pothole
Arch and Rockstacker forks off on your
right. The ledgy jeep road turns to slickrock about mile 4.8. Just keep
straight southwest on slickrock as
you climb, watching the white stripes. Notice a wide circle painted with
stripes at mile 5.0. That's the official end, and the viewpoint is just beyond
Matt overlooking the
Colorado River valley west of Moab. April 15, 2000. This is the official
"end of the trail."
||From the official top of the ride, backtrack 1/2
mile to the Pothole
Arch trail. This can take you to the Rockstacker
Trail, from which you can reconnect to Amasa.
Engberson shows his jumping form. The fins above are Navajo Sandstone. April 15, 2000.
| If you're
looking for hairy technical riding, you can continue downhill on Jackson
Singletrack. Another technical option for descending is Captain
Ahab, a difficult technical singletrack on the south side of the hill.
On the way back. We'll need to climb
back up to the ridgeline in the center of the photo, which is where we'll
find Captain Ahab.
|Riding notes, Amasa:
0.0 Exit parking, uphill on road N38 31.710 W109 35.705
0.6 Drop R off road N38 31.435 W109 36.096
0.7 Take air off ledge, turn right on DT
Alt = ST straight shortcut
0.8 Cross creek N38 31.589 W109 36.080
1.0 Turn R (L = exit from Captain Ahab)
N38 31.521 W109 36.261
2.3 R at fork (L = mid-way Ahab connector)
N38 31.057 W109 36.804
2.7 R on DT (L = Captain Ahab)
N38 31.098 W109 37.114
2.8 L (straight), R = to view
N38 31.161 W109 37.126
3.0 Cliffside along Jackson Not-Hole
3.7 Pass Portage connector, keep straight (R)
N38 31.721 W109 37.678
(L=cliff scramble down into
3.8 Keep L at fork (R = Jackson ST)
N38 31.761 W109 37.756
4.3 Straight (or R = jeep route)
N38 31.788 W109 38.198
4.5 Keep L on Amasa (L = Pothole Arch trail)
N38 31.876 W109 38.369
5.0 View - End of Amasa
N38 31.619 W109 38.554
|Getting there: Head south on Moab's Main Street. When you
reach the McDonald's on your right, turn right onto Kane Creek Blvd. After
0.6 miles, go straight where the road seems to turn right (500 West).
Drive along the Colorado River about 5 miles until the road turns to
gravel, and head uphill about 2/3 mile. Watch for the "Amasa Back Parking"
area at GPS N 38° 31.329' W 109° 35.501'. Park here. Pedal further up the gravel road 1/2 mile, and
turn right onto the trail at the sign.
Chad Hunter shows a group of "Jeepies" how a real
man handles a trail.