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Good Water Rim Trail

This is one of the best rides in Utah. The 15 miles of singletrack follow the edge of Good Water Canyon. It's upper-intermediate level riding that seems to go on forever. Plus great views, coming so often you'll stop looking! As a loop, the entire ride is 21 miles. Intermediate riders can cut the loop in half for a shorter ride. There are no sustained climbs, but the trail has frequent little dips and endless twisting turns.

View near the trail's beginning, overlooking the confluence of Good Water and the San Rafael. Ride description and photos by Bruce, based on a ride October 19, 2009.

The ride is shaped like a cancerous maple leaf, because the singletrack hugs the edge of the many side-channels that feed into Good Water Canyon. Good Water is a short steep-walled side canyon off The Little Grand Canyon of the San Rafael River.

Overall, the ride has only about 300 feet of elevation difference between the south end (at the San Rafael gorge) and the lower north end where you curve around the tip of Good Water. Top elevation is 6250 feet.

Looking east, this area of the San Rafael River is called The Little Grand Canyon. You can see why.

Riders can have different reasons for liking a trail:
     Gut-busting climbs
     Downhill that goes on forever
     Challenging technical stunts
     Smooth mindless pedaling

This trail offers none of the above. But if you like cross-country singletrack that's interesting to ride and also offers great views, this is your trail. For that type of riding, it might just be the best in Utah.

My Cannondale Rush is loving the singletrack. There's plenty of bumpy rock slabs, so for a ride of this length, you may want plush suspension.

The trail is fun to ride, with almost constant turns and up-and-downs. There are some rock ledges to bump over; nothing scary or particularly tricky. Countless times the trail comes to the edge of the cliffs and slams you with amazing views.

The ride starts at the Little Grand Canyon Overlook just east of The Wedge overlook. You can drive to the trailhead, or ride from one of the many campsites along the loop road.

Looking down at a rincon, abandoned on a cliff ledge when the river changed course, then dug deeper into its new channel.

The trail starts as doubletrack heading north along the cliff edge of Good Water Canyon. After about 2/3 mile, the DT heads away from the canyon and the trail becomes singletrack. Watch for rock cairns as the singletrack trail rejoins the DT very briefly a few times during the next mile.

Looking back toward the San Rafael gorge as we head north along the stellate edges of Cold Water. 

In general, if you're in doubt you should always try to stay right, and as close to the canyon as you can. Any singletrack to the left is usually a bailout route to a group campsite. At mile 4.9, you'll run across the first connector trail that goes to a campsite. Just stay R and watch for rock trail markers.

At mile 6.8, you'll skirt another primitive campsite. Keep right, and don't be suckered into going to the main road.

Near the main canyon, the side canyons deepen into deep slots.

At mile 8.2, the trail crosses a campsite road. Turn R on the road, go about 50 feet east, then find the continuing trail on the LEFT side of the road. This is probably the only time you'll ever do "left anything" on the ST. You'll skirt the campsite and quickly find yourself on the rocky edge again. Now return to your "keep right" rule.

The road at 8.2 is a good breakout-point for riders who're planning a short ride. To quit, go left until the campsite road hits the main road. Go left, then left again in 1/4 mile. You're now on the main road, and will be back at your car in 2.9 (uphill) miles.

Typical riding surface. Ledgy white rock and orange dirt.

The riding surface is orange dirt mixed with limestone ledges of the Carmel Formation. The harder Carmel protects the Navajo sandstone. Once the Carmel limestone layer breaks down, the underlying rock quickly turns into a chasm. (If you're wondering where the Entrada is, it's in the occasional red dirt under your tires. Unlike Moab, the Entrada here doesn't sit right on top of the Navajo layer.)

The eastern half of the singletrack is about 1.5 miles shorter. When the trail brings you back to the Little Grand Canyon, you'll turn east for the last time. When you hit a row of big purple rocks, find the doubletrack heading east.

About as far north as we can get, looking back south.

The dirt road is a fast ride. It's 6 miles back to the car. It took me about 1/2 hour. The road curves in a big semi-circle. Occasional smaller campsite roads fork off. Just stay on the main road.

After 3.1 miles, you'll reach the Wedge kiosk and fork left for the final uphill 2.9-mile push back to the overlook.

On the canyon's east side, we're looking southwest. The high point at upper right is where we started.

 

 If the above video does not appear on your browser/device, you can watch it on YouTube by clicking here.

Riding notes, clockwise ST, counterclockwise road return,
from the Little Grand Canyon Overlook parking loop:

0.0   From the eastern overlook, north on DT
        N39 05.731 W110 44.937
0.9   You should be on ST now, watch cairns
4.9   Keep R  N39 06.544 W110 45.370
6.8   Keep R  N39 06.996 W110 45.305
8.2   R onto road, immediate L onto ST
        N39 07.524 W110 45.044
        (Bailout option here: L on road)
15.0 East on DT  N39 06.734 W110 44.029
15.9 Keep L (R=campsite and views)
        N39 07.080 W110 43.292
16.4 Keep L  N39 07.400 W110 43.587
18.1 L on main road  N39 07.377 W110 45.431
20.4 L along canyon edge  N39 05.582 W110 45.537
21.0 At parking

View west from the eastern side of Good Water as it meets the San Rafael.

Getting there, from the north:  Exit US-6 in Price, southbound on highway 10. Go through Huntington. (In Huntington, there's an alternate road that ends up at the trailhead. I haven't tried it.) As you approach Castle Dale 28 miles from Price, watch for a sign that says "San Rafael Access" and a broad dirt road on the left (heading east). There's a huge corral near the start of the road. Once you're on the dirt road, go 12.2 miles. Turn right at an X intersection where you'll see a trail kiosk and a bathroom. Drive 7 miles south, staying on the main road. When the road hits a cliff edge, turn left and go another 1/2 mile to the Little Grand Canyon Overlook. Park here. Start your ride on the small doubletrack on the north end of the circle.

Yellow = suggested trailheads.

From the south:  On I-70, take the Sinbad or Ranch Exit 131, 25 miles west of Green River. (Note! Until a few years ago, this exit was "Ranch Exit 129." It is still shown that way on most maps and software. Never mind the number. When you see "Sinbad" get off the freeway!)  Head north. The road will veer east along the freeway, then turn north again. After 21 miles on dirt road, cross the San Rafael River and enter Buckhorn Wash. Nine miles later, turn left on Oil Dome road and drive about 2 miles to the Wedge road, turn left and proceed as above.

Printable one-page riding guide
GPS track files (right-click and "Save as..."):
    Garmin        GPX 
Topo map for printing (includes Buckhorn):   View
Lodging, camping, shops:
     Links to Price and San Rafael area resources

Bathroom:  Wedge Overlook
Water:  bring your own
Camping:  group sites around The Wedge
Bike services:  Price

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Copyright 2010 Mad Scientist Software Inc

Note:  Locals often refer to this trail by another name. Their trail name includes the name of the guy who worked for five years to build it. He deserves our thanks. But he asked that I give this excellent trail a different "official" name.