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Captain Ahab

Captain Ahab is a one-way trail in the Amasa Back riding area. It must be reached via the Amasa Back or Hymasa trails. This singletrack requires good technical skills, confidence, and strength. It's a great ride, but it's not a cruiser. It was designed as an expert-level singletrack. 

Near the top of Captain Ahab, looking southeast toward the La Sal Mountains. Ride description by Bruce on April 11, 2013.

General information:
The singletrack is 4.3 miles in length. While it's one-way, it's not a "downhill" trail. From the ridgeline 2.7 miles up Amasa Back it will ascend 300 feet in altitude, but up-and-down riding tallies almost 1000 vertical feet of climbing over the course of the trail.

There are great views all along the way, and fabulous-forever views at the top. Add those views to the riding, and every rider I've talked to absolutely loves Captain Ahab.

Just getting started on Amasa Back. This is your view as your bike hits the heavy sand above the creek. Go for the rock pile, but you won't make it.

A ride directly up Amasa to Captain Ahab and looping back will be 8 miles and 1800 vertical feet of climbing. Alternate: climb via the new Hymasa singletrack.

I'll also describe an Epic Tour of Amasa for 17 miles and 3000 vertical feet. This is a monster ride, hitting all of Amasa, Pothole Arch, Rockstacker, and Captain Ahab.

We're a mile up Amasa. This is the return path from Captain Ahab.

There's also the option of cutting Captain Ahab in half by using the midway connector. Take the connector at Amasa mile 2.3, ride 1/2 mile to Ahab and turn left. This will visit the lower half of Captain Ahab, which is almost purely downhill. The ride will be 5.9 miles, with 700 vertical feet of climbing. If you have a heavy DH rig, this is your path.

View back down Kane Creek Canyon as we climb up Amasa after a spring shower. The domes are Navajo sandstone. The ledges are Kayenta.

You can also use the connector to bail out after doing upper Ahab. While you've already done most of the heavy lifting, the connector plus lower Amasa is technically much easier and will go faster. Use this route if you've broken down (bike or body) or run out of time.

View on the connector trail. It's 1/2 mile on this trail between the midpoint of Ahab and Amasa.

The Ride:
Navigation for the short loop is straight-forward. Ride the Amasa Back trail 2.7 miles to the ridgeline, fork left on Captain Ahab, and follow it back to Amasa.

The ride uphill is on ledgy Kayenta sandstone, with occasional spires and bumps of Navajo.

From the Amasa Back parking, pedal uphill on gravel road 0.6 miles. At the sign, drop right over a series of ugly rock stairs. The smoothest line is: far right, then cross over in the middle of the steps to far left.

At the bottom is a big drop. There's a sneaker route on the far right.

Lay of the land. We're on Amasa looking back at the ridgeline where Ahab starts, from about 1/2 mile further uphill. Ahab will go past the spire on the left and climb along the row of cliffs (toward the right in the photo).

Most bikes now keep left, while 4x4s go down to the right. The paths rejoin just before the creek. Splash through and bog down in the sand. There's a mean ledge up ahead, but you'll never keep enough momentum to clean it.

The entry into Captain Ahab at the ridgeline of mile 2.7 on Amasa Back.

Amasa is series of ugly tough ledges spaced between stretches of ugly tough climbing. It's Not My Favorite Moab Trail. But then I'm a old crybaby with lots of slow-twitch fibers, and you're a biking god. Climb that hill.

The trail is marked with blue stripes on slickrock areas. This is early in the ride on a smooth section.

At mile 1.0, turn to the right as the bottom of Ahab joins on your left. Do Not Enter. Captain Ahab is one-way, and for good reason.

At mile 2.3, keep right as the connector to Ahab's midpoint veers off on your left. Or go left if you're looking for the short-short version of the ride.

View toward the Colorado River as the trail climbs along the cliffs. The mid-ground mesa is Jackson Not Hole.

At mile 2.7, Amasa crests a ridge. Most riders stop here to take in the view. To do the short loop, immediately fork left onto the singletrack of Captain Ahab. (For the epic ride, continue on Amasa.) About 100 yards west on Ahab, Hymasa joins on your left. Keep right.

This trail has seen a lot of work to create countless rock ramps. Approaching what looks like a 10-foot cliff, we spot a rock ramp at the last second.

Shortly after entering Ahab, you'll realize you've got climbing to do. The trail follows the anticline uphill to the same elevation as the Amasa viewpoint. Over 1/2 mile, you'll gain 200 feet of elevation, but you'll climb two or three feet for every foot you keep.

Typical trail view looking toward the La Sals.

There are constant turns and up-and-downs. Flat sections are rare and very short. The bike bucks up and down constantly. But there isn't anything as technically difficult as the ledges on Amasa.

Plan to bring fresh legs and an aggressive attitude. If you want cruising on similar sandstone, try Bull Run and Little Canyon. This trail seems designed to serve up fun challenges. Don't plan to mosey along with your butt on the seat.

Glimpse of the Moab valley.

Once you're finally heading downhill, you'll still be cranking uphill frequently. As you approach the midpoint, you'll be maintaining some flow and speed.

Rock ramps are everywhere. The trailbuilders seem to take the toughest line, then place rocks so you can get there.

The bottom half of Captain Ahab flows better. There are longer sight-lines and the course of the trail feels more intuitive. But there will still be some stiff little uphills, so you're not through working yet.

As the trail approaches Whale Rock, we're able to maintain a bit more speed.

As you enter the gorge, you'll see why this is a one-way trail. There are quick up-and-downs as you hug a band of tilted rock midway down the cliff. It's advanced, but not extreme, technical.

At mile 7.0, you'll rejoin Amasa. Want another loop?

At the midpoint. That's Whale Rock. Captain Ahab... Get it?

The Epic Amasa Figure-Eight Ride:
The Epic Tour of Amasa is harder than it sounds. You'll already be tired when you hit the climbing on Captain Ahab.

The ride is a figure-eight with a couple of loose threads. Take Amasa to the viewpoint and back to the Pothole Arch trail. (The little out-and-back is a "loose thread" on the figure-eight.) Take Pothole Arch out to its viewpoint and back to Rockstacker. (Another loose thread.)

Skirting the cliffs above Kane Creek.

Take Rockstacker to the Jackson ST connector, but cross the ridge to Amasa. (Don't go down Jackson!) Ride a mile to Captain Ahab. Finish with Captain Ahab back to Amasa. It's 16.5 miles with 3000 vertical feet of climbing.

The trail rockets up and down as it hugs this break in the cliffs. You do see the trail, don't you?

Riding notes, short loop:
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   L onto Captain Ahab)
        N38 31.098 W109 37.114
4.9   Cross connector
        N38 30.809 W109 36.594
7.0   R downhill on Amasa
        N38 31.521 W109 36.261
7.2   Cross creek
7.5   L downhill on road
8.0   Back at parking
Riding notes, EPIC Tour figure-eight:
0.0   Exit parking, uphill on road N38 31.710 W109 35.705
0.6   Drop R off road on Amasa Back
        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 Jackson Hole)
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 - head back
        N38 31.619 W109 38.554
5.5   L on Pothole Arch
        N38 31.876 W109 38.369
6.6   Keep L (straight) to Pothole Arch
        N38 32.533 W109 38.449
7.4   At Pothole Arch - head back
        N38 33.106 W109 38.448
8.2   L on Rockstacker
        N38 32.533 W109 38.449
9.9   L uphill on DT, cross ridge
        (R = Jackson ST)
        N38 31.747 W109 37.594
10.2 L on Amasa
        N38 31.761 W109 37.756
11.3 R onto Captain Ahab
        N38 31.096 W109 37.113
13.5 Cross midway connector
        N38 30.812 W109 36.597
15.6 Join Amasa, downhill
        N38 31.521 W109 36.261
15.8 Cross creek
16.0 L down Kane Creek Rd
16.6 Back at parking
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.

Riding resources:
   Printable one-page ride summary (simple loop)
   Printable Epic Ride one-page summary
GPS track files (right-click and select "Save Target as..."):
        GPX area trails    Captain Ahab track only
        Up and down (short loop)
        Monster Amasa-Pothole-Rockstacker-Ahab Epic
Topo map for printing:    View high-res map
Lodging, camping, shops:    Link to Moab area resources