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View from the trail overlooking the Colorado

Porcupine Rim Trail

The Porcupine Rim Trail is the "other" famous classic ride at Moab. At 15.6 miles, requiring expert technical skills, this ride is for advanced bikers who are in good shape. It's one-way with a shuttle car, or a 34-mile loop for the truly insane (10 uphill miles from Moab to the trailhead, 8 flat miles from Jackass Canyon back to the middle of Moab).

Across the valley, the single-track descends towards the Colorado River.
Photo April 17, 1999

The ride begins with a 3 mile climb up rocky ledges on a wide-track trail. This is a moderately strenuous climb, gaining 1000 feet to an altitude of 6,800 feet.

Gary Argyle grinds up the many rock ledges on the way to the top of Porcupine Rim. Photo Bruce Argyle, October 21, 2000.

Gary slams up the rock ledges towards the top of Porcupine

The Mad Scientist Bikers

Reaching Porcupine Rim, you'll find a mob of young buff bikers admiring the view of Castle Valley to the north. The spires of Castle Valley are spikes of Wingate sandstone sitting on red mudstone beds of the Moenkope and Chinle formations. These strata originated in Triassic times (around 220 million years ago). 

While Dominic is at the hospital getting his broken wrist x-rayed, the Mad Scientist bikers pose on top of Porcupine Rim, in front of the grand vistas of Castle Valley. October 21, 2000. L to R: Chad Hunter, Matt Flygare, Mike Engberson, Gary Argyle, and Bruce Argyle.

The real ride begins at the Rim. This is primo downhill advanced technical stuff, dropping off a gazillion small rocky ledges, with the last 3 miles a hairy single-track on the edge of deadly cliffs. From the Rim, you'll drop 2,700 vertical feet to the Colorado River over 11 unforgettable miles.

Rob K takes a ledge on the downhill flight. May 18, 2002.

Chad hops off a chest-high ledge. The downhill varies from smooth cruising to rocky technical stair-stepping. Especially on the singletrack section at the end, all but the very best stunt-riders will have to portage the bike over a few obstacles.

Chad takes a hop off a "the Diving Board." October 21, 2000. 

The trail can be ridden with a hardbody or hardtail bike, but your body will pay the price. There's a lot of slamming and banging on the way down. We recommend dual-suspension for this ride. Many bikers will soften the suspension at the summit, to let the bike absorb the thousands of impacts on the way down.

Matt and Mike drop down the rocky ledges. October 21, 2000.

Matt and Mike hit the ledges.

Bike repair. We rarely finish this ride with all of our bike parts. This ride temps you to bang down the ledges with abandon -- which can be pretty rough on your steed. Be prepared to replace a snakebit tube, to straighten a bent rim, and to fix a broken chain. If your bike is fairly new, schedule a couple of stops to tighten all the bolts.

Gary and Mike watch Chad fix his bike. October 21, 2000.

Getting there: The Porcupine Rim Trail begins on the Sand Flats Road, reached by turning left off Moab's main drag onto 300 South, then right when the road ends, then second left. From the entry gate, drive 7 miles. The trailhead is on the left, near the small cattle-watering tanks. Leave your shuttle car in Moab, or at the Grandstaff Canyon parking area on highway 128 north of Moab. (Known as Negro Bill Canyon prior to 2017, the canyon is named after William Grandstaff, a black cowboy who ran cattle in this area in the 1870s.)

View down Jackass Canyon on the way down towards the Colorado River. Behind the river, Moenkopi and Chinle formation slopes lead up to cliffs of Wingate sandstone. The cliff-top is Kayenta sandstone. Mounts of Navajo sandstone can be seen on the skyline.  April 17, 1999 Bruce Argyle

Negro Bill? Jackass Canyon? Who named these places?

Porcupine Rim Trail Map

Riding Resources for Porcupine Rim:
  Single-page riding guide
  GPS track files (right-click and "Save as..."):
     Garmin     Nat Geo     Google Earth     GPX
  Topo map:    View Lres    View Hres
  Lodging, camping, shops:   Links to Moab area resources

Copyright 2002 Mad Scientist Software Inc