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Rojo Trail

The Rojo Trail is an advanced technical ride on Red Mountain north of Vernal. When done as a counterclockwise loop, it's just over 6 miles with 800 feet of overall elevation change. Aerobically the climb is very strenuous, and the rough rock will take a toll on your legs. But if you're an expert, this ride should go onto your list.

Early view in an out-and-back riding of Rojo. Although envisioned as a downhill (counterclockwise) ride, I enjoyed the slickrock out-and-back! Photos June 15, 2010 by Bruce.

If you're heading for Vernal because you've heard about miles and miles of flowing smooth desert singletrack, well, that's NOT this trail. Rojo is going to beat you up a little. The climb is nasty and the slickrock takes a bit of work. The payoff is very fun trail challenges and nice views.

The ride starts just north of Vernal at an altitude of 6050 feet and climbs Red Mountain on a base of Shinarump conglomerate. Yes, that's the same stuff on Gooseberry Mesa. Except here it's tilted, raising the trickiness level. Gooseberry on steroids, especially if you're warped enough to ride the singletrack uphill.

View down the cuesta to Steinaker Reservoir, near the top of the singletrack. Note the paint spots on the rock marking the route.

Most riders will do this as a counterclockwise loop, riding the steep doubletrack to the top then taking the 2.5-mile slickrock and singletrack section downhill. On average, the two miles of uphill is only 400 vertical per mile, but many sections are brutal.

I first rode this trail from the bottom. If your legs are fresh, consider doing it as an out-and-back.

Climbing the doubletrack, which is the Red Mountain Trail (see separate page). Although I found the surface firm two days after a rain, ATVs may churn up the surface to make your climb more challenging.

If you're planning to catch the trail at the top, BE SURE YOU CAN FIND IT. Seriously. This trail is like Captain Jack Sparrow's island: it can only be found by those who already know where it is. If you don't have a friend to guide you, you need a GPS unit or an accurate odometer plus a sharp eye watching for the turnoff to the singletrack!

Nearing the top, the DT forks and rejoins a few times. On one of these forks, the obvious choice is to go right for a less-steep slope. Yet the trail is on the LEFT fork, just before a steep rock ramp where your eyes will be looking uphill. The trail forks sharply left, hidden from sight by boulders and junipers.

Many of the rock areas have these punched-out craters. A fun challenge. Note: the camera is NOT tilted. This is the actual slope of the rock in this area. The background mountain is also a tilted cuesta like Red Mountain. The bike is leaning a tad downhill, with its pedal propping it on the edge of the pond.

I highly recommend large tubeless tires and plush suspension for this ride. Not only are there a gazillion sharp rock edges waiting to pinch-flat you, there are myriad cacti hiding under the needles of longleaf pine along the trail's edge.

A cluster of little barrel cactus prepare to bloom in the morning sunshine.

The business side of the Rojo trail is about 80% slickrock. It has weathered a bit rougher than Gooseberry. Navigating the potholes is a fun challenge. And there are plenty of ledges to wheelie off.

The trail comes to the west side of the cuesta several times, offering great views. The top of Red Mountain is NOT red. It's made of Shinarump, varying between white and light orange. At these viewpoints, you can see the red Chinle slopes that give the mountain its name.

The singletrack is not all downhill. There will be some periods where you'll climb a bit. But when done counterclockwise, these mellow climbs will feel like a break from the tricky route-picking and roughness of the downhill.

Paint splotches on the rock show the path in the slickrock areas. The spots are arranged to be seen best from the uphill (counterclockwise) riding direction, but are sufficient to navigate from the other direction if you're doing the trail out-and-back. 

Near the bottom, the trail parallels the DT for a mile. (The DT is on the east side of the wash and the ST is on the west.) Don't fall for any sucker connectors here. Make sure you get your full dose of rock.

The terrain has longleaf pine, juniper, pinion and scrub. Short bits of sandy singletrack separate broad expanses of rock.

Riding notes, counterclockwise loop:
0.0  Ride north on dirt road N40 32.678 W109 35.275
0.5  Pass Rojo (on your left across small wash
       just as you hit the edge of the mountain)
       N40 33.024 W109 35.059
1.0  Keep L (R = connector to Steinaker)
       N40 33.155 W109 34.563
2.4  Keep L at all forks N40 34.121 W109 33.938
2.6  Find ST on L, just before steep rock ramp
       N40 34.263 W109 34.013
4.8  Keep R, ignore any connectors to DT
5.8  Connect to DT N40 33.024 W109 35.059
6.2  Back at parking

We're about to drop into the rock bottom of the wash as we near the end of Rojo.

Getting there:  
While driving toward Vernal on US-40, crest the hill and pass the rest area just before town. As you encounter buildings, watch for 2500 West on your left. As of 2010, it's the 3rd street, but it depends on what you count as a street. Turn left on 2500 West. Keep going north for 8 miles. At N40 32.678 W109 35.275, there's a parking area on your right. The trail is the doubletrack heading north. 

Camping: None. Red Fleet is about 10 miles away, Steinaker is 6 miles away. Both are on SR 44 north of Vernal.
Bring your own.
Bike services, maps, trail conditions:

Altitude Cycle, 580 East Main, Vernal. 435-781-2595

Riding resources for this trail:
Single-page riding guide
GPS track files (right-click and "Save as..."):
    Garmin     GPX  (files include Red Mountain DH routes!)
Large-format area topo map:  View map
Topo including Red Mountain DH East and West trails:   View big map
Lodging, camping, shops:   Links to Vernal area resources

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