Repairing or upgrading your bike! Look for items on UMB site Discussion board for bike fanatics! Visit the UMB store!
Css Menu Javascript by v4.3.0

The One and Only Slickrock Trail!

This is the world-famous Slickrock Trail near Moab, Utah. This 10.6 mile lariat loop twists and rolls through Navajo sandstone to a breathtaking view over the Colorado River. The Slickrock Trail is rated high technical difficulty and high aerobic requirement. But many MANY "not-very-good" bikers ride this trail, with many short hikes over the tough spots.

Matt, Chad, and Mike ride a typical section of trail. 99% of the riding is on sandstone!  Original review by Bruce in May 1998. This photo from October 2001. Latest page update May 2019.

The sandstone is sometimes smooth, sometimes rough. While Slickrock is best on a full-suspension bike, a hardtail works. If your bike hasn't seen rock before, it's best to stop every few miles and check all the bolts and cables. Bike parts tend to rattle loose. If you're riding a cheap bike, check the fillings in your teeth, too.

Some of the climbs are incredibly steep, requiring you to stand on the pedals with the handlebars right up against your body. Most riders (probably 98%) will push the bike up at least a couple of slopes. In all, you'll do well over 2500 vertical feet of climbing.

Chad cruises uphill, with a piece of the Moab valley showing in the background. The trail is marked by white dots on the rock. You won't get lost.

Spring and fall are best for biking southern Utah. (It gets pretty hot in the middle of a mid-summer's day.) But we've done Slickrock in both December and July, and had a great time. Just dress for the weather, bring emergency clothing, and make sure you're prepared to spend longer on the trail than you'd planned. Pack plenty of water and make sure you have enough calories for this taxing ride.

The crew drops from a sandstone dome and turns above the cliffs. In the middle of the photo is the Colorado River -- a 400-foot drop.

There are nice toilets -- which can function as your changing room -- at the trailhead. There's no water, though. Bring everything with you.

As the home of the most famous bike trail in the world, Moab has more bike stores and motels than most large cities. It's about four hours from the Salt Lake City airport, and you can rent your bike equipment when you get there.

Alexander Rodriquez, age 8, launches off the Navajo sandstone on the Slickrock trail. Photo by Randy Klein, April 16, 2006.

The rock you're riding on is Navajo Sandstone, laid down in desert sand dunes during the Jurassic Period, about 200 million years ago. The rock weathers into domes and mounds that allow a bike to grind uphill -- if you're strong enough. 99% of the riding is on awesome, undulating rock -- that's why Slickrock is famous. The trail is well-marked with white dots on the rock. The major trail forks, such as the forks for the practice loop and the main loop, are also painted onto the rock.

Mike gets up over the handlebars to tackle a steep section.

A slickride from many years ago...

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

The ride...

Starting from the parking lot, you'll reach a trail fork after 1/3 mile. Her the main trail goes to the left. Straight ahead is a short (1.3 mile) "practice loop." The practice loop ends on the main path about 1/2 mile from where you are. Go left if you aren't sure you can handle the extra distance and work of the practice loop; right if you're doing everything or only the practice loop.

Bruce heads away from the Slickrock parking lot.

The Practice Loop is not quite as tough as the terrain on the main loop. For a lot of riders, the practice loop lets them say they "rode the Slickrock trail." This little lariat ride out and around the practice loop is 2.3 miles round trip.

There's also a viewpoint spur to overlook The Abyss on the practice loop, 0.5 miles from the outgoing trail fork. This short segment is only 1/10th mile long, so it's worth doing.

Although most riders come for the rock, the scenery from the Slickrock Trail is terrific. Here's Earl Underwood in a photo by Randy Klein, April 16, 2006, with the La Sal Mountains in the background. More Slickrock photos...

Assuming you kept on the main trail, the next fork is at mile 0.8, where the practice loop rejoins. Keep left.

You'll get entangled with the Hell's Revenge 4x4 route in a gully at mile 1.8. Keep straight and right to climb away from the 4x4 path. 

Slickrock is a popular spot. You won't find solitude on the main trail or practice loop. And in some areas of the trail, the roar of nearby motorcycles and 4x4 rigs can be bothersome.

Above Abyss trail option... Three short but brutal climbs later, at mile 2.0 from the trailhead you'll be on top of a fin, with the Slickrock trail dropping steeply to your right. It crosses the 4x4 trail in the bottom of the ravine. To ride Above Abyss (see our separate page for details), keep straight and pedal on faith. About 30 feet later, you'll see white paint dots to mark the trail.

This photo is from Above Abyss, as our rider approaches a viewpoint at the northeast corner of this alternate path.

On the main lariat loop, at mile 2.2 you'll reach the main loop fork. You can ride the loop either direction. Assuming you rode clockwise, you'll reach the spur to the Colorado River overlook at mile 3.8 on the left. (NOTE! Many early GPS tracks are not high-resolution enough to capture the many small turns that add distance to the ride. So the reported miles may not exactly match your on-bike unit.) This spur is 0.2 miles long.

Slickrock offers a lot of steep descents and steeper climbs.

At mile 6.7 (about 1/4 mile after Shrimp Rock), you'll pass the two spurs from the Icebox Canyon overlook, about 1/4 mile apart. These spurs are also the north end of the Above Abyss trail route. (There are some paint spots visible from the trail, but they're subtle, so you probably won't notice them unless you slow down and look carefully. GPS navigation is recommended if you're looking for this route.)

Bruce pedals past The Abyss in this drone shot.

At mile 8.2, you'll hit the main loop trail fork again. Go left to return to the parking area. On the way, hit the practice loop if you have enough leg left.

Heading back. The tiny bikers in the distance at upper right are approaching the first practice loop trail fork.

 A trail video of the Practice Loop ride...

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

Getting there: The Slickrock Trail begins on the Sand Flats Road just east of town, 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 (where you pay your fee), drive about 0.6 mile. You'll see a large parking lot on the left, with bathrooms (but no water.)

Slickrock Trail Map

Riding Resources for Slickrock:
  Topo printable topo map:  View high-res map (2019)
  Single-page riding guide
  Lodging, camping, shops:      Links to Moab area resources
GPS track files (right-click and "Save as..."):
     GPX of lariat loop ride   Practice loop only
     Area multi-track file (includes some spurs)

Original review 1998. Copyright 2000 division of Mad Scientist Software Inc.
Latest update 2019