||Western Rim Trail
Loop via Westwater Mesa
The Western Rim Trail is a scenic and fun ride. This 24 mile loop
skirts the edge of cliffs for 7 miles on Westwater Mesa Rim, drops down across a valley, then
hugs another 5 miles of cliff edge on the Great Western Rim above the Colorado River before looping
back via the Kokopelli Trail. This ride is awesome. It requires good conditioning and
upper-intermediate tech skills. Total climbing will be about 1500 vertical
View northeast early in the ride, as
the harder sandstone layer of the mesa breaks away in the multi-colored
bands of the Morrison Formation. Photos and description from a ride
November 4, 2010 by Bruce.
|I've also put together a lariat version that's shorter and has substantially less climbing.
At 13.5 miles, it's suitable for intermediate
riders. Climbing is about 400 vertical. This version hits only the
Western Rim itself -- you'll miss out on 7 miles of awesome cliff-edge
singletrack on Westwater Mesa. The short-version ride is described below the main ride.
These two versions DO NOT share the same trailhead, so you
need to decide which one you're doing. I recommend the Big Loop. The 24
miles goes by pretty quickly. And if you're going to drive almost to
Colorado, you'd better get your gas-money's worth. (The eastern end of the
loop barely misses Colorado by about a mile -- the entire trail is in
Utah.) This ride is worth the trip.
Western Rim: The Big Loop, 24 miles, 1500 vertical.
The loop ride starts just off the Westwater exit of I-70 about 60
miles from Green River, at an altitude of 4800 feet. After climbing gently
a mile to the edge
of the escarpment, the trail hugs the cliff edge as it heads south along
the edge of Westwater Mesa. The
riding gradually gets more technical, with sandstone slabs alternating
with dirt. Because this route is shared with motos, there's a lot of
whoop-de-doo up-and-down riding.
Typical trail view along the
||A couple of times, you'll glimpse the doubletrack Kokopelli
trail on your right through the trees. There are a couple of cheater
routes heading right. In general, stay close to the cliffs when there's
any question about where to go.
On your left, a broad valley slowly descends toward the Colorado River
many miles away. Slopes are striped with the brilliant hues of the
Morrison Formation from the late Jurassic period. The views are
Looking southwest over the cliff edge.
Note the Morrison Formation below us. We'll be dropping down to the valley
in front of the mesa in upper right.
|The trail reaches a top altitude of 5100 within a couple of
miles as it skirts the cliff edges. Remember this handy navigation aid: Keep to the
left and close to the abyss.
That will come in handy later. As the trail begins to descend, it becomes more
technical. The trail turns west away from the edge of Westwater Mesa.
About 5.5 miles into the ride, the trail drops off a break in the rock
ledge to a lower level. Head south across a broad ridge, pedaling through
pinions and juniper.
We're turning away from the cliff to
begin descending toward the next level.
||At about 8 miles, you'll come to a critical fork. As you're
heading southbound on a broad ridge, there's an unmarked intersection. A
wide trail crosses the singletrack. Straight ahead, you'll note dark-gray singletrack
heading sharply up the next hill. DO NOT CLIMB. Also do not go to the
right around the hill. Turn 90 degrees left and
drop steeply off the mountain. You'll dump about 300 vertical in 1/2 mile
as the trail twists around the mountainside.
Pay attention: I went on three (3)
count them, three, wrong trails at this spot. There's another trail fork
just 100 yards away. Just remember: keep to the left.
|In the bottom of the valley (4400 feet elevation), keep left
on the ST that forks off
DT. At mile 10.2 of the ride, the ST crosses a dirt road. This road
is the Bitter Creek road. (It's the access for the shorter lariat-type
At mile 11.2, you'll hit the edge of the cliff line above the Colorado. The
trail now turns northeast toward the Entrada cliffs.
We've reached the last cliff line
above the Colorado River.
||You're now on the Western Rim. The singletrack meanders
along the edge of the cliffs, often just a few feet from the drop-off.
You're riding on top of Entrada sandstone, occasionally meandering
up into the red dirt of the Curtis Formation.
View across a side-canyon. In a few
minutes, we'll be riding on the tiny band that says "Trail" in
|The trail tracks the edge of the canyons for 4 miles
before turning north. When the ST trail joins the doubletrack Kokopelli
Trail at mile 16.1, turn left. The Kokopelli takes you downhill and
west, then north across the broad valley. Compared to what you've been
doing, these miles go by quickly.
The final grunt is the Kokopelli's stiff climb at mile 22, up to the
top of Westwater Mesa. You'll gain about 500 vertical in a mile.
Then you head back to the car.
Looking back toward the Colorado as we
skirt a side canyon. These photos don't do justice to the awesomeness of
||The Lariat Loop: 13.5 miles, 400 vertical.
The lariat loop from the Colorado River is much easier, both
aerobically, technically, and endurance-wise. It's a pretty quick ride. If
you climb to the top, then do the Western Rim singletrack
downhill, the ride will fly by.
The trail is hugging the last bit of
Entrada sandstone. Fifteen feet to the right, vertical cliffs. To the
left, a steep red dirt slope riding to a small cliff line.
|You reach the trailhead by heading west on the Coal Draw
road from the I-70 exit. The road turns south and descends toward the
Colorado. When the road goes under the railroad tracks, it will turn east.
Go as far as the pavement allows, then get across the tracks and find the
dirt Bitter Creek road heading northeast along the edge of the mountain.
Looking back to the west. The outcrop
just above the river (middle of photo) is where we first joined the
||It's just over 2.5 butt-ugly dirt-desert miles to the loop.
(Maybe it's prettier in the springtime.) You'll gain only a tiny bit of elevation on this segment. You'll know
you're there when a singletrack crosses the doubletrack you're riding.
That's the return route for a clockwise ride. Or it's the singletrack
you're looking for if you're going counterclockwise.
Clockwise: continue another mile up the doubletrack. You'll now be joined on the
left by the Kokopelli. Keep heading east.
Occasionally the singletrack gives way
|Two miles after joining the Kokopelli
(mile 4.8 from the
where the Bitter Creek road forked off the dirt road along the railroad
track), veer right as the doubletrack forks. A route
from Rabbit Valley in Colorado will join you on the left. Just keep right, and you'll find yourself on a broad
singletrack southbound. (If you see a sign that says "Trail 2", you're
about to go the wrong way. Turn 90 degrees right -- south -- to find the correct
Looking back to the west as we finish
another side canyon. A few minutes ago, we were on the slickrock shelf
above the cliff.
||About 0.4 miles after starting the singletrack, keep right
and uphill as a trail on your left descends sharply toward the valley. A
bit later, you're out on the rim in all its glory. It will now be 5 downhill
singletrack miles. When the singletrack hits the Bitter Creek road, turn left
and pedal back to your car.
P.S. Sorry I don't have any photos of the Bitter Creek
road. I explored it so I could be sure it offered an alternative trailhead
(ending with 33 miles for the day). But after witnessing the glories of
the Rim, the lower two miles of Bitter Creek seemed so ugly, I just
couldn't make myself stop and take out the camera.
Looking east at the top of the
Kokopelli, finishing the big loop.
|Riding notes, big loop from Westover exit
0.0 From parking area, east uphill on DT
N39 10.272 W109 07.684
0.5 Keep R N39 10.105 W109 07.242
0.8 Keep R N39 09.873 W109 07.075
1.0 Straight (L) onto Kokopelli
N39 09.667 W109 06.976
1.3 Straight (as Kokopelli turns L downhill)
N39 09.615 W109 06.725
2.5 Alongside Kokopelli, stay on ST along cliffs
N39 09.435 W109 07.146
3.8 Keep L as cheater routes fork R
N39 08.624 W109 06.954
5.4 Trail turns west (R) at cliff-line
5.7 Fork L downhill (R heads back)
N39 07.675 W109 06.465
8.0 CRITICAL FORK. Turn L and descend
N39 06.932 W109 07.163
|8.6 Fork L on ST N39 07.010 W109 06.659
10.3 Cross DT (Bitter Creek Rd)
N39 07.359 W109 05.696
15.7 Keep L and uphill
N39 07.946 W109 03.395
16.1 L on DT
N39 08.227 W109 03.531
to join Kokopelli
N39 08.258 W109 03.609
18.2 Stay L on Kokopelli
N39 07.848 W109 04.933
21.9 L at 4-way, staying on Kokopelli
N39 09.907 W109 06.339
22.7 Top of cliffs, hard R on original trail
24.0 Back at car
|Riding notes, Bitter Creek from dirt fork
by RR track:
0.0 Head northeast on DT along side of mountain
N39 05.421 W109 06.255
0.4 Stay L along mountain
N39 05.745 W109 06.097
1.8 Straight (R) on main road
N39 06.807 W109 06.158
2.8 ST crosses (R=return path)
N39 07.359 W109 05.696
|3.7 Kokopelli joins, keep
N39 07.848 W109 04.933
4.8 Keep R and find southbound ST
N39 08.227 W109 03.531
5.2 Keep R and uphill
N39 07.946 W109 03.395
10.7 L downhill on DT
13.5 Back at fork.
|Getting there, the Big Loop (recommended
I-70 eastbound from Green River, go 63 miles to the Westwater exit #227.
(It's 43.5 miles east of the Crescent Junction -- Moab -- exit, or 21
miles from the U-128 exit/on-ramp.) As you exit, turn R. The road
immediately turns back 180 degrees southwest. Turn left on the dirt road
and park in the broad open area. The trail is the doubletrack heading east
Getting there, the short Lariat Loop: From the same I-70 Westwater
exit, stay on the road heading southwest. It will turn south. After the
paved road goes under the railroad track, it will turn east. (You can park
above the tracks and ride east on the dirt road north of the railroad
track as shown on the map. I did, but why?) Drive east 1.2 miles after the
turn under the tracks. The road nears the river. Find a parking spot. Get
across the tracks. Zero the bike's odometer. Find the small dirt Bitter
Creek road along the mountain. The spot you're aiming for is N39 05.745 W109 06.097
where two dirt roads join.
Water: Are you kidding?
Nearest bike services: Fruita, Colorado