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The Kokopelli Trail

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Location: From Loma, Colorado, to Moab.

Distance: 140.4 miles one way. Or riders can take their pick among six sections: Section 1 is 20.4 miles; 2 is 33 miles; 3 is 20.6 miles; 4 is 17.8 miles; 5 is 24.2 miles; and 6 is 24.4 miles. The sections outlined below are logistically sensible, but strong riders may want to combine sections for longer days.

Time: Six days with shuttle vehicles. Ordinary cars are sufficient for all but Section 4, which requires a four-wheel-drive or described route adaptations to accommodate cars.

Tread: 140.4 miles on every type of surface imaginable. Section 1, Loma to Rabbit Valley, gets down to business with packed dirt, powdered red fluff, slickrock, sand, creek crossings, and craggy rock. Section 2 continues to the Cisco boat launch. The rugged four-wheel-drive roads on this route are eroded in places, and drainage crossings and slickrock sections are fun challenges. Section 3 leads riders to the Dewey Bridge on good packed surfaces. Pavement begins at mile 11.0, a major decision point. From here the main trail runs rough then extremely sandy. The scenery is great, but the sand is as fun as a trip to an oral surgeon. Some riders opt to follow Utah Highway 128 to Dewey Bridge. Section 4, from the bridge to Onion Creek, offers good packed gravel road (see rides 5 and 6 for a more detailed tread report). As the Dolores Overlook route (Ride 6) peels off, the Kokopelli becomes extremely rough again throughout the second Cottonwood Canyon and into Fisher Valley, where it joins Ride 7 and meets Section 5. From FR 033 in Section 5 the road follows 2.6 miles of loose gravel, then 5.4 miles of pavement to the intersection of Gateway Road and the La Sal Loop Road. Section 6, the homestretch, drops onto a moderately rough four-wheel-drive road, then follows Sand Flats Road, which is initially eroded and rough but becomes graded from the Porcupine Rim trailhead down into Moab.

Aerobic level: Strenuous. Ridden end to end, Kokopelli's is long and the steeps are littered throughout. Section 1 is moderate, except for the strenuous steep out of Salt Creek. Section 2 is moderate, except for the steep out of Bitter Creek. Section 3 is moderate, except for the obscenely strenuous 4 miles of sand. Section 4 is strenuous, with lots of climbing! Section 5 goes back to moderate. Hammerheads can add this to Section 4 or 6 to shorten the overall ride by one day. Section 6 is strenuous, but the climb is on pavement and it's all downhill from the midpoint.

Technical difficulty: 4. While there's plenty of spinning, the obstacles are numerous and diverse. And remote. Section 1 is 4+ with goodly amounts of singletrack and slickrock challenges. Section 2 is 4-; pretty straightforward with some tough spots. Section 3 is 3+ or 5+ depending on whether you try to ride cleanly through the sand. The 3+ is for the rest of the section. Section 4 is 4+, but the Cottonwood Canyons are rugged. Section 5 is 3+ and once on the gravel road things get easy. Section 6 is 4-; after dropping off the Loop Road, watch for erosion ruts in the fast, downhill four-wheel-drive section. Just before joining Sand Flats Road the ruts are particularly deep and nasty. The obstacles may seem easier than they should be. Probably because all cylinders are firing when riding the Kokopelli! A few ledges on the drop to the Porcupine Rim stock tanks finishes off the difficult terrain unless you opt to ride the Slickrock Trail before hitting Moab.

Highlights: Come on, this is the Kokopelli Trail! This is an adventure to tell the grandkids about. It is easier to supply than the White Rim Trail, but it's also tougher both technically and physically. Don't ride this on a whim. Permits aren't needed, but good planning is. The desert doesn't mess around, so bring too much water and make sure your shuttle vehicle carries extra potable gallons as well. The ride breaks down into six days, each with its own flavor. Day one tests riders' legs and power in Colorado country and straining up the Salt Creek steep. Day two has been revamped courtesy of the railroad and BLM, weaving among the Bitter Creek and Coal Draw drainages. Day three is all in Utah and is pleasant until it gets extremely sandy, but even this is incredibly scenic. Day four sends riders up a long hill with numerous spur options and slickrock play areas. Day five gives a day in the saddle to get out the kinks and do some fast road descending. Some riders may want to tack on the long grind of a climb on Section 6 and camp at Cold Springs. The final day climbs up to the majestic mountain site of Mason Draw, then runs along the beginning of Porcupine Rim (the rim, not the ride) to skirt Rill Creek Canyon. The route then rolls leisurely along Sand Flats before the sudden drop into Moab. Campsites along the way provide self-supported bikers a place to spread out.

Land status: Manti-La Sal National Forest, BLM Moab and Grand Junction Districts, and private holdings.

Maps: USGS Mack, Ruby Canyon, Bitter Creek Well, Westwater, Agate, Big Triangle, Cisco, Dewey, Blue Chief Mesa, Fisher Valley, Mount Waas, Warner Lake, Rill Creek, Moab. That's $56 worth of maps! The Grand Junction, Westwater, and Moab maps in the 1:100,000 series cover the route in a smaller scale and still show campsites.

Access: The start of each section is the end of the previous section. Shuttle/support cars should be placed at both access points. To access the Westwater Ranger Station in Section 2, use Exit 225 on Interstate 70.

    Loma: Section 1 — From Moab, take Utah Highway 128 to I-70 East. Exit I-70 at Loma, Exit 15. At the intersection on the south side of I-70, take the road eastward away from the Port of Entry station. The road heads down to a boat ramp. This is the start of Kokopelli's Trail.

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    Rabbit Valley: Section 2 — Exit I-70 at Rabbit Valley, Exit 2, and head south. Look for the parking area, a wide place in the road, in just under 0.3 mile. The trail enters a bit farther down the road and turns to join this road and start Section 2.

    Cisco Boat Launch: Section 3 — From I-70 take Cisco Exit 202, and drive south on UT 128. When the highway turns right to Moab, continue straight toward Cisco. Just before "town" turn right on Pumphouse Road. In 2.9 miles you'll come across a sign for "Cisco Boat Landing; Fish Ford." Follow the sign toward the Cisco Boat Launch. After 0.9 mile the road crosses a bridge, then forks. Keep left, no longer following the boat launch signs (it's to the right). Park in the area provided west of the cattleguard. From Moab, drive north on UT 128 to the above intersection and turn right. Exit 212 offers a gravel route into Cisco.

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    Dewey Bridge: Section 4 — See Access section of Ride 4.

    Fisher Valley: Section 5 — This requires a four-wheel-drive sag wagon. Turn right on Onion Creek Road up from UT 128, 23.6 miles from Moab (22 miles from the turnoff of U.S. Highway 191). Drive up the rough, wet road 10 miles to the 16.2-mile point of Ride 7. Those with low-clearance cars can either park at the Polar Mesa trailhead (Ride 8), at the turn at mile 4.3 of the Polar Mesa Trail, or at the end of the Onion Creek Trail. This last option adds a wet-n-wild downhill (see Ride 7).

    Castle Valley: From Moab, drive 2.6 miles north on US 191 to UT 128. Turn right, passing Matrimony Spring, and continue 16.1 miles. Turn right on Castleton Road and follow it to the intersection with the Loop Road. This is the start of Section 6.

    Moab: Park at the visitor center, your hotel/campground, or at the Slickrock Trail trailhead. There is no overnight parking at the visitor center!

The ride:
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     Loma to Rabbit Valley — Section 1
     0.0 — From the parking area, pedal back toward I-70 on the access road. At the intersection turn left on the gravel road.
     1.3 — The road forks. Keep left and head up the switchback.
     1.6 — Another fork; stay right.
     2.8 — Again, stay right. Some rim riding lies down the trail!
     3.1 — Keep right at yet another fork.
     4.0 — Pick up the cairns and BLM markers as the singletrack starts.
     4.2 — Gate. The trail continues on the other side. Gettin' techy!
     6.0 — Keep left here. It should be marked! If you're on a gravel road that's awfully sandy, you missed the main route and are heading to I-70. The singletrack is also sandy, but it's an actual trail. Continue to follow the markers and cairns.
     10.3 — Cross the slickrock. Again, cairns should blaze the way.
     11.8 — Use the foot bridge to cross Salt Creek. This is a recent trail addition to keep bikers from being swept downstream. Followed by a monster hill.
     13.5 — Top! Enjoy the view while sucking in some air.
     13.7 — Turn right on the gravel road.
     15.7 — Turn left at this intersection. Keep on this main road through any and all spurs.
     19.7 — Keep right here. A friendly Kokopelli marker should point the way.
     20.2 — Follow the right fork after this cattleguard.
     20.4 — Turn left at a "T" intersection. Section 2 begins here.

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     Rabbit Valley to Cisco — Section 2
     0.0 — Continue down the gravel road, going left from mile 20.4 of Section 1.
     0.2 — The road forks. Keep right and thank the powers that be for granting access.
     0.6 — Another fork. Go left and cross the wash.
     1.0 — Again with the forks! Keep left and follow the road down through McDonald Creek Canyon and stay left as a road joins.
     2.0 — Stay left on the main road.
     3.1 — Turn right at this fork. This area is particularly well blazed.
     7.1 — Turn right and descend toward Bitter Creek.
     8.1 — Keep right, except to pass, as the road follows the west side of Bitter Creek.
     9.9 — Again, keep right. Markers should still help to ease your mind.
     10.5 — Hang a Louie — that's a left turn — and start up the main hill of this section.
     11.3 — Cruise along the mesa top by keeping right here.
     16.5 — Turn left on the gravel road toward Westwater. You may actually see someone on this road.
     20.4 — Keep right as the old Kokopelli route enters, then go under the bridge. Turn right again where the road crosses the creek. Luckily, this is also well marked.
     21.8 — Keep left and go left again in 0.1 mile.
     23.1 — Cairns point the way out of the wash and over the slickrock.
     25.6 — Stay on the main road through three intersections here.
     27.2 — Keep left around this bend. A spur leaves to the right. Crank it out on the big ring while staying on the main road.
     29.5 — Keep left as several roads join the party from the right.
     33.0 — Turn right and head to the Cisco Boat Launch, just ahead, which marks the end of Section 2.

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     Cisco to Dewey Bridge — Section 3
     0.0 — Head back toward Cisco, going left with your back to the river.
     1.7 — Turn left toward the Cisco Fish Ford.
     3.0 — A marked but otherwise indiscernible trail splits right as the road makes a gradual bend left. There is also a spring nearby. Just keep an eye peeled for the marker on the right and follow it.
     6.3 — Cairns mark the way over this slickrock.
     6.9 — Keep right here following the river. The trail jumps up and continues to follow the river.
     8.2 — Gate. Follow the road on the other side as it drops toward UT 128.
     9.3 — Keep right and continue to crank to the highway.
     11.0 — UT 128. Watch for traffic and turn left.
     11.2 — Decision time! After passing some corrals the main route leaves the highway. The tread becomes extremely sandy. (Where's a camel when you need one?) But the scenery is pretty. Riders who want to avoid the sand can continue on UT 128 to Dewey Bridge. Otherwise, turn right here and don't say I didn't warn you.
     11.7 — Continue to slug it up the road as another road enters on the right.
     13.4 — The road forks; keep left and roll down past the gate.
     14.4 — Keep right and enjoy the lack of deep sand.
     14.7 — Watch for trail markers leading to a left turn.
     15.2 — Keep following the signs. One points right. What? No more difficult sand?
     15.5 — Left turn. Hop down the ledges and follow the dotted lines across the slickrock. Enjoy this playground and the free-rolling tread. More sand awaits.
     16.1 — Intersection; keep left. Has it gotten sandier?
     16.3 — Another intersection. Stay right.
     16.6 — Praise the BLM and the signs and turn left. Yes, it might be getting sandy soon.
     18.5 — One more left here.
     19.5 — Continue to follow the markers to and around the gravel pit.
     20.6 — Cross UT 128, turn left to the abandoned gas station, and then turn right to cross Dewey Bridge. The sign at the start of Section 4 gives the dope on the bridge.

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     Dewey Bridge to Onion Creek — Section 4
     0.0 — This section begins by following the Top of the World route (see Ride 5). Head southeast up the gravel road, away from Dewey Bridge. Avoid all spurs for 5.1 miles. The road rolls up and down before settling into a constant climb.
     3.4 — The road passes a couple of slickrock playgrounds, then Cowskin Campground comes up on the left. The road turns right and grows steeper.
     5.1 — A backroad junction marks the entrance to the first Cottonwood Canyon. The gravel road bends left and downhill and two four-wheel-drive spurs go right. The right-most track goes south to Top of the World (Ride 5). Instead, take the four-wheel-drive track going east, which is part of the Dolores Overlook Trail (Ride 6).
     9.8 — A spur goes left; keep right. This is the 4.7-mile mark of Ride 6. Keep on this main road ignoring all spurs. It climbs a bit farther, then heads down the second Cottonwood Canyon in a turbulent descent.
     17.8 — Intersect with the Onion Creek route (Ride 7) here. Onion Creek and UT 128 are down the road to the right. Left goes to Section 5.

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     Across the Mesas — Section 5
     0.0 — Turn left and retrace the Onion Creek route (Ride 7), to FR 033.
     11.9 — Turn right and climb onto North Beaver Mesa.
     16.2 — Keep right through this intersection, which is the trailhead for Onion Creek and Polar Mesa. Gateway, Colorado, is down the road going left.
     18.8 — The road becomes paved. Check the brakes and get ready for major-league speed.
     18.9 — The Fisher Mesa (Ride 9) trailhead is on the right.
     20.9 — The Adobe Mesa (Ride 10) trailhead zips by on the right.
     24.2 — This section is officially over where the Loop Road and Castleton Road meet.

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     The Final Stretch — Section 6
     0.0 — From the intersection of the Loop Road and Castleton Road, keep left on the Loop Road and follow the Bachelor's Bash (Ride 11) description from mile 11.3 to it's trailhead.
     4.6 — Continue past Bachelor's Bash trailhead to climb more of the Loop Road.
     5.9 — Cold Springs Camp is off to the left. A few hundred yards farther and it's all downhill!
     6.1 — Turn right and start the descent. Look for the trail marker on the right. It's just past a pullout with a spectacular view into Castle Valley.
     6.8 — Keep right on the main trail.
     7.8 — Keep left to pass an old mine, avoiding the road that drops away to the right. Then keep right on the main road.
     9.3 — WATCH FOR DEEP RUTS, then turn right on Sand Flats Road. Stay on this road into Moab.
     14.5 — Porcupine Rim trailhead (Ride 15).
     20.8 — The Slickrock Trail (Ride 1).
     24.4 — Moab.

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