FINS N THINGS
Trail Length: 9.4 miles
Low-End Rating: 4
High-End Rating: 5
This is what wheeling in Moab is all about. You can do this trail in a stock vehicle as long as you have decent approach angles in the front and back and good tires. You spend all day in sand or going up and down fins -- smooth, steep and long expanses of rock.
Try Baby Lion's Back near the entrance booth to the Sand Flats Recreation Area. It is on the left, past the entrance to Hell's Revenge. It's short but a fun introduction to driving on slickrock fins.
The trail is done in two sections, with the first section shorter and sandier than the second section. You could skip either one as they both start and end on Sand Flats Road.
The first section starts off mellow with a nice bumpy rock hill to get you started (this bumpy hill is optional, if you go to the very left you can bypass it all together). You go through a lot of sandy areas and get to play on some ledges before you see your first fin.
The first fin is a steep, sandy downhill. This is a safe place to test your vehicle. See if you can stop completely while you are on the hill and before you get to the bottom. There are a few other hills like this on the first section to enjoy.
It isn't very long before you wind your way through a camp site and you find yourself back on Sand Flats Road. Turn right here and work your way to the trailhead for the second section. It is the second entrance on your left.
You start out this section with a nice fin to come down. It seems steep and impossible, but this is just a small example of things yet to come.
You should be able to see a radio tower ahead. If you have the Sand Flats Recreation Area map they gave you at the entrance booth, you can see this radio tower marked on it. Use this for a reference point as you work your way out to the edge of the Negro Bill Canyon Wilderness Study Area to the north and the fins to the west.
There is a short hike to the Morning Glory Arch that you can take if you turn into the canyon at the far end. This is also near a natural part of rock that has a section that looks like a dinosaur.
It is very easy to get lost in this area. If you have the detailed directions in Charles Wells' "Guide to Moab, UT Backroads & 4-Wheel Drive Trails" you'll be better off.
The last part of this section is mostly on large fins of slickrock, and it takes you on a roller coaster ride as you go up and down them. If you end up back on Sand Flats Road and you haven't gone up and down many fins then you've missed the last loop. You'll come to an intersection where you can see black tracks on the slickrock made by tires. These tracks run off in the distance, so aim for those tracks. You will make a large, counter clockwise loop, so work your way to the right-most tire tracks.
There is a section at the far end of the loop where you can either take a sharp left turn and go up a steep hill, or continue straight to follow the trail around to the left. The sharp left turn with the steep hill is Kenny's Climb. It's a very steep climb but it's a blast! You should not have any troubles here.
After a few more fins you'll find yourself on sand, then you'll come around a sandy corner to the left and you'll find yourself face to face with a steep section of slickrock, very black with tire marks. This is Frenchy's Fin. It is short but extremely steep -- it is the steepest section of slickrock on all Moab 4x4 trails. If you take it slow and steady and follow the tire tracks you really aren't in any danger, though it sure feels like you are.
You still have a couple more steep climbs and descents, but the trail ends sooner than you'd like. Take a right turn on Sand Flats Road to get back to town. There is nothing else like this trail!
Trail Length: 4.09 miles
Low-End Rating: 2
High-End Rating: 3
This is one of the easier trails in the area, but it offers some fabulous views and historical sights. It's on the road from Silverton to Animas Forks, and it's easy to spot.
The town of Eureka no longer exists, but the wide area where it used to be is now a popular camping spot. There is a bridge there that crosses the Animas River where Eureka used to be, and on the side of the hill you can see the remaining foundations of the Sunnyside Mill. These foundations are stacked on top of each other up to the top of the hill. The Eureka Gulch trail starts just past these ruins, and the trail climbs to the top of them before it turns to continue up the gulch.
Keep in mind that a tramway ran from the Sunnyside Mine near the end of the trail to the Sunnyside Mill at the trailhead. It was an ambitious operation. The trail is mellow and easy the entire way, though sometimes passing may be challenging.
Watch the hillsides to the left of the trail across the gulch. The Ben Franklin Mine is high above the gulch and is very well-preserved. Unfortunately, the entire area is private and there is no access.
Continue up to find the remains of the Sunnyside Mine. There are many foundations and old buildings, with a network of roads snaking around them. Hanson Peak is behind the mine, and Bonita Peak is to the left of the trail across the gulch. Hurricane Peak is directly ahead as you work your way to the end of the trail.
If you have a GPS with you, you may notice that the trail goes through Lake Emma but no water is to be found. Much of the most productive mining was done just under this lake, but in the winter of 1977 the water from the lake began to leak into the mine that was still being worked. Then, on a Sunday in June, the entire lake flooded into the mine. Lake Emma was gone and the mine was destroyed. Luckily, no one was inside at the time. They spent two years restoring the mine, but it never returned to the same level of profitability it once had.
Continue past and through Lake Emma to where the trail ends at the remains of the Washington Mine. The views here are amazing. If you take the overlook on the Hurricane Pass trail you will be looking down on this area from the Sunnyside Saddle. This saddle is directly behind you now, between Hanson Peak and Bonita Peak.
Return the way you came in.
Trail Length: 23.4 miles
Low-End Rating: 2
High-End Rating: 3
One of Colorado's most scenic offroad drives is the Alpine Loop, a combination of this trail and the Cinnamon Pass trail. Though you can drive the loop in either direction, it is most typically driven west on Cinnamon Pass and east on Engineer Pass. You can drive the loop in any SUV with good clearance, though you may find challenges in some spots on the west end of the trail. It is usually a busy trail, so if you have troubles it will probably not be long before someone finds you.
The trail starts at the creek crossing in Animas Forks, a scenic and interesting ghost town that is worth some exploration. The trail begins climbing immediately from the trailhead as it passes the end of the Cinnamon Pass trailhead, and it continues climbing for a bit until the actual pass. This is the most intimidating section of the trail, a steep climb up a shelf road. Be very careful if you must pass a vehicle.
A good stop to catch your breath is at Oh Point, a left turn off of the main trail that leads you down a brief spur to an amazing overlook. You can see the overlook from the main trail, and it is not far. It is flat on the overlook, with plenty of room to park and take pictures.
Continue along the trail to find signs for Engineer Pass as you cross the Continental Divide. It is desolate but beautiful.
Your descent continues as you travel down the mountain along Henson Creek. You will follow this creek all the way to the end of the trail in Lake City, and it makes for some gorgeous scenery.
There are many sights along the way, and almost all of them are marked with informative signs. These make great places to stop and learn about the surroundings. If you have the time and the inclination, a great stop is at Whitmore Falls, marked with a sign. Park here and walk a short distance to an overlook for the falls, or continue along the steep hike to work your way all the way down to the falls themselves. The hike back up is steep but not very long.
Capitol City is a small, restored collection of buildings at the intersection with North Henson Road. The trail is very easy from this point to the end. You can see many mines and ruins along the trail, and when you are nearly to Lake City there are some areas of private land. Be sure to stay on the trail and observe the signs that mark when the trail passes between public and private land areas.
The trail ends in the tiny town of Lake City where you can pick up highway 149. Head south on the highway for a brief distance to pick up the Cinnamon Pass trail to continue the Alpine Loop.