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More hiking in Moab 

I've written previously about hiking opportunities in and around Moab, Utah, a popular destination for cyclists, off-roaders, hikers and also visitors to the nearby Arches and Canyonlands National Parks.

There are, obviously, many opportunities for outdoor adventure in our National Parks, but significant road construction in Arches National Park, has brought about reduced park hours, Some limited access, traffic backups and some overflow into the nearby Canyonlands National Park. On my recent visit to Moab, I sought out some hiking trails outside of the national parks that may fall under the radar for most people.

The Portal Overlook trail is a moderately difficult trail that ascends 900-feet over about 2 miles to the top of a gap in a sandstone and granite ridge — the "portal" — through which the Colorado River flows. About a half mile from the trailhead at JayCee Park there's a metal sign-in box with information stating it's a 2-mile trek to the overlook, though a sign at the trailhead says the one-way distance is 1.5 miles. My GPS says the actual one-way distance is somewhere in between those two figures.
click to enlarge The LaSal Mountains, the town of Moab and the Colorado River from the top of the Portal Overlook Trail - BOB FALCONE
  • Bob Falcone
  • The LaSal Mountains, the town of Moab and the Colorado River from the top of the Portal Overlook Trail
The trail is shared with cyclists from the nearby Poison Spider Mesa for a little more than a mile from the trailhead. It's easy to follow for the most part, except for some short sections over bare slick rock. Those spots are few and it's easy to get back on track. The trail climbs to the top of a sheer cliff, overlooking Moab, the Colorado River and the broad, flat mesa of Arches National Park to the east. Balanced Rock and other formations are visible in the distance from the end of the Portal trail, a little under 2-miles from the trailhead. There are no fences or guardrails or anything else separating you from plummeting off the cliff face, so this hike is not suitable for kids.

To get there: From the intersection of Potash Road (Utah Highway 279) and U.S. Highway 191 just north of Moab, turn west on Potash Road and go a little over 4 miles to the JayCee Park on the right side of the road and turn in to the parking lot. There is a campground on the left and the marked trailhead is on the right.

On the south end of Moab, Kane Creek Road serves as an access to many cycling trails and also a few hiking trails on a vast swath of Bureau of Land Management lands.  There are many miles of trails devoted to cycling in Moab, but there are a few trails that are for hikers only. The Hunter Canyon trail is an approximately 6-mile round trip out-and-back trail winding through a quiet, deep, narrow canyon, along an intermittent creek, and ending at a sheer rock face at the end of the canyon. Most of the trail is sandy with some bare slick-rock mixed in. About a half-mile from the trailhead, Hunter Arch looms high above the trail in the right side — it's a great photo opportunity, but climbing up to it can be extremely difficult on the steep, loose slope and isn't recommended. The trail wanders from one side of the creek to the other, but it's never hard to hop over the water. There are many side trails that come off of the main trail and it's easy to get sidetracked, though, the canyon is narrow so you'll always end up back on the main trail.
click to enlarge Hunter Canyon - BOB FALCONE
  • Bob Falcone
  • Hunter Canyon
To get there: From the intersection of Kane Creek Road and US 191, follow Kane Creek Road for 7.5 miles to the trailhead on the left side of the road at the bottom of the canyon. There are a few campsites at near the parking lot, but no camping in the rest of the canyon.

Usually, a trail that is under 1 mile round-trip is not worth a mention, but Moonflower Canyon is an exception. It's trailhead on Kane Creek Road makes it an easy, quick hike to do on the way to or from the many cycling trails further down the road or from Hunter Canyon. Moonflower Canyon was once full of campsites, but they have all been closed by the BLM, with the exception of a group campsite located right next to the trailhead parking lot. The trail leads to a tall, box canyon and pond at the end of a box canyon — a pretty impressive sight. It's a short, easy hike suitable for almost anyone.
click to enlarge Box canyon an pond at end of Moonflower Canyon Trail - BOB FALCONE
  • Bob Falcone
  • Box canyon an pond at end of Moonflower Canyon Trail
To get there: Take Kane Creek Road 3 miles from US 191, and look for the large parking lot on the left, just past the Kings Bottom Campgrounds on the right side of the road.

Happy Trails!

Bob Falcone is a retired firefighter, photographer, hiker, college instructor, business owner and author of Hiking Bob's Tips, Tricks and Trails, available via his website. He has lived in Colorado Springs for 25 years. Follow him on Twitter (@hikingbob), Facebook (Hiking Bob), Instagram (@HikingBob_CO) or visit his website (Hikingbob.com). E-mail questions, comments, suggestions, etc to Bob: info@hikingbob.com.

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