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Moab’s OHV Scene Is Still Riding High After Trail Closures

Where you can and cannot take those tires.

By Melinda Rhodes
February 15, 2024

Hells Revenge. Poison Spider Mesa. Top of the World. These are just a few of the most popular Moab jeep trails that are still open. The small Utah town is renowned for its tremendous off-road routes that challenge drivers of all abilities, while rewarding them with jaw-dropping views. People from around the globe travel to Utah to tackle its unique terrain. And ya know, visit a national park or two while they’re in town. (Bonjour, belle Arches! Hallo, szenisch Canyonlands!)  

In 2023, however, the Bureau of Land Management closed 317 miles of OHV trails west of Moab in the Labyrinth Rims/Gemini Bridges Special Recreation Management Area for preservation purposes. The delicate ecosystem is suffering from erosion and litter because of increased OHV use in recent years; the closures are an effort to protect wildlife habitats and cultural resources. Some of the most notable Moab trail closures are:

  • Day Canyon Point
  • Deadman Point Overlooks
  • Hell Roaring Canyon
  • Hey Joe Canyon
  • Mashed Potatoes
  • Ten Mile Canyon

Balancing environmental needs with recreational wants is never easy, and the BLM trail closures in Moab were met with mixed reactions from members of the off-road community. The State of Utah is challenging the federal government agency’s jurisdiction, but it is going to be a while before anything is decided. 

Regardless of which side of the issue you’re on, everyone must stay on designated routes. Motorized travel on any of the Moab trail closures — or any other non-designated route — can land you a fine steeper than the climbs in Pritchett Canyon.

Reputable off-road recovery companies like Moab Motorsports’ Trail Mater (aka Rory Irish) understand the importance of obtaining permission from the BLM, Trust Lands Administration (aka SITLA) and/or private landowners when it is necessary to go off designated routes to do their job. 

“One set of tracks off the trail quickly turns into a highway,” Irish said. “Everyone needs to obey the law to keep the rest of the trails open. It doesn’t matter if you like it or not; it’s the law.”

Gobsmacking Grandeur Open to OHVs

Despite a few hundred miles of Moab trails closing, there are still gazillions (OK, OK … 3,700 if ya wanna be precise-ish) of miles of OHV trails full of off-camber turns, boulder obstacles and butt scratchers that remain open.

Even though trails in the Gemini Bridges area are currently a no-go, some pretty amazing alternatives are a go-go for off-roaders to go gah-gah over, including these three.

Dome Plateau | 4/10  

The Dome Plateau trailhead is located east of Arches National Park. And guess what? There are plenty of arches outside of the park, including three in the first few miles of this trail. It also passes by dino tracks, boasts a couple of caves, climbs up a series of rock ledges known as “Again and Again Hill,” and offers vertiginous views of the Colorado River. Yup. Dome Plateau is fun for all ages.

Wipe Out Hill | 5/10

The namesake obstacle on this trail is why aftermarket rocker panels are sold. But there is a lot of variety on the entirety of the Wipe Out Hill trail, including sandy stretches, a narrow wash, several rock ledges and (of course) the slickrock Moab is famous for. But don’t just rip on by the overlooks on those 33-inch (or larger!) all terrains. Get out. Walk around. Maybe even hike through a wind tunnel. The views are worth it.     

Behind the Rocks | 7/10

Is this trail for stock vehicles? Nope. Will there be a lot of cheek clenching on this trail? Ooooh, yeah! One driver recalls a point of no return on the White Knuckle obstacle when “you slide almost straight down on your nose and then you roll out of it.” Sure, you could bypass this challenge, but where’s the fun in that? Several other obstacles, combined with sections of smooth riding and picturesque views,make Behind the Rocks a very interesting ride.

Ride Responsibly

Whichever Moab OHV trail you take, show some love for our public lands. Treat the trails with the same TLC you give your rig when you're tinkering with it in the garage. Stay on designated routes and pack out everything you pack in — plus any other trash you see along the way. 

Check trail conditions before you head out. Even though the sun is shining and the trail looks dry, it could still be boggy below the surface from a downpour a few days before.

“With YouTube and Google and all of the tools available to us, you should have plenty of information to plan your route before you head out,” Irish advises.  

Every rig should be also equipped with a recovery kit. And since Moab is in the middle of the desert, be sure you bring plenty of water — for your crew and your vehicle. If you see another driver in need, stop and see if you can help.

“No matter how prepared a person is, accidents still happen. The hope is that people are able to get themselves out, or others on the trail can assist those in need,” Irish says. 

But when that doesn’t work, it’s comforting to know Utah has pros such as Moab Motorsports’ Trail Mater at the ready for off-road recovery and trail repair.

Find your next Moab jeep trail to conquer — or OHV trails in another region — on Utah.com.