Moab Happenings Archive
Return to home

Hiking Happenings January 2006

The Gold Bar Rim
by Rory Tyler

You probably drove by the Gold Bar Rim when you came to Moab. It’s that long, high cliff north of town that parallels Highway191. On the other side of the cliff is a giant, stony slab that slopes 1,300 feet to the Colorado River. Culvert Canyon has the best access for hikers into this terrain. To get there, drive 10.2 miles on Potash Road, past Corona Arch trailhead 200 yards, to a parking area on the right. A large culvert tunnels beneath the railroad tracks. Pass through the culvert and you instantaneously transport yourself into a desert canyon wilderness; a transition that could only be more remarkable if you were preceded by the White Rabbit himself.

The Gold Bar Rim includes (in alphabetical order): Arches, Bridges, Canyons, Drop-offs, Escarpments, Four-wheelers, Grottos, Hoodoos, Inclines, Jumbles, Kayenta, Lichens, Mazes, Nooks, Overhangs, Panoramas, Quirks, Rimrock, Sunshine, Towers, Ultraviolet, Vertigo, Wonder, Xposure, Yodelers, and Zzzz’s.

Arches, Bridges, Canyons - that’s pretty elementary. But ‘Four-wheelers’? Well, the upper reaches of the Gold Bar Rim contain the Golden Spike Trail, one of the most grueling 4-wheel and mountain bike routes in the region. Happily, all the ledges, ripples, ridges, and cracks that wheelers find so challenging are simple as a-b-c for a hiker and endless bliss for a dog. People have created an informal network of paths in lower Culvert Canyon that is both efficient and sensitive to the desert’s delicate ecosystem. The sandstone slopes of the upper reaches encompass square miles of awesome footing, lending themselves admirably to the exercise of curiosity - a quality, I’m told, that is fatal to cats, but essential to human progress. Progress, on the Gold Bar Rim, consists in resolving such questions as: What’s that thing? How do I get over there? What’s down there? Stuff like that.

Gold Bar Arch
Gold Bar Arch (also called Jeep Arch)

Gold Bar Arch is a great first destination. Hike up Culvert Canyon about a third of a mile, passing the first two pour-offs to the right. Once you get by the second pour-off, climb out of the canyon on the left and find that trail system I mentioned. About a mile up-canyon you’ll see a huge, monolithic spire in a saddle, up and to the left. Cross the saddle, continue north towards the next pass, and you’ll see the arch. This is a one-way walk of about two miles and takes at least an hour. You’ll need more time for panting, gawking, and poking. Gold Bar Arch (also called Jeep Arch) has an unbelievable view of the La Sal Mountains. But seeing is believing, so don’t take my word for it.

Once you’ve bagged the big arch, you’re on your own. All of Gold Bar and Culvert Canyons beckon beneath your feet. Or, if you want to go to the Rim, the ridge that starts at Gold Bar Arch takes you to the top. Once you get there, you might turn left and go looking for a subterranean double-bridge sunk into a giant crack, well below the grade of the surrounding cap rock. Round trip from the Culvert to the Rim is a minimum of four hours. Make sure, when you come back, that you don’t get diverted into one of the many fingers of Gold Bar Canyon to the north of Culvert. The only way out of Gold Bar Canyon is the way you came in.

If you continue to the north end of the Rim, and now we’re talking about an expeditionary day, you can begin your quest for the enigmatic and elusive Ottinger’s Triple Arch. (Even if I could remember how to get there, I couldn’t describe it to you.) You can access this part of the Gold Bar Rim from the Gemini Bridges Road with 4-wheel drive. Turn at the Golden Spike trail, park at the first hill, and take the wash or the ridge to the Rim. It’s not as spectacular as Culvert Canyon until you’ve gained a lot of altitude, but it is a lot closer to that triple arch that you probably won’t find anyway.

‘Sunshine’ was on my list because the Gold Bar Rim is the soul of southern ‘Xposure’. On a typical winter day, this is the place to soak up some rays while you wander. Or you may decide to go into ‘Zzzz’ mode in a cozy, sun-drenched ‘Nook’. Despite more ambitious intentions, I’ve spent many dreamy hours on the Gold Bar Rim in the refreshing company of Morpheus (the Greek god of sleepy oblivion, not that Matrix guy). To first-time visitors this may seem like a terrible waste of canyon-time, but that’s one of the benefits of living in Moab. I’ve got some extra time to waste on a sunny winter afternoon. Viva la Zzzzz’s!

Rory Tyler is available for cowboy poetry/campfire song gatherings which include lore, science, history and lies of the Moab area. (Suitable for all age groups). Rates are negotiable. Give Rory a call at 435-260-8496.

Cryptobiotic soil garden
Cryptobiotic soil garden


Return to Archive Index
return to home
Return to home