The Mill Creek Rim Trail is a great winter hike or jog. You’ll get aerobic exercise and warm up as you climb up to the rim above Mill Creek Canyon. Your cheeks will be rosy when you return home, and you will have earned that extra Christmas cookie.
Once you are on the rim, the scenery is superb, fantastic, and inspiring! You’ll be glad that you live in Moab and have this great hike in your backyard. If you are a guest in Moab and find this hike, you are indeed fortunate. Don’t forget to bring your camera because the red rock cliffs that border Mill Creek when combined with the snow-covered La Sal Mountains are a photographer’s dream.
Along with your camera, bring binoculars to view an amazing rock art panel that can be seen by taking the spur trail/road to the left, off the main trail, which takes you to the junction of North Fork and Main Mill Creek Canyons. Follow the .4 mile spur road to the dead end. Then look straight ahead to view the rock art panel at the bottom edge of the big dark arching “alcove.” The figures and sheep are on the left and right of the panel. Rock art can often be found at junctions of canyons. Once again, look all around you, and marvel at the world-class scenery where you stand.
Bring a friend or family member to share the hike because the Mill Creek Rim Trail is a closed old jeep road, which means that you’ll be able to walk side by side for much of the hike and enjoy a conversation while away from the “to-do” list that awaits you at home.
Bring the dog, but please respect other trail users by keeping your dog under control when meeting other hikers, and bring a plastic bag for Fido’s poop. We all thank you. You will meet many other dog walkers on this trail, although there will be fewer dogs and people during the winter months.
The Mill Creek Rim Trail is often free of snow once you are up on top. If there is snow on the ground, don’t stay at home, just head out with the appropriate footwear. You’ll really be lucky if you are hiking when there is hoar frost covering all the bushes and trees. What a magical sight! As always with winter hikes, wear layered clothing. You are guaranteed to be busy taking your jacket off and on. Don’t forget the hat, gloves, water, a snack, and a windbreaker.
As you walk along, take a moment to reflect on the history of this area. Portions of the trail were once used to carry mail and supplies to ranchers and miners on Wilson and South Mesas at the foot of the La Sals in the late 1800s and early 1900s. This was known as “The Mail Trail.”
Continue your hike for 2.2 miles or as long as your time allows for this out-and-back hike. There are three designated trails that take you down into Mill Creek along the route, but save those hikes for warmer weather. The first designated creek access point is 1.4 miles from the pump house.
Mill Creek Rim Trail access: Turn off of Mill Creek Drive onto Powerhouse Lane, park at the end of the road. Check out the map on the kiosk to orient yourself. Follow the wide, rock-lined path to the colorfully painted pump house. The Mill Creek Rim Trail angles to the right, away from the wide main trail and heads uphill. The trail is not marked, but starts out with rock lining. Before you head up the hill, walk around the pump house to check out all the art panels, then detour over to the waterfall created by the Power House Dam.
Hike review: Fantastic scenery, an aerobic workout, rock art viewing, great photography, and you can share all this with friends, family, and the dog on a historic trail. Except for the somewhat steep and rocky climb up to the rim, this is an easy hike.
About the author: Sandy Freethey is the Chair of the Trail Mix Committee and enjoys the variety of tasks that this position entails: working with people, solving problems, scouting and building trails. Sandy is a hiker and enjoys rafting and traveling and is passionate about watching the Denver Bronco football games.