Note: All the thumbnail pictures can be expanded by clicking. Also, I don't
know these trails well enough to know all the obstacle names, so
visit 4x4NOW for
"official" trail descriptions.
Let me start by saying this was my second trip to Moab. The first was in 1995.
I've heard all the trail stories of how tough Moab was, and how one was never to tackle
the trails in a full size rig. So at first I was hesitant on attempting these in an almost stock
Suburban. Dave, another full-size jockey, has made the Moab runs for many years so I figured if he
could do it I could too. Oh, before I let Dave off the hook. He started out with us in a stock
Plymouth Trail Duster (his Power Wagon "beast" was spread thin all across his garage -- he had to take
something) but after the first day of humiliation on Poison Spider Mesa he turned tail and went
home... wimp! Should be plenty of motivation there for next year.
Poison Spider Mesa (3-1/2)
A decent "starter" trail is Poison Spider Mesa. It's rated at a 3-1/2 (on a scale of 4-1/2+), and
offers decent obstacles to give you a good taste for driving on slick rock. Slick rock is basically
sandstone, equivalent to driving on sandpaper. On dry days the traction is incredible, on wet days
they can be next to impossible (so I'm told). Climbing a 45 degree incline is nothing, try that in
loose dirt or gravel and you'd better have lockers. The first steep obstacle will offer a little tire
spinning if your approach isn't just right, but with wide tires and a lift it's no problem.
Immediately after that there is an optional climb, a bit steeper... too steep for my 'burban
(gotta get those lockers), but not too steep for a jeep and zuki equipped with lockers front and rear.
You'll find it off to the right of the trail as a shortcut through a switchback. It's easy to miss
if you're not looking for it. A few more mild obstacle will get you to the Wedgie.
It's a fun crack that you can either straddle for a boring climb, or drive with your passenger
side inside the crack to climb out the other side for some "three-wheeling" action.
The first time you drive inside the wedge it feels like your leaning too far and risk tipping.
But it's pretty safe, and after looking at the pictures (and doing it a few times) it's really
not bad at all.
After the wedgie we tried to find the trail head to the Golden Spike trail,
home of the infamous Golden Crack. The Golden Spike is rated at a 4-1/2+, so
we were excited to give it a try. We were told to keep an eye open for a spike
marker (a painted golden spike on slickrock), but we missed it and drove to the
end of Poison Spider. There is a fork in the road toward the end, if you take the
left fork you'll wind up in a sand play area. There's a few sand dunes and semi-steep
sand hills that will let you blow those cobweb out of your engine. We drove around
scouting from the tops of high rocks to see if we could spot the Golden Spike trail.
We spotted a few trucks about a mile away and called them on the CB. They too where lost.
We compared notes and headed for a direction that neither group had tried yet.
And ta-da, we found the Launching Pad!
Golden Spike (4-1/2+)
We were officially on the Golden Spike (I recognized it from many magazine pictorials). The Launching
Pad is a fairly steep decent and climb. My suburban is so long that I drug my hitch for a good 3-4
feet as I reached the bottom and started to climb the other side. The sound of solid metal to
slickrock contact was fairly common when dealing with the overhang of my rig. Our next quest was
to find the Golden Crack. Along the way there are a few obstacles that are fun to play on, the
Waterfall for instance (just past the Launching Pad). The trail can be hard to follow so a close
eye has to be kept on the trail looking for piles of rock markers and the painted golden spike symbols.
There were a few steep drop offs before we found it. Also, I have to mention that the scenery
is simply breath taking... pictures alone cannot do Moab justice. If you get a chance to visit -- do!
The Golden Crack is the only obstacle that doesn't have a bypass, if you want to continue you'll
have to cross. The advise in a long wheel base rig is to approach as if you were going to cross
it diagonally, then as your left tire starts to drop into the crack steer left into the other wall.
This advise works great. I turned a little too sharp at first and jammed my front tire into my fender
well (no bump stops) and had to back off a hair. Then without turning quite as sharp I made it without
much difficulty. I did drop my right rear bumper onto the crack... the noise of metal scraping on rocks
sounds worse than it is. Hopefully you're hitting something stout, otherwise you may get a bit of sheet
The jeep and zuki didn't have much of a problem, they also hit bumpers. Pat, in his classic bronco,
gave us the best show. His angle was just a little different than ours and he wound up dropping
his right front tire into the crack, picking up his left rear high! We put a little weight on the
bumper and he pulled across... he did have that tipsy feeling.
The next major obstacle is the Golden Stairs, I say major because I did the thing
I was told never to do. Bounce. The Golden Stairs have ledges that hit both my
front and rear tires at the same time, without lockers to crawl up, I decided to just
"bump it" over, I bumped and somehow I jammed the gas petal a bit too hard.
My beater jumped up and down a few times, acting like a bucking bronco wanting to
throw it's rider, when I heard it go... SNAP! I thought for sure I had broken an axle.
After some good spotting I managed to back down safely (I had also bounced over to
the steeper side of the ledge and had to manuver back to a safe backing down spot).
At this point we had been on the trail for about six or so hours. Fortunately I had
only broken my right front axle u-joint. Shattered would be a better description.
That was the good news. The bad news was, I now had to unlock my front hubs and put
it in 2-High (so my drive staft wouldn't turn -- in retrospect I could have removed my
front drive shaft to retain my lower gear ratio). So now I'm having to hit some of the
obstacles a little too hard to get over. A few times I had to be strapped over...
either that or risk even more damage.
Speaking of damage, I did also manage to get a nice dent in my right rear fender (this picture
was taken after I bolted my bushwhacker flares back on). One of those obstacle that was causing
me to smell my cluch smoke also got the better of me and I slid into a nice little rock overhang.
Whew, I'm glad this was what I bought this for. The next obstacle was supposed to be Double Whammy,
which I wasn't looking forward to (I wouldn't have attempted it without four wheel drive) but somehow
we wound up finishing the end of the Gold Bar Rim (3-1/2) trail.... hmmmm. Never did figure where
we took a wrong turn. Even with the minor breakage, getting lost, and my fender rearranging, I
consider the venture a success, I thought it was a blast! Am I sick or what!?
Steel bender is an easy trail, something that can be accomplished with a stock 4x4. There were
only a few obstacles worth mentioning, the one pictured was the toughest. Loose rock and deep
holes required spotting. The next obstacle was a stairstep style climb, not hard, but fun.
It was an enjoyable break to breaks!