Indian Creek and Lockhart Basin, Trail of the Ancients. East of the Colorado River, the Needles District of 330,000-acre Canyonlands National Park is named for the rock pinnacles that loom over the Southeast Utah landscape like an enormous succession of sentinels. Novelist-essayist-wilderness advocate Ed Abbey described it as “the most weird, wonderful, magical place on Earth. There is nothing like it anywhere.” The valleys here offer endless views, if not some of the most exceptional sunsets one could imagine. Located over 100-miles from the nearest interstate highway, Needles remains one of the most remote regions left in America.
The Canyonlands region was looked upon as nothing but a wasteland until the mid-1940s. Then our nation’s urgent needs for uranium, vanadium, and petroleum products brought cycles of mining, prospecting and drilling to the area. These activities carved out most of the backcountry road and trail-networks still in use today. But long before modern times, the Ancestral Puebloans developed a flourishing civilization in these canyons. Located far into the backcountry, vestiges of their society have remained undisturbed for over 800-years.
This mountain bike adventure offers a unique POV into the region’s rich, varied history. From Beef Basin we ride past ancient Indian ruins into Ruin Park and The Needles District. From here we hike slot canyons; then mount up again, riding to Elephant Hill. With Indian Springs as our midpoint, we traverse Lockhart Basin: a 50-mile jeep road that follows the gentle sways and contours of the Colorado River. Passing over Chicken Corners, with the sun at our back and a scrumptious afternoon breeze, we descend back to Moab.
Geared to the intermediate rider and athletic beginner, the Trail of the Ancients mostly dirt road and double track route features layered or staggered challenges. Though those landscape features only ramp up in difficulty in relation to your comfort level and skills expanding. Consider this the ideal substitute to the White Rim Trail, but marked by more remote riding, coupled to deeper explorations.
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