Porcupine Rim Trail is often discussed as a classic mountain biking trail near Moab, Utah. Fantastic scenery and a length of 14.7 miles, make it a wonderful one way day hike as well.
Porcupine Rim Trail starts on Sand Flats Road some 10 miles to the east of the town of Moab at an elevation of 5800 ft. The trail heads east following the southern rim of the upper parts of Negro Bill Canyon in a juniper forest until it reaches a maximum elevation of 6800 ft where you find yourself on top of the cliffs that form the southwestern walls of Castle Valley. Below you walls and steep slopes drop 2000 ft to the bottom of the very broad Castle Valley. After following the rim of Castle Valley for more than 1.5 miles, the trail heads west/northwest starting a long and steady descent on a sloped plateau until it reaches the rugged Jackass Canyon where Colorado River comes to view. The trail then descends into the canyon of Colorado River to end on Route 128 at an elevation of 4000 ft. The first 10.5 miles of the trail is a rough four wheel drive road and the rest is a single track closed to motorized vehicles. The hike is usually done from Sand Flats Road to Route 128 (1000 ft of uphill followed by 2800 ft of downhill).
A day hike on Porcupine Rim Trail will require a car shuttle. There are commercial operations in Moab that for a fee, drop off bikers at Sand Flats Trailhead. Once the bikers reach Route 128, they continue to bike on a paved bike trail an additional 5 miles to reach their car in Moab. For the hiker, however, the 20+ mile hike may become too much, therefore a car shuttle will be most appropriate.
Sand Flats Trailhead:
From the center of Moab at Main St. (Route 191) and Center Street turn east onto Center Street and go 4 blocks to East Fourth Street and turn south (right). Continue south and turn east onto East Mill Creek Drive. Go straight to a 3 way at a stop sign. Going straight will get you on Sand Flats Road. After 1.6 miles, you will reach the toll booth for Sand Flats Area. Continue another 7 miles and look for trailhead on the left. Sand Flats Road is a well graded dirt road and under normal conditions, should be passable by any car.
Route 128 Trailhead:
From the intersection of Route 191 and 128 just north of Moab, UT, turn east onto Route 128 and follow it 3 miles until you see the sign for Negro Bill Trailhead on the right. Immediately after this, you will see a parking area on the left (river) side of the road. This is your trailhead. If you go to the northeastern end of the parking, you will see a pathway that goes under Route 128 and becomes Porcupine Rim Trail.
Route DescriptionSand Flats Trailhead Elevation:
6800 ft at Castle Valley viewpoint
Route 128 Trailhead:
One Way Hiking Distance:
Leaving Sand Flats Trailhead, the trail heads east and soon reaches a four wheel drive road. Continue east along the southern edge of Negro Bill Canyon going up in elevation.
|Negro Bill Canyon |
|Negro Bill Canyon
The red cliffs of Island in the Sky/Dead Horse Point areas as well as the Henry Mountains can be seen in the western horizon behind you.
|Zoomed view of Henry Mountains
As you go east, Negro Bill Canyon becomes shallower. The trail eventually crosses to the north side of the canyon and continues uphill until it reaches the top of the southwestern walls of Castle Valley. For the next 1.5 miles, the trail continues near the edge of the walls of Castle Valley.
|La Sal Mountains |
|Castle Valley & Round Mountain
|Looking straight down |
|Castle Valley & Lasal Mountains
|Castle Valley |
Looking south at slickrock cliffs.
The trail then heads northwest going down a sloped plateau.
Coffeepot Rock comes to view.
As you go down the plateau, the forest thins out.
La Sal Mountains.
|Haystack Mounatin |
|Tukuhnikivatz, Peale, Laurel & Mellenthin
This little horn sits near where the four wheel drive road ends. No motorized vehicles are allowed beyond this point.
The trail now goes straight down into a broad stony valley, the upper end of Jackass Canyon.
La Sal Mountains.
|Pilot Mtn & Green Mtn |
As you keep going, Jackass Canyon turns into a deep gorge.
|Jackass Canyon |
Colorado River and Route 128 will now come into view.
|Colorado River |
Continuing down the walls of Colorado River Canyon.
Before reaching the end, the trails crosses this small side canyon.
You will then go into a tunnel under route 128 and reach the end of the trail.
Essential Gear & Red Tape
Hiking equipment. Car shuttle needed for day hike.
You must pay entrance fee collected on Sand Flats Road. No permits needed.
For all rules and regulations look up Sand Flats Recreation Area
Map: Latitude 40 Maps, Classic Moab Trails