We all know Moab, a small town in Utah that caters to outdoor enthusiasts. Mountain bikers dream of riding the famous Slickrock Bike Trail, while kayakers and rafters can paddle up to 120 miles on the Colorado River. Side-by-side and Jeep drivers test their luck at the Sand Flats Recreation Area on trails like Hell’s Revenge and Fins & Things. The outskirts of the town are filled with rock climbers, living out of their Sprinter vans and searching for the best crag. Needless to say, the town carries an air of adventure. It’s the perfect basecamp for a Shamrock Tour® and Cameron and I are the lucky ones to do just that.
“I’m doing quarterly ayahuasca ceremonies. I’m microdosing LSD, psilocybin, and peyote to maintain psychiatric balance these days… Just kidding, okay!” says Dave, the owner and operator of Moab Moto Tours, as we shake hands for the first time. He has the biggest personality I’ve ever come across. To call him a character would be an understatement. He catches his guests (and us) off guard in the most wonderful way. Dave truly understands the power of humor and, as a tour guide, he adds value that you won’t find anywhere else in town.
Dave met us the first evening at the Apache Motel on Fourth St. Even though I researched our routes online to the best of my ability, it’s always best if you can find a local to check your plans. We knew we wanted to do Shafer Canyon Rd, and Dave gave us the beta on which direction is the best, while also telling us about a “secret” way to complete the route via Gemini Bridges Rd.
Shafer Canyon and Gemini Bridges
Shafer Canyon Rd is the only way out of a deep box canyon sitting on top of a shelf high above the Colorado River. Its six hairpin turns zigzag up a seemingly impossible cliff. Dire consequences await if you slide off the side. In many spots, the dirt road is only wide enough for one vehicle, meaning you have to wait to pass in the narrow sections.
To get there, our route started on Potash Rd, along the banks of the Colorado River. We passed large ponds where a brine mixture is pumped from the underground into these shallow pools where it evaporates, leaving only the potash behind to be harvested. A steep, rocky, and sharp right turn with a 100-foot drop was the first indication that we must take this route seriously. There are no guard rails in sight and the loose rock demands a focused rider.
Motorcycles & Gear
Luke and Cameron used this gear on their dual sport tour around Moab.
2021 Honda CRF450RL
2021 Honda CB500X
Helmets: Klim TK1200, Schuberth C4
Jackets: Bohn Cool-Air Mesh Armored Riding Shirt
Pants: Bohn All-Season Adventure Armored Riding Pants
Boots: Forma Adventure, Sidi Adventure
Gloves: Indian Deerskin, Fox Racing
Luggage: Mosko Moto Reckless 40L, Factory CB500X panniers with Giant Loop Diablo Tank Bag
We passed a gate and entered Canyonlands National Park. The road runs through and beside a large wash until it ends at a box canyon where we started the daunting Shafer climb. Once we safely reached the top, we relaxed again and eased onto a beautifully paved road to cruise for a few miles before taking Dave’s suggestion and turning right onto Gemini Bridges Rd. Back on the gravel, we could slide the bikes around, with no looming dangerous cliffs. If you ride this route, take your time stopping and taking photos of the beautiful sights before popping back on the highway leading to town. I could not think of a better route to get your feet wet in Moab. It was a perfect first day.
Finding Snow on the La Sal Loop
After Shafer and the rattling of Gemini Rd, we looked forward to an easy pavement riding day. The La Sal Mountain Loop was just the ticket. The game was to see how high of an elevation we could get to. Never would I have predicted to be stopped short by snow.
We were aiming for Geyser Pass (10,528 feet), but as we turned onto the last road, we spotted our fist pile of snow. The farther we went, the more snow we saw until we stopped at a parking lot where the road was closed. It hadn’t been plowed and skiers were sliding down the road. According to a sign, the way would be shut until May 20.
The variety of terrain that Moab offers is remarkable. You can ride motorcycles in 80-degree weather one day and ski the next. At this dead end, at the elevation of 9,600 feet, the temperature felt like it was about 50 degrees. We played in the snow for a while before heading back down to warmth. The riding was fast and the road windy, whipping us around the mountain as we descended to the Colorado River. The views of towering spires with the sun setting in the background is a memory that will not be soon forgotten. We decided we would get to bed early to rest and prepare for tomorrow, which would be the most challenging route of the trip… I think.
White Rim Trail
The White Rim Trail is a nearly 100-mile off-road loop with no services of any kind. You are on your own for gas, food, water, and any repairs you may need to make along the way. The loop takes most overlanding jeeps and trucks two days to complete, but dual sports can do it in a day.
My Honda CRF450RL had a small two-gallon tank, so we borrowed a fuel canister from Burke, the owner of the Apache Motel. He is an avid rider and gave us the location of his favorite overlook to stop for lunch along the way. This time, our ride started by descending down Shafer Canyon Rd. The route basically follows a major shelf high above the river, but also far below the top of the cliff band, making for a truly remote experience. We took our time to enjoy it while trying to capture the natural beauty through the camera lens. It’s one of those places where pictures can’t do it justice—it just needs to be experienced in person.
The CB500X performed well, but the CRF450RL was truly at home in this barren terrain. Well, that was until dusk when we climbed back up many large switchbacks and ran out of gas. Under the light of a headlamp, we poured our precious half-gallon of reserve fuel into the tank, hoping that it would be enough to get us to the closest gas station. The gravel road soon switched to asphalt and our optimism increased as we got closer to town and spotted a gas station. However, our smiles dropped as soon as we noticed the lights were off. It was late, maybe 9 p.m., but we pulled in anyway. Fortune was on our side as it was a 24-hour credit card pump. Grins returned on our dirt-stained faces, and for a moment our energy perked back up from the long, hot, tiring day. We cruised the last few miles back into Moab exhausted and hungry, with takeout pizza on our minds.
The Arch We Never Got To
Tower Arch is located on the fringes of Arches National Park. It perked our interest since after visiting all the easy-to-access arches in the park, full of people pent up from the pandemic, we were looking for an arch to have to ourselves. There are three ways to get to Tower Arch, each with its own set of hazards. Due to the challenges in getting there, we hoped to find the arch vacant.
The first option is to ride down an easy gravel road to a trailhead, and then continue on a 2.4-mile hike one way in 90 degree heat. Considering that we were on dual sports, we nixed the hiking approach and turned our thoughts to the remaining two options to ride in directly. The route from the east was a 10-mile road that, according to Dave, is difficult as it’s all sand. The CRF450L could handle it, but the CB500X—with its extra 150 pounds and smaller 17-inch tires—would struggle. The third route we discovered for ourselves. Coming in from the north, it was the shortest way, but also went directly over a large rocky ridge. No sand here, but rock climbs and rutted-out jeep tracks would pose a different challenge.
As we approached the beginning of this route, a “4x4 only” sign posted at the base of the climb suggested not taking your rental car any farther. Cameron and I barely took notice, though, and charged away at the first obstacle. Ground clearance was going to be an issue for the 500X, so I picked my line wide, skirting up the side of the first rock shelf where Jeep tires had created a foot-tall step. Cameron, on the 450RL with loads of clearance, hit it straight on and bounced right over it. So far so good.
The trail smoothed out for a bit, and then became extremely rocky. This was a pick-your-line-carefully scenario, as I didn’t want to bottom out on the 500X. For the 450RL, it was more about gaining momentum and hanging on for the ride, as the suspension could gobble up all the hits. You need to keep your speed to ascend the grade. The 450RL was geared a little high, and with the loss of momentum, Cameron stalled. The long suspension turned out to be the bike’s demise as Cameron tried to put his foot down to steady the stalled bike. He couldn’t reach the ground.
It was one of those slow-motion falls, the kind where you have time to think about what went wrong, what you should do, and how it will end. Cameron was now on the ground with the bike falling on top of him. The first point of contact was the bike’s footpeg, which landed squarely on his foot—the same foot that was wearing a borrowed motocross boot from Dave.
To give you some context, Cameron started the trip in more casual leather boots that offered much less protection than proper dirt bike boots. Dave noticed this when we met and almost forced him to borrow the better boots for the rest of the trip. It’s a good thing he did.
I’ve been riding BMX bikes with Cameron for years and seen him fall a hundred times. The man is tough as nails and knows how to fall, as falling properly is a learned skill. I could tell from watching the scene unfold that this time was different. He was hurt. I stopped my bike and ran up, pulling the bike off his body.
He said: “I think I broke my foot.” He hobbled over to the shade of a small desert tree to sit down and evaluate the situation.
It was our last day of the trip and we really wanted an epic lone arch photo. But Cameron knows what a broken bone feels like from past injuries. Luckily, nothing was poking through his skin as this was simply a hair-line fracture. Painful, but not dangerous—unless he fell on it again. He asked me to scout the rest of the trail to see if we should keep going, which speaks for Cameron’s determination. Eventually, though, we both agreed to get back to safer roads.
Now back in the main area of Arches National Park, we still wanted to take the kind of iconic arch photo that Utah is known for, but with such a large crowd it would be difficult. Turret Arch isn’t far from a main lot, so Cameron hobbled up the short path, ignoring the pain. After only 10 minutes, the crowd dispersed, leaving us alone with the arch. We sprung into action with Cameron on the camera, and I did my thing and jumped in the air with the arch behind me.
We got the shot. The pressure was off. With smiles on our faces, we enjoyed riding back to the hotel with a successful trip in the books.
As a personal note, I want to thank Cameron for being an amazing travel partner and being tougher than anyone else. Of course, this was a huge reminder for All the Gear, All the Time. I hope everyone gets the chance to ride Moab at least once in their lives. It was the best off-roading trip I have ever done.
Facts & Info
Distance: Approximately 341 miles
Moab is a desert town, so the sun is real here. Spring and fall are ideal times to visit to beat the heat and the crowds that summer brings. This is also a basecamp trip. It’s not about strolling around, looking at shops and drinking coffee—in fact, we never found a good cappuccino. Moab is a hub for adventure. Most people pack a lunch and snacks since once you leave town, you are far away from services. The grocery store is clearly the place to load up, as long lines and quickly sold-out deli sandwiches show.
Roads & Biking
Moab is known for its gnarly off-road features. Lots and lots of dirt roads. At minimum, you should ride a dual sport, and the smaller the better as they are easier to handle on the more challenging trails. That being said, you can do some longer pavement-only rides, but let’s be real, people come to Moab for off-roading. So dust off that chest protector hanging in your closet and grab an extra fuel cell for your thumper. A SPOT GPS device wouldn’t be a bad idea either as the desert is not very forgiving.