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Amasa Back / Cliffhanger

Difficult
 4.2 (49) RECOMMENDED ROUTE

One of Moab's classic rides, featuring steep drops, big exposure, great views, and a rugged climb.


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Map Key

9.1

Miles

14.6

KM

0%

Singletrack

5,078' 1,548 m

High

4,003' 1,220 m

Low

1,413' 431 m

Up

1,414' 431 m

Down

6%

Avg Grade (3°)

22%

Max Grade (12°)

Dogs Leashed

E-Bikes Unknown

Features -none-

Overview

Ask any good rider to list their favorite Moab trails and Amasa Back is sure to make the top 3. Challenging technical ups and lots of thrilling down options combine with stunning scenery, great campsites, and easy access to make this ride an absolute classic.

But Cliffhanger, the road up to the top of the Amasa Back, started out as a Jeep road and it's still very popular with the moto crowd. So, don't go on a busy spring or fall weekend unless you are fine with sharing. You can also do the up by using the HyMasa Trail to avoid the motos.

If you still have energy after your ride, some of Moab's best petroglyph panels are within several hundred yards of the trailhead, as is Cable Arch. There are scenic short hikes into Moonshine and Hunter Canyons, and excellent moderate rock climbing at the nearby Ice Cream Parlor.

Need to Know

You ride across Kane Creek at the beginning of this trail. It's usually shallow and easily managed, but can swell to become impassible during thunderstorms.

Description

Drive from Moab along the south side of the Colorado River to Kane Creek. Your choice of parking area will depend on your desired descent route. If you intend to descend Jackson's singletrack, park at the mouth of Kane Creek Canyon (watch out for goatheads!). Otherwise, drive up the canyon to the large parking area just past the Tombstones.

From this parking, either take the new single along the creek, or pedal up the road 1/2-mile to the trailhead, signed Amasa Back and Cliffhanger. Drop immediately down the technical "Staircase". At the bottom, there is a short singletrack diversion from the jeep road that has a tricky little drop. Rejoin the road, cross Kane Creek and climb up to the Jackson Hole rim, about 2-miles in.

This trail segment is a steady climb over slickrock, stair-step ledges and some sand. There are a number of really challenging technical sections that are mostly rideable if you have the energy to session a bit. You'll have more fun on these if you are fitter, so train before you get to Moab, and do Amasa Back before you are worn out at the end of your week.

Watch for the Captain Ahab signs as you climb up. If you decide you want a short day, you can take the second sign to cut over and descend Lower Ahab.

When you reach the Jackson Hole rim, Upper Captain Ahab splits off to follow the rim up and left. You'll follow the rim down and right. The scenery is mind boggling as you pedal along the edge with a 400-ft drop just feet away. The road here has some difficult sections, but there's only one really challenging feature at the narrowest, most restricted point: a 3-foot drop into a loose, bouldery runout. Most riders will walk this one.

After roughly half a mile on the rim, you'll ride over a water pipe to reach the Amasa Back neck. You have three choices here: 1) continue straight, climbing up and out the Amasa Back; 2) go right to cross the neck and descend Jackson's Trail to the mouth of Kane Creek; 3) go left to descend Jacob's (Jackson's) Ladder to Jackson Hole (not recommended in this direction!). Let's go straight.

The road rises steadily and there are some difficult sections. About 3/4-mile past the water pipe, you'll reach a singletrack going right. This fun trail takes you along the Billboard out to Pothole Arch, or some great freeform slickrock riding, or to Rockstacker. Most riders will probably prefer this option.

Continuing straight on the jeep road will have you at the rim again in about a mile. This is the end of the line. Return the way you came and choose your preferred way out: Rockstacker, Jackson's Trail, Upper or Lower Captain Ahab, or back down Amasa Back / Cliffhanger the way you came. Except for Jacob's (Jackson's) Ladder, all options are fun!

History & Background

Jackson Hole, on the south end of the Amasa Back, is an abandoned river meander.

The ponds on the other side of the Colorado River are potash evaporation ponds. This operation started as a hard rock mine before an accident in 1963 killed 18 miners. Now, river water is injected into the Paradox formation, and the resulting salt solution returned to the surface for reclamation. Blue dye is added to increase evaporation rates.

Potash is any of several salts that contains water-soluble potassium. It's largely used in fertilizer, but is also an important industrial chemical used for such diverse applications as aluminum recycling, electroplating, medicine, and soap, beer, pharmaceutical and rubber production.

Contacts

Shared By:

F Felix with improvements by Kristen Arendt and 1 other

Trail Ratings

  4.2 from 49 votes

#2

in Amasa Back

#247

Overall
  4.2 from 49 votes
5 Star
41%
4 Star
43%
3 Star
14%
2 Star
2%
1 Star
0%
Recommended Route Rankings

#2

in Amasa Back

#25

in Utah

#247

Overall
195 Views Last Month
30,967 Since Dec 3, 2013
Difficult

0%
0%
0%
4%
89%
7%

Photos

The final stretch of Captain Ahab is rowdy, fast and fun.
Apr 1, 2015 near Moab, UT
The lower reaches of Captain Ahab are neatly tucked into the slickrock amongst the trees above Kane Springs Creek.
Apr 1, 2015 near Moab, UT
Having fun on some of the side lines on Hymasa
Nov 6, 2018 near Moab, UT
Will sending it near the bottom of Ahab.
Mar 18, 2016 near Moab, UT
The views from the Amasa Back (Captain Ahab) trail system are absolutely epic.  So is the riding.
Nov 16, 2015 near Moab, UT
The climb up HyMasa trail is pretty much perfect with lots to keep you occupied.
May 19, 2017 near Moab, UT

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Check-Ins

May 14, 2020
Ascanio Pignatelli
Oct 11, 2019
aaron boatman
May 3, 2019
Christian Rooney
Awesome time on the trail. Amasa/cliffhanger/pothole arach/rockstacker. Perfect amount of tech and flow. 13.8mi — 2h 43m
Apr 21, 2019
Chris Veeman
Mar 22, 2019
Bob Maiocco
Nov 21, 2018
Chris Ferraro
Out Hymasa, Amasa back to start of Pothole. Back on Amasa to Jackson. Didn't go real fast.
Oct 19, 2018
Hiram Ramos
Muy bueno!!
Oct 8, 2018
M C