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