A neglected classic, running through spectacular scenery and interesting terrain.”
— F. Felix
Following the general line of the Steel Bender jeep trail, Flat Pass dishes out an interesting curry of trail conditions and unusual scenery.
The trail runs in an inconspicuous wrinkle between the lower mesas of the La Sal Mountains, and the prominent ridge forming the northeast boundary of Moab (Spanish Valley). Unusually for a desert ride, Flat Pass runs beside a perennial stream for part of its length. The combination of Navajo sandstone domes and running water is intoxicating.
Need to Know
The trail crosses Mill Creek four times - once at the beginning, and three times near the end. You have a choice to make: sandy chain, or wet feet?
Flat Pass seems to have fallen out of favor of late and I'm not sure why. Perhaps because it's not really flat at all? Because it's pretty hard and doesn't have a ripping downhill payoff? Because there's no flowy singletrack? Or is it due to the four sandy stream crossings?
No matter! It only means you won't have to stand in line for this excellent, under-rated route.
If you are shuttling, start at the pullout at the Ken's Lake entrance, and immediately ride up the steep graded gravel road to the pass. Then drop down, cross Mill Creek and enter into a hidden world of Navajo sandstone domes and high mesas.
The trail heads upward over classically Moab-style ledges, dirt and slickrock reminiscent of Amasa Back. Some of the features are extremely difficult, but most of the trail is very rideable if you are reasonably fit.
After the initial climb of 2 miles and 600', the trail begins to roll along, dropping in overall elevation for another 6 miles until you reach the creek again. Along the way, you'll pass two intersections where the Steel Bender jeep road splits to go right. Don't go there - it's a long, sandy horseshoe loop.
The trail now drops through a steep, technical slickrock dish and begins to run beside the creek. This part of the trail may be a bit of an acquired taste: sandy babyheads are perhaps not for everyone, but they are very rideable and actually quite entertaining if you can relax enough.
The trail remains in the shady, green riparian area beside the stream now, and you'll cross the watercourse 3 more times before reaching the last climb up and out of the watershed on another graded dirt road to the left. From the pass at the top of this hill, rejoin pavement and ride back to the start (or back to town if you shuttled to the start) via Spanish Valley Drive.
I prefer to park on this end of the ride, where Pack Creek flows under Spanish Trail Road (beware of goatheads!), or further down near the Shell gas station on Hwy-191. That way, you get a gentle roadie warm-up before the off-pavement ride begins, and a speedy downhill finish at the end.
Up to you.