Segment 5 of the Plateau Passage continues through Classic Colorado Plateau canyon country highlighted by the world-famous landscapes of Canyonlands National Park and the Moab area. It begins in Monticello with an immediate 4,000-foot climb to the crest of the Abajo Mountains.
The climb starts on pavement, transitions to a graded, narrow gravel road for the second half, and finally heads up a steep singletrack for the last grunt to a stunning saddle. Below, one of the greatest singletrack descents in the West awaits with a descent of 5,000 feet to enjoy. At the bottom, the route turns west toward Canyonlands National Park. A short detour to the Needles Outpost Store provides a water and resupply option, and then the road to Moab leads through Lockhart Basin
. This quiet, 40-mile-long 4x4 track winds beneath towering sandstone cliffs and above the Green River.
Riding into Moab, the bustle of the desert tourist town and mountain bike mecca may be a bit overwhelming after days in the quiet desert. Moab offers just about any amenity needed by a bikepacker. Take your time to stock up, as a 6,000-foot climb into the La Sal Mountains waits just outside of town.
The climb is entirely on a quiet gravel road, topping out at La Sal Pass. On the back side of the La Sals, a network of moto singletrack followed by gravel road connect to the Buckeye Reservoir and campground. At that point, the route joins what’s known as the Paradox Trail for the remainder of the segment. The Paradox Trail is a series of mostly remote, rough doubletracks, 4x4 roads, and occasional trail linked together by the Colorado Plateau Mountain Bike Association. After crossing Carpenter Ridge, the route descends to the Dolores River on a very rugged uranium haul road from the 1950s. The uranium and vanadium mining boom following World War II was huge in this area, and the evidence of the mines (including piles of radioactive tailings) is widespread.
The expansive Uncompahgre Plateau towers above the Dolores River, and the Paradox Trail climbs up the plateau’s flanks before traversing countless drainages. The going is rough, slow, and stark in its beauty, but after 25 miles, the route begins to trend downward on newly-constructed Paradox Trail singletrack leading to just above the tiny community of Nucla, the end of Segment 5. Riders will find little more than a small market, a restaurant one mile off-route in Nucla, and plentiful guns (the town requires by law that every household have a firearm of some sort).