When mountain bikers think of Moab, the first trails that come to mind are Slickrock and Porcupine Rim. For good reason. These trails are spectacular. Slickrock's unique sandstone playground is unlike any other trail I've ever ridden and Porcupine Rim has evolved into a fast, twisty downhill trail with jaw-dropping views into Castle Valley and the Colorado River. It's no surprise then that Amasa Back doesn't get the same love as its two brethren. Like Robin to Batman or Pippen to Jordan, Amasa Back is overshadowed by its more famous counterparts. But don't think of it as an inferior trail. It has challenging obstacles, it has immense, sweeping views and really should be on your to-do list.
Amasa Back was my first ride in Moab and I remember being intimidated by Moab's reputation for broken bikes, epic crashes and spine-curling drops. Fortunately, Amasa Back dispelled those fears and quickly hooked me on the joys of Moab riding.
First off, the ride navigates a brilliant path through a sandstone landscape that has been twisted and folded, worn and broken by the mighty geologic forces of water, wind and time. On a recent business trip, I glanced out the window of the airplane onto a buckled sandstone landscape bisected by a mighty river. After a few moments, I realized I was looking down on Amasa Back. As a result of its position in the landscape, the views along the trail are spectacular. From the snow-capped La Sal mountains peeking over the "Behind The Rocks" wilderness area to the airy stops looking down into Jackson's Hole near the middle of the trail, and the unforgettable perch at the end of the trail that is a perfect picnic spot allowing you to absorb a timeless and cinematic vista while refueling for the descent.
Aerial view of the spectacular Amasa Back overlook.
The riding is just as good as the views. The terrain is challenging for just about every rider while still being friendly enough that intermediate riders will still have a great time. I've seen a lot of groups on Amasa Back with mixed abilities, the veteran riders charging up the rocky steps while newer riders jump off and walk around the difficulties. Despite the difficulties, everyone always seems to be having a great time. One skill that you'll quickly master is getting your bike up the numerous rock steps. Pedal while lifting your front wheel to get up onto the step, then shift your weight forward with a second pedal stroke to help pop the back wheel up onto the step. It takes a bit of timing and practice to integrate the steps into a fluid movement, but you'll quickly find yourself climbing improbably difficult terrain. You'll have plenty of opportunities to perfect the technique on the five-mile ascent to the overlook.
On the return trip, you have two options, retrace your steps or, if you found Amasa Back too easy, take the Jackson Singletrack Trail. Be forewarned, the Jackson Singletrack is dramatically more difficult and dangerous than the main Amasa Back trail.
Retracing your steps back the Amasa Back trail goes quickly with the multitude of small rock steps that once challenged your ascent providing launch ramps for your descent. Be sure to admire your surroundings on the way down because I always find it ends way too quickly and before I know it, I'm back in the parking lot along the Kane Springs road wanting to do it all over again.
Where: The Amasa Back trail is accessed from a large parking area along Kane Springs Road south-west of Moab. The ride is approximately 10-miles round trip. Most riders will complete the out-and-back in around 3- 3 1/2 hours though plan for more time if you're new to riding up the rock steps Moab is famous for. Because it is an out-and-back, one can always turn around at any point and return to the parking area. Driving directions, trip details and a map can be found on utahmountainbiking.com.
My favorite times to ride on this, and other Moab trails, is spring and fall. Expect summer rides to be hot! Start early/late and bring lots of water.