Kokopelli 4×4 Trail
The famous Kokopelli Trail was the first trail put together by the Colorado Plateau Mountain Bike Trail Association in 1989 as a link between Loma, Colorado and Moab, Utah. I have set out with a number of guys at ExpeditionUtah to put together a comprehensive trail guide to the Kokopelli 4×4 Trail bypassing the few singletrack sections of the trail.
Who was Kokopelli? Here’s a short explanation provided by COPMBA:
The trail was named after Kokopelli, a magical being recognized by many Native American Groups of the Colorado Plateau. Kokopelli is the humped back flute player and is associate with the Flute Clan of the Hopi Indians. Legend holds he was able to drive back winter with his flute playing. He wandered from village to village with a bag of songs on his back, and, as a symbol of fertility, was welcome during spring planting.
The figure of Kokopelli appears in many forms across the Colorado Plateau. He also appears painted on Hohokam and Mimbres pottery and as the Hopi Kachina-Kokopelli.
The trail was named for Kokopelli out of respect for our native American heritage, and symbolizes the wandering of the Colorado Plateau mountain bike trail system.
This route can be traveled in either direction, but the most common way to drive it is by starting in Loma and ending in Moab. This way you are driving down Rose Garden Hill, which is a little easier than driving up it. I have also included the short spur trail to Top of the World. While this is not part of the official Kokopelli 4×4 Trail, it makes a great side trip and is a nice place to camp if you are driving this trail over two days. The bike trail is signed very well at the important intersections and was easy to follow, however, you will need to get off of the bike trail to bypass the singletrack sections, which are obviously not signed. I will shortly describe each section of the trail starting in Loma at the official Kokopelli trailhead. All sections with an * are optional and can be added to the main route to travel more of the official route and to extend the trip.
Loma to Rabbit Valley
Starting at the Kokopelli trailhead in Loma, you need to bypass the first section of singletrack by following Hawkeye Road west to the Mack exit and take a right. You will have to hop on the pavement here and drive through Mack to the old Highway 6 & 50, where you will take a left. Follow the highway until you reach the beginning of Sidewinder Road. You will follow Sidewinder Road until it takes you under I-70 and you reach the Rabbit Valley Road and join up with the official Kokopelli Trail again.
Follow the Rabbit Valley Road past the parking area and into McDonald Creek. Soon you will reach Castle Rocks which should be fairly obvious landmarks. There is a campground located here and a parking area for the McDonald Creek hiking trail which is a nice hike to the Colorado River with some pictographs along the way. There are also a few side trails that head to some overlooks of the Colorado River.
After crossing the Colorado-Utah state line the trail gets a little rockier. There will be a few sections of narrow shelf road as you loop north by Bitter Creek and climb up onto the mesa. Soon the trail will join the paved Westwater Road.
Turn left and follow the Kokopelli bike trail on the pavement until you reach the railroad tracks. Turn right and then parallel the tracks for a bit. The trail will eventually turn south and head away from the tracks towards Cisco Landing. Right before you reach Cisco Landing, the trail will hop on the pavement again. Take a right and follow this road to a Y-intersection, where you will take a left onto Fish Ford Road.
You will follow the Fish Ford Road for a bit and then make a right off the pavement to head west towards Cisco Wash. Soon the Kokopelli bike trail will make another left towards the river, but you will need to keep heading west. This portion of the bike trail turns into singletrack near the river, so you will have to backtrack if you follow it. Once you reach Cisco Wash, you will need to drop down into the wash and climb up the other side. When we drove it, it was obvious that this section is not well traveled. The drop into and climb out of the wash is fairly steep and sandy, and may require 4 wheel drive. Once past Cisco Wash, you will eventually reach a fence that will be followed to Highway 128. Turn left on the highway until you reach the signed right turn to continue on the Kokopelli.
Yellow Jacket Canyon
This section of the Kokopelli Trail heads into an area known as Dome Plateau. Part of this route follows the Dome Plateau Jeep Trail, but not all of it. So if you are thinking about skipping this section of the trail because you have already driven the Dome Plateau trail, I would advise against it. This section was a bit rougher than the rest of the trail and included some tight turns and steep rocky terrain as we descended into Yellow Jacket Canyon. There are also some high speed sandy sections, too. Eventually you will reach Highway 128 again just north of the Dewey Bridge.
Rose Garden Hill
After crossing the new ‘Dewey Bridge’ you will be taking a quick left turn onto the Entrada Ranch Road. This road starts out well maintaned for a number of miles until the turnoff for the Entrada Ranch, from there it becomes an easy dirt road. As you get closer to Rose Garden Hill the trail starts to get rockier, steeper and narrower in some sections. Eventually you will reached the famed Rose Garden Hill. This is the most difficult quarter mile of the whole Kokopelli 4×4 Trail. It is a bit easier since you will be headed downhill. There are a number of big ledges and loose rocks in this section. Take your time and choose good lines down the ledges and you should have no problems. There are plenty of rocks to stack if needed. Once at the bottom you will continue on until you reach the Onion Creek Road.
* At the Top of the World intersection the Kokopelli bike trail goes straight through Cottonwood Canyon. We skipped this section originally because we were under the impression it is no longer drivable. However, I have since learned that it can be driven, and am planning on heading back to check it out. Once I do, I will be updating this section and the GPS tracks.
Top of the World *
The optional spur that leads to the Top of the World overlook is a bumpy few miles, but not very difficult. The overlook at the end is well worth the trip, especially if you hang around for sunset. When we drove this trail, we setup camp at the top near the overlook.
When you reach the Onion Creek Road you will take a left and then shortly after another left. If you miss the second left, you will run into private property. After the second left you will start the long climb up onto North Beaver Mesa though Thompson Canyon. This section is easy, but it is a constant climb. If your cooling system is not up to par, keep an eye on overheating. Once on North Beaver Mesa you will eventually reach the Polar Mesa Road which you will turn right onto. Soon you will reach the pavement of the Gateway-Castleton Road and follow that to the La Sal Mountain Loop Road.
La Sal Mountain Loop Road
Turn left onto the paved La Sal Mountain Loop Road and start climbing towards the La Sal Mountains. There are a number of switchbacks and you will pass a few side roads that lead to developed and undeveloped campsites. There was a forest fire in part of this section of the La Sals in 2008, so you will drive through a recent burn area.
Eventually there will be a signed right turn for the Kokopelli bike trail along the La Sal Loop Road. Follow this section and head downhill along the upper portion of Porcupine Rim. This section of trail is steep and narrow in places. It was also very rutted out when we ran it. There were a few sections that we had to straddle some large moguls in the trail. It is a short section that will eventually meet up with the well maintained Sand Flats Road. Make a right turn and follow this road through the Sand Flats Recreation Area all the way to Moab.
* If you would prefer to skip the Upper Porcupine Rim section, you can continue along the La Sal Loop Road past the Kokopelli turnoff to the intersection with Sand Flats Road.
GPS Tracks for the Kokopelli 4×4 Trail
Google Earth Track (Version 1)
GPX Track (Version 1)
For the most detailed version of the trail with additional information and notes from me, download the Google Earth file and open it in Google Earth. The GPX file includes the sections of the trail that I have driven and a few waypoints.
Maps that are helpful to plan your trip
Further resources to help plan your trip
Photo Galleries from the Kokopelli 4×4 Trail
If you have any questions, suggestions or comments about the Kokopelli 4×4 Trail, please feel free to post them below.
This page last updated: 3/21/2010