On our second full day in Moab in 2012, I hiked the Portal Overlook Trail while Marilyn and Marie went rafting. Back when I had first started mountain biking, I had read about the Portal Trail in Lee Bridger’s book, Mountain Biking Moab. It sounded like a truly harrowing ride, one that I would never do. This year, while thumbing through one of the many books we have on the Moab area, I came across the Portal Trail again, but it was described as a hike and not a ride. Ah, that I can do!
The Portal Overlook Trail starts in JayCee Park off of Utah 279. Even if you have no interest in hiking the Portal Overlook Trail, it’s well worth it to drive Utah 279. The road snakes along one bank of the Colorado River and is very scenic. There is native American rock art on portions of the wall to the right as you drive out on Utah 279 from US 191. And just before coming to the petroglyphs is “Wall Street”, a climbing area just off the road. You can literally park, walk a few feet, and start climbing.
But, on the morning that I hiked the Portal Overlook Trail, I didn’t see any of that because JayCee park is encountered before you get to “Wall Street” or the rock art. I’m not including photos here of the early part of the hike. It started off kind of flat and I hiked through trees for a time. Then I came to slickrock and it got steep, steep enough at times for me to welcome the excuse to stop and take a few photos.
When I got to the overlook section, I noticed that I could see Arches National Park from the trail. I had the lens fully zoomed – at 200mm – for this photo, plus I cropped it a lot on my computer, providing for a sort of digital zoom too:
Anyway, that’s balanced rock – and other nearby rock formations – in the photo above. I took a lot of photos of that skyline, but they all had that kind of bluish cast, perhaps from haze, or perhaps from just being too far away.
I continued hiking up the trail and ended up on top of Poison Spider Mesa. Here is a view of and from the mesa:
I hiked some of the four-wheel drive trail on top of the mesa. It was tempting to go further, but I reminded myself that I still had to return. Plus, I got myself a little bit lost on all of the slickrock out there. It’s easy to do.
Once I made it back to the edge of the mesa, I found the Portal Overlook Trail again. Not too far down, I saw this sign:
Here is a view of the trail only a short ways beyond:
And, after some more hiking, I saw this sign. It’s easily readable if you click on the photo and make it bigger. It says, “Warning! Three Bicyclists have died here. Dismount Now and walk.”
Here is a wider angle view putting it into context:
A view of what looks like the tricky bit:
Yet another view. On the way up, I hiked over that rock near the top right in the picture. On the way back down, I actually walked on the path just left of the rock. I imagine it’s quite exhilarating for the cyclists who actually ride it. The road seen far below is Utah 279, with the Colorado River next to it. The water was very low this year. The girls mentioned that this was the case after they finished their rafting trip too.
A view looking back up the trail. One of the things that I noticed on the way up was that it was sometimes difficult to see where the trail went, looking only twenty or thirty yards ahead. But, even so, once you went just a bit further, the path was obvious and easy to follow.
A view of the trail with perhaps a little under a mile left until I’m back at my truck. Again, you can see the road, Utah 279, and the river just next to it.