Thursday, March 18, 2010

Gemini Bridges Trail

The Gemini Bridges Trail is a popular mountain bike and 4WD route north and west of Moab, in southeast Utah. The Bridges are two side by side large openings in Wingate Sandstone with wide level tops that can be walked across.

The best access for hikers is from Utah Route 313, the road leading to the Island in the Sky District of Canyonlands. At mile post 9.4, the Gemini Bridges Road is a well marked turn to the east. After 3.7 miles on a normally smooth dirt road, there is a major junction of three rougher roads. Following wet weather, the road might be rutted or have muddy spots. I started my hike at this junction. From the junction, it is about 1.5 miles to the start of the short Gemini Bridges Trail. Most of the visitors will be arriving on a vehicle or a bike. One of the other roads at the junction is the Metal Masher Jeep Trail, marked with small MM signs. In spring there are good views toward the snow capped La Sal Mountains.
This hiking route arrives at the top of the Gemini Bridges. Some areas around the parking area have been closed off for vegetation restoration. There is a long 4WD route that arrives in the bottom of Bull Canyon below the Gemini Bridges. The hike from the parking area to the top of the bridges is about 0.2 miles.

The two side by side bridges are 89 and 70 feet long, 10 feet apart, and both are 26 feet wide. It is about 250 feet to the bottom and there aren’t any safety fences here. There is a large cavern further inside the rock formation behind the bridges that has a thin layer of rock covering it.

About half way to Gemini Bridges there is a side road leading into Four Arches Canyon that makes a good combination hike with the Gemini Bridges hike. About 1.7 miles down this road are four arches that are close together. My hike to Gemini Bridges and the Four Arches took 4:00 hours for about 7.5 miles on a 55 F mid March blue sky day. I carried 3 liters of water and drank two.


Four Arches Canyon Trail

The Four Arches Canyon Trail is a side trail off of the Gemini Bridges Trail near Moab in southeast Utah. This is a popular mountain bike and 4WD drive route.

Hikers can start at the major junction that is 3.7 miles east of Utah Route 313 along Gemini Bridges Road. The turn off for Four Arches is about 0.7 miles east of the junction and 0.8 miles west of Gemini Bridges.

The trail descends down into a grassy area and crosses a wash. There appears to be some private lodge and camp development in the level area down below, but I didn’t see any activity. There are some good views of the La Sal Mountains looming over some of the sandstone outcrops around the rim above the grassy areas. After crossing the grassy area, the trail heads up a canyon.

About 1.7 miles from the trail head, Bullwhip Arch and Mosquito Arch are visible on the right. From an angle in front and slightly to the left, the resemblance to a mosquito is laughably clear. Hike past the two arches a little and blue sky can be seen through both at the same time.

The 3rd arch is directly across the canyon from Bullwhip and Mosquito Arch. This might be called Crips Arch. The canyon on that side is mostly a solid wall, but there is an indented area with a narrow fin in the middle. The arch is in the fin. I could only see it from a slightly up canyon angle, and no blue sky angle from the trail. Too far up canyon and it disappears from sight. I had trouble finding this one.

The 4th arch is about 0.25 miles further up the canyon on the opposite side from Mosquito Arch.This one might be known as Shadow Arch. There are two narrow fins side by side up high. The arch is in the fin that is further up canyon and can only be seen from the up canyon side.

After visiting these arches, I realized that Bullwhip and Mosquito Arch are visible from near the trail head area, more than 1.5 miles away. Only one group of four ATVs passed me on a nearly perfect day. My hike to Gemini Bridges and the Four Arch Canyon was about 7.5 miles and took about 4:00 hours on a 55 F degree day. I drank 2 of the 3 liters of water I carried.

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