Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Poison Spider Trail to Little Arch

The Poison Spider Trail is a popular 4WD and mountain bike trail. For hikers, the 5.7 mile one way route to Little Arch is a good choice. The trailhead area is 6.2 miles west along Highway 279, or Potash Road on the north side of Moab in southeast Utah. The junction of Highway 279 with Highway 191 is across from the entrance to Arches National Park.

The first mile climbs with switchbacks along a road with rounded rocks. There are a couple of obstacles for vehicles that make a hiker’s progress as swift as the vehicles. In this first section there are good views across the broad slow flowing Colorado River. The total elevation gain for the trail is about 1000 feet.

On the mesa top there are domes of Navajo sandstone and desert vegetation. The walking is relatively easy on the road though there are sandy sections. Several of the desert plants are in flower in late April. There are scattered Utah Junipers and Pinon Pines, a lot of Prickly Pear Cactus, Indian Rice Grass and Pepper Grass, and Mormon Tea. I saw a few of the bright red Indian Paint Brush in bloom.

There were about a dozen 4WD vehicles on the trail the day I hiked. There were about 15 dirt bikes mostly in 3 groups, and I saw 4 mountain bikes. I was the only hiker that I saw.

The approach toward the Little Arch area has a series of sandstone domes. The trail climbs over and around the domes. It is easy to follow the burned rubber and oil spots along the rock surfaces. This area is the high cliffs that are above the Colorado River in the vicinity of the Moab Rim Trail. 

The upper part of the Moab Rim Trail and the Hidden Valley Trail can be sighted along here. Views closer to the cliffs reveal the tortured Rim Trail a very extreme route for vehicles. Watch for the junction with the Golden Spike Trail and stay to the right. There is also a loop route for vehicles that hikers would probably skip by again staying to the right.

The side route to Little Arch is well marked. For the benefit of vehicles directions are painted right on the rocks. The Little Arch is at the bottom of a deep pit and the views are from the edges. The trail head area for the Moab Rim Trail can be viewed through the arch as well as a section of river.

Among the spectacular views along the Poison Spider Trail is the many rock fins of the Behind the Rock wilderness area with the snow capped La Sal Mountains peeking above. This view is better in the afternoon as the light shifts to the west. At the trail head area there is a short trail toward a dinosaur track and petroglyphs. My hike for the 11.4 miles took 5:40 hours total on a 65 F degree blue sky late April day. I carried and drank 3 liters of water.

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