Rimrocker Trail

Rimrocker Trail

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Traversing the “Goods” of the Southwest

“Where are you headed?” The cowboy wondered.

“Colorado.” I replied.

“Ahhhh, okay. But, you are in Utah. Do you know the way?” My family and I decided not to travel the typical route to the mountainous state of Colorado.

We opted to travel through the La Sal Mountains of Utah on unpaved forest roads. This route is made for cowboys and cowgirls. Once only accessible by horse, today it is accessible for Land Cruisers or any other Toyota 4x4.

The Rimrocker Trail includes 160 miles of National Forest and Bureau of Land Management roads connecting the deserts of Utah to the high country of Colorado. The trail traverses some of the most picturesque beauty in the lower 48. Drive it in either direction, and you will stop often to stare at beauty. Better yet, explore on foot the old mines of the past and contemplate the sheer will of the people trying to strike it rich. We drove the route from west to east.

The weather was toasty as we topped off our fuel in downtown Moab. Summer tourists strolled Main Street while window shopping. We headed for the La Sal Mountains, just on the eastern side of Moab. Elevation was our friend! My Toyota Land Cruiser 200 climbed steadily as I dropped into third gear. We pulled over to air down. The decreased tire pressure allowed us to cruise at a comfortable speed. We passed from the red rock of Canyon Country into the beauty of aspen and pine trees. As the elevation increased, the outside temperature decreased. The dirt road was wide shouldered by picturesque, monstrous old-growth trees.

“Keep your eyes out for the sign.” I cautioned my wife, Louise.

“Do you think it will be marked?” asked Louise.

Rimrocker trail for Toyota overland - Land Cruiser

“There!” My daughter, Lilly, exclaimed while pointing—happy that she had spotted the state sign first. We eased across the Utah/Colorado border without too much hassle. A small, wooden sign marked the border. No welcome sign. No visitor center. Just the way we like it.

We found a nice, dispersed campsite on the shore of Buckeye Reservoir. The cool, alpine air refreshed us, and I even put on a long-sleeved shirt to take the edge off. We quickly set camp, and Louise prepared a stellar dinner of tacos. We opted not to have a fire but rather to get a longer night’s rest for tomorrow’s activities.

Rimrocker trail for Toyota overland - Land Cruiser

I woke just after sunrise and ground some coffee for my French press. Next, I inflated the standup paddleboards for a morning paddle. Louise and Lilly stirred and awoke. We ate a light breakfast before placing the paddleboards into the glassy smooth waters and paddling out. The water was so calm that Louise and I were able to sip our coffees while on the water. Lilly, being a kid, wondered what she was doing on a lake so early in the morning. She questioned her parents’ decision but soon realized the reason—peacefulness. The large reservoir was “ours” as we paddled and observed with our eyes and ears. The birds chirped as to signal the start of a glorious day. We three decided to jump off our boards to wash up. The water chilled us for a moment but refreshed us—a ideal way to start the day.

Rimrocker trail for Toyota overland - Land Cruiser

After packing, we followed the Rimrocker Trail eastward. It was easy to follow because of the numerous lime-green signs along the way. Within 10 miles or so, we started to drop back into a high desert environment. Sagebrush and juniper trees replaced the aspen and pine trees of the higher elevation. Even though the flora changed, the Rimrocker Trail remained well-marked and easy to follow. The trail dove in and around slickrock domes and features. It appeared we had been transported into the desert of Utah.

In my opinion, the major advantage to this is that there are many ins and outs to this trail. The adventurer can exit and enter numerous ways during the 160 miles. We observed an exit for us, which was Highway 141, but we bypassed it. The trail was relatively smooth. We made a quick stop to eat lunch and to watch the Delores River flowing. We had only passed a few vehicles the entire day, so we had the trail to ourselves. The trail continued to traverse the cliffs high above the lush, green river valley.

Rimrocker trail for Toyota overland - Land Cruiser

“Dad, we’re on blacktop?” Lilly questioned. I stopped and double checked my Gaia map. Sure enough, we were back on tarmac for a few miles. The town of Naturita, Colorado, offered few supplies, but we were fully stocked, so we continued. The road quickly gained altitude, and soon enough we spotted the San Juan Mountains to our south. We found ourselves surrounded again by aspen and pine trees and chilled by cooler temperatures. My altimeter read just over nine thousand feet. We focused on finding a campsite. There were plenty available, and we decided on a nice site in the meadows surrounded by the aspen trees.

Lilly started the fire while I setup the tent and Louise prepared dinner. We operated like a well-oiled machine. A few bugs tried to join us, but the fire smoke kept them at bay. The stars twinkled high overhead as embers briefly lit the night sky. The cool, mountain air resulted in an excellent night’s rest.

Rimrocker trail for Toyota overland - Land Cruiser

The following morning dawned crisp and cool. Louise and I sipped coffee while Lilly slept a little longer. We packed and continued eastward. My Land Cruiser 200 kicked up a dusty rooster tail as we descended toward Montrose, Colorado. Meadows and mountains appeared all around, inviting exploration. The trail twisted and turned before eventually reaching a large parking lot and the end of the Rimrocker Trail. I aired up my tires, and we proceeded to the town of Montrose. In Montrose, we fueled up and resupplied before heading further into the Rockies.

The Rimrocker Trail will not test your Toyota four-wheel drive. Look elsewhere if that is your goal. The Rimrocker Trail is meant to be savored and enjoyed. Could you drive it in a day? Yes, but why? The trail traverses some of the best scenery in the southwest. There are quicker ways to travel to and from Utah and Colorado but if you have time, may I suggest the Rimrocker Trail. Glad we did!  

Rimrocker trail for Toyota overland - Land Cruiser

Travel Tips

  • Bring an extra 5 gallons of gas.
  • Pack for varied environments. Desert temperatures could be in the 80’s, while mountain temperatures could be in the 50’s.
  • Best time to travel is the summer when roads are dry.
  • GAIA Maps was a very useful resource.
  • Cell phone signal was inconsistent.

 

 

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