to Early Fall
The Plateau Passage is an adventurous, remote, and challenging journey from Las Vegas and the low Mojave Desert, over Utah’s central High Plateaus, and across the breathtaking and immense Colorado Plateau.
The route climbs over isolated desert mountain peaks, meanders through canyons, passes through the mountain bike mecca of Moab, and then aims for the western edge of the Rocky Mountains. The final segment of the route negotiates several passes over 12,000 feet in elevation in the magnificent San Juan Mountains before descending to the eastern terminus of the Plateau Passage in Durango, Colorado.
The goal of this route is to highlight the immense tracts of amazing public land in this region, experience the ecological and geological transitions onto the Colorado Plateau and then into the high San Juan Mountains, and provide the opportunity for an isolated, solitary bikepacking experience in a region devoid of communities and population centers. The Colorado Plateau landscape has inspired countless cultures, explorers, environmentalists, adventurers . . . the list goes on. This is one of the most special places in the American West, and it’s one that deserves to be appreciated, understood, and preserved.
The designed riding experience caters to mountain bikers – riders who enjoy backcountry singletrack, don’t mind some hike-a-bike occasionally, and relish seldom-ridden terrain. But that being said, this route is only ~20% singletrack due to the paucity of trails in this region. Linking up sections of trails are dirt roads and rough 4×4 tracks. And in regions carved up by canyons and impenetrable topography, occasional pavement riding is required. So while this route is dominated by faster riding on gravel roads and some pavement, do not underestimate the challenge and rigor of the 4×4 trails and singletrack that together make up half the route by distance.
- Ride out of Las Vegas and immediately into desert mountains
- Stunning riding and vistas on the Grandview Trail along the pink cliffs of the Paunsaugunt Plateau
- Powell Point and its unparalleled views of the southern Colorado Plateau
- Standing among lush meadows and springs and looking out at slickrock canyons far below
- Remote singletrack in the most unexpected places
- Traversing the Burr Trail Road through sandstone canyons and fins
- Climbing high into the Henry Mountains
- Elk Ridge and the Robertson Pasture Trail in the Abajo Mountains
- Quiet 4×4 roads through Canyonlands National Park before reaching Moab
- Abundant uranium and vanadium mine workings along the Uncompahgre Plateau on the Paradox Trail
- The Dallas Trail along the flanks of the jagged Sneffels Range before a drop into the mountain town of Ouray
- Old singletrack and mining roads over high mountain passes en route to Silverton and Durango
- If this route isn’t enough, riders can connect to the Colorado Trail in Durango and continue onward to Denver!
- What kind of bike should I ride? We recommend a mountain bike with tires at least 2.3” wide, ample sealant, low gearing and front suspension. Cyclocross and gravel bikes and trailers are not recommended for this route.
- What’s the ideal time of year to ride the route? Generally late May to September, but it depends on the year. See the route guide for more details.
- How long will the route take to ride? At least 30 days, but it depends on the rider. Don’t underestimate the ruggedness of this route.
- Do I need any special permits? No.
- Are there any specific safety considerations on this route? (1) This is a challenging route with limited resupply options, limited water, and some very remote country. In order to tackle this route, you should be an experienced bikepacker with trip-planning and riding experience in the desert Southwest. (2) Do not plan on every stock tank having water, and carry more water than you expect to need. (3) Long stretches of the route can become absolutely impassible when wet. See the route guide for specifics. Pay close attention to weather forecasts and carry extra food in case you need to wait for a road to dry out. (4) Beware of flash-flooding during and after storms. Never camp in dry washes. See the route guide for more details.
- What is the longest distance between water sources? 60 miles. See the route guide for more details.
- What is the longest distance between resupplies? 230 miles. See the route guide for more details.
- Is it easy to find places to camp? Yes, dispersed camping is generally easy to find on the public lands the route passes through, but some sections pass through private lands where you would need permission to camp. See the route guide for more details.
- Can I ride the route in either direction? Yes.
- Does this route overlap with the Colorado Trail? No. From Durango, riders could continue northeast on the Colorado Trail to Denver.
- How do I follow the route? These routes are not marked on the ground in any way. You will need to load the route data onto a GPS unit.
- Plateau Passage Route Guide (PDF, updated 5/5/2017)
- Plateau Passage GPS Track File (GPX, v8 updated 5/5/2017)
- Plateau Passage GPS Track File (Split for Easier Upload, GPX, v8, updated 5/5/2017)
- Plateau Passage GPS Track File for Segment 3 Reroute (GPX, v8, 3/14/18)
- Plateau Passage Waypoints (GPX, v2, updated 5/5/2017)
Colorado Plateau Landscape Guide (130-page PDF)
If you encounter any inaccuracies or changes please let us know at [email protected]
Updates affecting the Plateau Passage (last updated 16 May 2023):
- Segment 4: McMillan Campground has a brand new water pump! This has become a reliable water source, although it will likely be turned off later in the season. Contact the BLM Office in Hanksville for when that may occur.
- Segment 4: The irrigation ditch at Sandy Ranch at the base of the west side of the Henry Mountains is not currently carrying water. The ranch is under new ownership.
- Segment 4: The Hite Outpost Store, RV park, and ranger station are both CLOSED for 2023.
- Segment 2 – Grand County Human Waste rule: A new rule for ALL public lands in Grand County, Utah, requires that ALL human waste be packed out rather than buried. This includes the section of Segment 5 between ~8 miles southwest of Moab and the Colorado border.
- The Plateau Passage began with Dave Harris’ vision of a TransUtah bikepacking odyssey connecting St. George to the Colorado border east of Moab. Dave devoted several summers to extensive exploration and reconnaissance, ultimately developing a stellar route that reached as far east as Boulder Town.
- Kurt Refsnider pushed the route farther east, scouting several possible options to get to Moab and then southeast into the San Juan Mountains of Colorado.
- Fred Wilkinson and Scott Morris made additional recommendations.
- The final link between Las Vegas and St. George was finalized in 2017 by Kurt with additional suggestions from Dave.
- This route traverses the traditional lands of the Southern Paiute, Pueblo, Ute and Dine (Navajo) peoples.