Getting to know the outdoor backcountry has been the greatest aspect I have gained from my work in the off-road industry. Expanding my knowledge and soaking up history provides significant value and makes for a more interesting experience. With that in mind, nothing can prepare you for the real thing! For my first-time adventures in Moab, Utah for Easter Jeep Safari 2022, I ventured out for a full day on Cliff Hanger. Here are my notes from the trail.
Our friends at Rockstar Garage and Mickey Thompson Tires invited Off Road Xtreme to join in on the Cliff Hanger trail run. Consisting of a very experienced and well equipped group of off-roaders, everyone paraded out to the staging area to offload, air-down, and meet up for a safety briefing. Our host was Mickey Thompson Tires, but the trip was organized and guided by Rockstar Garage’s Nick Ashby. I would like to thank Nick and Don for including me on this trip and for being the consummate responsible TREAD Lightly off-roading advocate.
Being only my second day ever in Moab, Utah, and only my second time off-roading the ORXtreme JL, I was a bit nervous to hit this Level 8 Cliff Hanger trail. The day prior, was my Moab initiation and I ran Metal Masher. Before hitting this way more technical challenge for the day, my nerves were subdued with a little coaching from Ashby. The principal leader of Rockstar Garage knows how to build a rig and lead a trail run. Click here to so see how Rockstar Garage conquered Moab.
Cliff Hanger Trail Details
Cliff Hanger is known as one of Utah’s premium off-road adventures and it is also included on Jeep’s Badge Of Honor list of trails. The area is stunningly gorgeous. I can merely describe it as a stone-walled city with rock-faced skyscrapers.
Online resources refer to Cliff Hanger with a difficult rating of varying descriptions. Red Rock 4-Wheelers has determined Cliff Hanger as a Level 8, while onX Offroad gives it a Technical Rating of 7. Described with an extreme rating on TrailsOffRoad.com, they suggest you will be pressed with mandatory Level 6-7 obstacles, slick rock ledges, and epic views.
Cliffhanger is located minutes from downtown Moab and offers the convenience of nearby campgrounds that tap into a wide berth of trail systems. As an iconic Utah destination that presents amazing scenery overlooking the Colorado River’s big loop, the area and parts of the Cliff Hanger Trail are shared with Mountain Bikers, and hikers in addition to the off-road vehicle traffic. Even dirt bikes, ATVs, and UTVs are all permitted. It is best to be courteous to all enjoying the great outdoors.
The trick to successfully navigating this trail is having the appropriate vehicle ground clearance, excellent tire grip, steady control of the throttle, and rock-solid nerves of steel. For 4×4 Jeeps, trucks and SUVs at least 35-inch tires are needed, but 37-inch tires are recommended with front and rear locking differentials. After seeing and traversing this trail in its entirety, there are several obstacles that could have rejected an under-built rig concerned about body damage or worse. Scoping out the lines and having a proficient spotter that cared about me and my vehicle concerns was critical to my trail experience.
To emphasize what my concerns were, I was tasked with not messing up my boss’s new Jeep.
ORXtreme JL Trail Vehicle Gets the Job Done On Cliff Hanger
Our ORXtreme JL project vehicle was mildly built and designed to be a capable off-roader while retaining its comfortable street handling characteristics as a daily driver. With Cliff Hanger being rated as a difficult trail, the Jeep did face several extreme challenges. All in all, I was able to get the 2021 Wrangler Rubicon to the end of the trail and back without issue.
To handle the obstacles on Cliff Hanger, our Jeep is equipped with Fabtech Motorsports Long Arm Crawler System, 37-inch Mickey Thompson Baja Boss A/T Tires, 17-inch Dirty Life Engima Wheels, Body Armor 4×4 Bumpers and Spare Tire Carrier, Rock Slide Engineering Step Sliders, Warn VR EVO 10-s Winch, Factor 55 Hawse Fairlead and UltraHook, 4122 Hitch Slider, and Bolt Lock Accessories. You can read about the build in Part 1 and Part 2, and hear about our complete adventure of how we made it out to Easter Jeep Safari and back.
Cliff Hanger Trail Obstacles And Points Of Interest:
- The Trailhead Cascading Staircase
- Rock Ledges Obstacle
- Kane Creek Crossing
- Creek Climb Rock Staircase
- Rock & Roll
- Crooked Ledge
- Left Turn “Z Turn” Obstacle
- Side Trip Right
- Overlook (Point Of Interest)
- Jackson Hole
- Cliff Hanger Obstacle
- Tippy Ledge
- Cliff Ledge Overlook (Point Of Interest)
- Amasa Back
- Pot Hole Arch (Point Of Interest)
Entering Cliff Hanger, you must first make your way down the Trailhead Cascading Staircase. From there, you are presented with two different Rock Ledge Obstacles that drop off more than 4-feet. At this point, I was already considering to turn tail because I did not want to drop off a ledge straight onto the front bumper. I spotted a different line that suited the Jeep better and the ORXtreme JL handled it with no issues.
Directly after crossing Kane Creek was a steep uphill Creek Climb Rock Staircase. If I thought going down would be difficult, this technical obstacle really throws it all at you. With the help of Ashby’s firm experience pointing out the proper lines, everyone in the group easily passed through one of Cliff Hanger’s most difficult challenges.
It Is Called Cliff Hanger Trail For A Reason
The trail in takes off-roaders from the creek level elevation of 3,983-feet up the side of a winding gorge to a top elevation point of 4,978-feet. Once the route crests the flat and bends around, it turns towards a puckering cliff hanger of a trail. Owning the namesake is the Cliff Hanger Obstacle. It is absolutely nerve racking from far and it does not get any better up close.
This is a downhill drop off that is perched on the edge of a huge cliff. Once you go down, this is the same way you will travel to exit the trail. That is right, Cliff Hanger is one way in and one way out!
The big payoff is more amazing views! We spent the afternoon hanging out on Cliff Ledge Overlook that provides endless views of Hurrah Pass, Jackson Hole, the Colorado River, a Potash Mine, Fins And Things, and the epic La Salle Mountains.
Cliff Hanger – The Legendary Jeep Badge of Honor Trail – 4K UHD
Besides the amazing views, the nice thing about this route is its short distance. Cliff Hanger presents a 10.1-mile route, but in a large group, it can take all day. A crew running high and tight with few stops can finish in less than five hours. The best time to enjoy this area is during the spring and fall. During the Summer, you can expect triple digit temperatures. The trail is open year-round but be aware of the installed cattle gate as the BLM has issued a grazing permit. If it is open, leave it open. If it is shut, close it behind you. Dogs are welcome and may be off-leash in some areas.
To gain access to the Cliff Hanger Trailhead head south of Moab and then west on Kane Creek Road along the Colorado River. After you pass the large parking area go another mile to find the trailhead on the right. GPS coordinates are listed as 38.52397, -109.6015 on the Utah.com website. This area is only a short 10-minute drive outside of downtown Moab.
Cliff Hanger Heading Back In
I had so much fun going out on the Cliff Hanger Trail. It was not lost on me that we would have to make it backup the very tall Cliff Hanger Obstacle. Once back over and through, we traversed and twisted our way back and around. Almost no mechanical issues occurred, but the ones that did happen were easily addressed. Our day was a long one due to our group size and the various missions to capture content to benefit Mickey Thompson Tires, our trail host.
Off Road Xtreme Cliff Hanger Trail Review: 4.5 Out Of 5 Star Rating
If you are an off-roader looking for a challenging trail, then Cliff Hanger is for you. I would recommend this trail as a Moab, Utah bucket list. My favorite part of the day was the amazing views, spending good times with great people, and that the only damage to our ORXtreme JL was some minor skid plate and rock slide abrasions. Off Road Xtreme gives Cliff Hanger a 4.5 out of 5 star rating.
Have you ventured out on the Cliff Hanger? If so, what do you think about that huge cliff? Tell us about your experience! Or if you have an off-road trail that you want to know more about, let us know? Did you see the Off Road Xtreme Trail Review on Metal Masher? What trail review should we do next? Drop a comment below and share with your friends.