For nearly 48 years the Red Rock 4-Wheelers have been putting on the Easter Jeep Safari. When it first began, there were just a handful of vehicles, many of them work trucks or vintage surplus Jeeps, and the club was small. The Moab Chamber of Commerce had started the event to draw visitors into the Moab area and it had grown slowly, but when the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) asked for insurance and required a permit, the chamber decided to get the club involved for support.
The Safari is a great idea. Who wouldn’t want to spend a few days leading up to Easter Sunday four wheeling through the rugged and scenic red rock Jeep trails that wander through the gorgeous Southeastern Utah landscape. These trails have been there for decades, almost all of them created by miners and ranchers in the region looking for minerals, oil and good grazing land. Yesterday’s utility roads have become today’s recreational pathways.
Really Big Deal
Scoot forward to 2014, and for those unfamiliar with the town of Moab, the legendary red rock country of southeastern Utah, or the phenomenon that the Easter Jeep Safari has evolved in to, that little Jeep run has been growing by leaps and bounds and is now the largest recreational four-wheel-drive assemblage in the United States. Easter Sunday fell on April 20 in 2014 and around April 12, a full 8 days before, the town began to buzz with motorized activity.
The excitement surrounding this event is electric most years, with four-wheeling fanatics working night and day for weeks to get their rigs ready for the event. However, this year the pulse beat even faster, as it was announced early in 2014 that the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) had issued the Red Rock 4-Wheelers an unprecedented 10-year permit to continue the event.
New Places To Go
Along with that extraordinary vote of confidence in the club’s ability to continue successfully managing a venture of this scope for a decade into the future, the BLM also authorized the club to extend its reach by allowing the Red Rock 4-Wheelers to add 10 trails or trail segments to the already vast number of choices available to the hundreds of participants who come to join them in the Moab region for a week of four wheeling fun and adventure.
New for 2014 were eight trails that the Red Rock 4-Wheelers chose to offer to Safari participants for the very first time. They are not new roads, but as we said before, these are all trails that have been here for many decades, and all are included in the BLM master inventory of roads. By adding them to the Safari permit, it also opens these roads and 4×4 trails up to use by other groups for permitted outings. It also protects them from closings until the 10-year permit expires, providing all the permit rules are followed.
Vehicle Rated Trails
There were 38 trails now on the agenda for the 2014 Easter Jeep Safari. But don’t get the wrong idea, this event is not exclusive to Jeeps, although we will bet eight of 10 rigs on the runs are Jeep branded machines of one vintage and model or another. You can bring almost any vehicle that can handle the trails. Each trail is rated by the club and given a number from 1 to 9, dependent upon the trail’s terrain and surface conditions, the level of driver skill required to negotiate the terrain, and the type of equipment (tire size, maximum vehicle ground clearance, front/rear lockers, winch, tow hooks, etc.) needed on the vehicle.
For instance, a Number 7 Trail such as Behind The Rocks will require that your vehicle have enhanced off-road equipment including lockers (front and rear axles), tall tires, maximum vehicle ground clearance, and tow hooks. A winch is desirable. Excellent driving skills are required. As the rating guide states, “Trails consist of rock; sand and considerable slickrock with many steps exceeding 24 inches. Steep inclines and declines are prevalant. Vehicle mechanical or body damage is likely. Roll over possibilities exist.”
A trail with a Rating of 2 such as Chicken Corners is listed as “Country dirt road with infrequent or light maintenance after rain or snow, 2WD high clearance with low gears, otherwise light duty 4WD.” Theoretically, you could do this trail in a bone-stock truck, as long as it wasn’t some sort of air-bagged low-rider. I mean, there are rules, you know.
Speaking of rules, the state of Utah does have some ordinances you need to be aware of, and no, we’re not talking about prohibition or multiple wives. Once you’re off the trail and the road, you’ll be able to get a cold one and some darn good food in many of the fine culinary establishments in the colorful town of Moab. We are talking about state motor vehicle ordinances, though. There are also certain types of vehicles not eligible for Easter Jeep Safari event trails, and this information can be found online or by contacting the Red Rock 4-Wheelers during registration.
If you’ve seen photos or video of four wheeling in the Moab region during Easter Jeep Safari, you’ve probably seen some pretty hairy action and heard some of the trail names with ominous titles such as Hell’s Revenge, Metal Masher, Escalator To Hell, Cliff Hanger, and Rusty Nail. Those names are well deserved. These trails are rated 7 and 8, and are places no one but the most experienced off-road talent with the best-equipped and sturdiest machine should be found. To go here with an ill-prepared rig, full of false bravado with more ego than brains, will only get you shamed by all and sent packing with broken parts.
Coming to Moab for your first time, you’re better off choosing trails that are rated and described under your perceived ability first, then working your way up the scale day by day, if you make it though unscathed and unscolded the first couple of tries. That way you get to drive home having enjoyed some of the best four-wheeling and scenery this country has to offer, incomparable camaraderie, and with no broken parts, no shame, and no emergency room visits. There are a dozen or more trails in the 4 and under rating that are both challenging to drive and serenely beautiful, so you will not be cheated if you try runs such as 3D, Crystal Geyser, Secret Spire, or Fins and Things.
We went to Moab this year for a few reasons. Top of the list were that it had been six years since our last trip and six years is far too long to have been away from the slick rock four-wheeling of Southeastern Utah, and we were there to give our 2013 Jeep Wrangler JKU Project Sgt. Rocker a solid shakedown cruise. Prior to the trip, Rocker received, among other things, a new Bestop Black Twill Trektop NX soft top, Extreme Terrain graphics treatment, AIRAID cold air intake system, Currie RockJock 4.5-inch suspension kit with Rancho RS5000 shocks, a complete Currie steering kit with Rancho stabilizer, JE Reel heavy duty replacement driveshafts, Warn winch, Genesis Off Road dual battery kit with two Optima batteries, Weld Racing Wheels and 35-inch Mickey Thompson tires.
It was our plan to tackle two trails, Fins and Things, and Seven Mile Rim, both rated at 4. Fins and Things offered plenty of red rock “fins” to climb and a few ticklish challenges, especially the slick rock hill known as “Frenchie’s.” But the key to success, as is so true on all the Easter Jeep Safari trails, is to drive with care, and pay attention to the trail spotter’s directions.
We likely could have been little more aggressive in our choice of trails, and were glad Sarge was set up the way he was. However with open diff’s, a more difficult trail could have meant body damage and that was a cost we were not ready to incur at this point. We came away from Fins and Things knowing the Jeep was good, it’s new accessories were working well and all sorted out, and we had accomplished a worthy task at the end of the day.
Making The Scenery
Seven-Mile Rim was an easier run than Fins and Things, and although it provided endless dramatic scenery in the way of deep canyons, cliffside drives, and sky-scraping red sandstone buttes with names such as Monitor and Merrimack (for their resemblance to the famous American Civil War iron-clad ships), it did have a few of its own momentous drives. There was a squeeze, through which some larger vehicles had to use a “go-around,” and at one point on Seven Mile Rim was the playground called Wipe-Out Hill, where some of the better equipped (read “lockers” in the axles) vehicles descended and then climbed the nearly vertical rock staircase.
The entire group stopped and watched as spotters assisted the drivers and their vehicles first down and then back up Wipe-Out. Tom “Flipper” Scott ran the gauntlet in his tricked-out 2007 Rubicon; Justin Walker did the same in his customized buggy Jeep. These two made it look like a piece of cake. The hill was steep, the terrain a set of steps interrupted by short interludes of slippery stone, but the moniker Wipe-Out Hill didn’t fully connect with us until we witnessed one of the other Jeeps almost become salvage title during its driver’s attempt to make the ascent when he bounced a tire off a step too hard while giving it overly-aggressive pedal pressure and the rig nearly stood up on end.
Don’t Miss This
For the most part, anxious moments like these were rare, and the days were spent enjoying the friendship of those we met on the trail, and fellowship of those we knew who had joined us there. The red rock sandstone scenery of the Moab region is indescribably beautiful–you have to see it to truly appreciate it–photographs do it no justice. The town of Moab is funky and fun, you’ll find all sorts of cool, touristy stuff (if that’s your thing), and there’s some pretty good food and drink, too.
The four-wheeling, well that is world class. There is simply no other place like it. Monstrous sandstone fins that look like dinosaur backs to climb on; slick rock (a misnomer by the way, as it’s actually like driving on sand paper) climbs, descents and sidehills that can raise the hair on the back of your neck; dirt roads, trails and two-tracks that wander through deep canyons, Juniper forests, and along scenic cliff-top drives. These all await you during the Easter Jeep Safari.