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ATV Adventures: Riding among the Monuments through Sunset Pass

By Lynn Blamires - Special to the Standard-Examiner | Nov 13, 2021

Lynn Blamires, Special to the Standard-Examiner

This remarkably thin rock wall stretches for almost a mile without varying in width. It was a highlight of the trail.

Fascinated by Garfield County’s rugged, slick rock country, I found myself once again on an adventure with Brett Stewart, who is president of OHV Advocates Utah. We were headed for a place called Big Ridge.

We drove south of Hanksville on Highway 95. On the east side of the road near mile post 46, we unloaded just south of a looming red rock monument.

We left that stone peak behind as we came around a towering rock wall that stood over 500 feet above the valley. The base of the wall was no more than about 15 feet wide, standing atop a crest that tapered off to the valley floor. Without varying in width, this narrow wall extended almost a mile before anchoring itself into a larger rock formation. It wasn’t a solid rock wall – portions of it had collapsed, adding to the beauty of the landscape. We could see blue sky through a small window at the top.

Continuing our ride, we could see Sewing Machine Butte to the east. It has a rock pillar that is shaped like a spindle ready to receive a spool of thread. The top of the butte has a large block to make it look like a sewing machine.

We also passed a no-name butte that featured a slender rock pillar that stood as high as the wall we had passed earlier.

Lynn Blamires, Special to the Standard-Examiner

Another view of this amazing rock wall. You can see blue sky through a small window at the top.

Another favorite was Fiddler’s Butte. Brett explained that the name puzzled him, but when he got a closer look, it reminded him of a fiddler crab with the two eyes that stand above the shell. Mr. Krabs in the popular “Sponge Bob Square Pants” TV series is a fiddler crab.

We made our way along the east side of Black Ledge. While this feature was only 200 feet above us, the landscape stair-stepped up to a butte known as Big Block towering 1,600 feet overhead. It was just one rock wonder after another.

We soon made a sharp turn to the west and climbed to the top of Sunset Pass. We stopped here to take in more of the view. From this vantage point, it was easy to see how the pass got its name. The panorama to the west was situated to witness spectacular sunsets. Had we wanted to go home in the dark, we could have seen one. We didn’t.

High above the pass stood Gunsight Butte. We could see this landmark from across the valley at a point on our ride to the Dirty Devil River the day before. While we couldn’t see the pass from there, Gunsight Butte was easy to find.

Dropping down on the west side, we worked our way down into a wash and to a sign indicating a trail to Big Ridge. Brett explained that this road climbs to the top of the ridge and has some incredible views. It is known as the Simplot Dug Way.

It is a part of a new trail system Brett has been working to open to the public for multiple-use. The Poison Springs Trail System includes Poison Springs Canyon through the Dirty Devil River to Hite Marina, the Cedar Point Trail and the Two Pipe Springs Loop that starts at the top of Big Ridge where we were headed. It also includes the trail to Sunset Pass. The multiple-use aspect of this new system is a boon to outdoor recreation.

We started our climb on a path that was a ledge literally carved out of the side of the mountain. It was straight up on our right and a drop straight down into the canyon on the left. The dug way was a little rough from a storm in September that did considerable damage in Hanksville. The condition of the road discouraged us from going to the top.

Deciding to turn around presented another problem. We were on a narrow ledge and we needed to turn around without making a 150-point turn. We spotted each driver to get everyone headed back down the mountain and we soon found ourselves back in the wash headed for Sunset Pass.

The buttes were big, the valleys were big and the sky was big. Everything was big here except for our little group of riders. We just rode in awe of it all.

We got back to the trucks with 84 miles under our belt. When you go, take plenty of water, keep the rubber side down and see how big you feel when you ride this trail.

Contact Lynn R. Blamires at quadmanone@gmail.com.

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