Cliff Hanger/Amasa Back 4WD Trail: Cruise Moab 2011

Imagine easing your 4WD vehicle over a 4-foot ledge on a narrow shelf road, precariously positioned at the edge of a sheer cliff. As you take the plunge, the kids strapped in the back start screaming. Given the extreme forward angle, the ice chest in the cargo area breaks loose; a slurry of ice and water rush down the floorboard looking for a fast exit. Your tires fight to maintain a straight line against the off camber decent while the truck leans towards the edge. By now the wife is screaming and crying with the kids; she’s babbling about how she never wanted to come on the trip, but felt guilty after her friend’s bachelorette party in Vegas. As you clutch the steering wheel with white knuckles, beads of sweat roll down your forehead and into your eyes—stinging worse than your wife’s words. Despite the brake pedal being mashed to the floor, gravity shows no mercy and the vehicle continues to slide forward. Once the rear bumper is finished dragging itself down the face of the ledge, all four tires are reunited with flat earth; you realize the worst is behind you. As fast as the mayhem started, it’s over—you successfully conquered the Cliff Hanger obstacle. Now about that Vegas trip…

While the scene inside the vehicle may be a bit less dramatic than described above, the thrilling Cliff Hanger trail lives up to its name. The obstacle rich trail is suitable for vehicles equipped with a rear locker, underbody protection, winch, aggressive approach/departure angles and 33-inch tires. The 10-mile out and back trail scales Amasa Back, a mesa that has been carved out by the Colorado River and is now surrounded by sheer cliffs. The fun begins at the trailhead with a loose rocky “staircase-style” decent before crossing Kane Creek and winding up to the cliffside thrills of Amasa Back. The trail’s most notable obstacle “Cliff Hanger” is perched alongside a 1,000-foot vertical drop-off.

The grand vistas at the farthest point of the trail are nothing short of spectacular; views include Jackson Hole, Dead Horse Point, the Colorado River and the Potash Pits. Those who fear heights need not apply! On the return trip the Cliff Hanger obstacle must be scaled; hugging the canyon wall and easy use of the throttle is advised here. Stray tire tracks can often be seen on the absolute cliffside edge of the obstacle, these marks represent dangerous, throttle heavy, and failed attempts to climb the ledge—this the reasons a rear locker is recommended for this trail.

A short side track from the main trail leads to an overlook providing a view of the goose-necking Colorado River and Poison Spider Mesa. Since the Cliff Hanger is popular among mountain bikers and motorcyclists, stop and let them pass when they approach.