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Dolores River
Grand County, Utah
View this on the Utah Trailheads Map

Nearby Towns: Moab
Nearby Trails: Rose Garden Hill, Top Of The World, Dome Plateau, Hotel Mesa, Buckhorn Mesa, Scharf Mesa, Pole Canyon Rim
Trail Length: 7.83 miles
Elevation: 4,096 to 4,763 feet
Named Obstacles: First River Crossing, Second River Crossing

Note that the trail was graded in 2008, making it much easier. The water crossings have not changed, however, and they are still challenging.

This trail is very unique to the entire Moab area. There are no trails like it in Colorado, either. You get to cross the Dolores River twice, and you never know for sure if it's just a little too deep and you'll actually float for a bit. That makes it a true challenge! The bottom of the river crossings are smooth, keeping this trail rating low. But note that you could still float away and get into serious trouble, so the low rating should not be taken lightly.

The trail starts very near the Top Of The World trail, on the exit from Rose Garden Hill. It is very close to Highway 128. The beginning of the trail is wide and easy, with great views of the sandstone formations.

Soon the trail turns from wide and smooth to narrower and bumpier as it follows a dried-up creek bed in Cowskin Canyon. There are Cottonwood trees everywhere, and the scenery is gorgeous. The trail opens up again after the creek bed.

The trail winds its way up and out of the canyon and around some curves, and soon you see the Dolores River. It seems far too big to drive across, but chances are good that you'll be able to do it.

Watch the river for a section that has a sand bar in the middle of it. It should be visible, covered in river rocks, and hopefully it has vehicle tracks on it. This is the sandbar that you will cross during the first river crossing.

The trail curves to the left and suddenly ends as it goes right into the river. Get out here to look out to the river and downstream to the left. Make sure you can see the sandbar and the river exit far downstream. If you cannot see the sandbar, the river is probably too deep to cross and you should turn around.

To cross the river at this first crossing, go through the shallowest portion on the way to the sandbar. The next portion after the sandbar is much longer and deeper in spots as you get closer to the bank on the other side. Stay in 4-wheel drive and be prepared to back up suddenly if you get too deep.

Once you are across the river, it is muddy and it could be difficult to climb out. The trail after the river bank should be dry, though there are muddy places at times. Turn left at the main trail to continue.

The portion of trail between the two river crossings is mellow. There are a few excellent campsites, surrounded by Cottonwood trees and within sight of the river. This is a gorgeous area.

The second river crossing does not have a sandbar. You cross it all at once, and it is difficult to gauge how deep it is. However, if the first river crossing went well then this one should be fine, too. The other side is muddy though the climb out is not as difficult.

The rest of the trail is easy, with a smooth dirt road. Soon you end up back out on the main road. Turn right to go back out to the highway at Dewey Bridge.

Information last updated on May 20th, 2012.

Member Reports

Driving Directions

From Moab, drive north to the turn off for Highway 128 that is just south of the Colorado River bridge on the north end of town. This is the same road that comes from the Cisco exit off of I-70. Take this highway until the turnoff for the Dewey Bridge, just before you cross over the Colorado River. The trailhead is 3.82 miles from the highway, on the left. It is not marked.

Meeting Places

Meet at the McDonald's at Kane Creek Road and Main Street in Moab.

Low-End Rating: 2
High-End Rating: 4
Rock Crawling:
Dirt & Mud:
Water Crossings:
Cliffs & Ledges:
Climbs & Descents:
Other Activities:
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Trail Photographs

First River Crossing Sandbar in the Middle of the First River Crossing Second River Crossing

Trail Movies
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Maps and Coordinates
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Trail in Red
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Dolores River (GPS Exchange File)
Dolores River Trailhead (Google Earth Placemark)
Second River Crossing (Google Earth Placemark)
First River Crossing (Google Earth Placemark)
Dolores River Track (Google Earth Track)

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Trail information is only accurate on the date posted. Trails may have changed or closed since that date. Use this information for historical purposes only. Contact the Forest Service or Bureau of Land Management for up-to-date trail information.

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