Located down the road a few miles from the famous Moab Rim Trail, Cliff Hanger was a new trail for us during our October, 2001 run to Moab. We were Jeepin’ for a week with Scott and Teresa, our “just married” friends from Phoenix (they were honeymooning in Moab and invited us to wheel with them). As it turned out, this trail would bring us more than we expected, in the form of two new Jeep friends that joined up with us as we started the trail. Andy and Robert, both from central CA, were wrapping up their Moab week as were we. We ran Cliff Hanger with them and also Poison Spider Mesa. We have a standing invitation to visit them in CA. Oh, did I mention that they aren’t too far from the Dusy-Ershim Trail? Oh yeah….I can see us stopping by to say hi….for a week!
Scott and I check tire pressure at the beginning of the trail. There is a nice spot at the trail head to form up a hand full of Jeeps for a fun run. At this point, Andy and Robert were still coming down the road, as they had seen us go past the turn off they took and decided to follow us and see where we were headed.
The trails off to a fun start, immediately dropping you down a steep jumble of stair-step rocks. There is a little riff-raff filter you go through (fun to watch the stockers that were ahead of us), but with 35″ tires, we walked through it with no problem. It was about there that Andy and Robert caught up with us. A bit further down the trail, we stopped to eye-ball a ledge and got to talking with them. As we were all running 35″ tires or better w/ lockers, we decided we might as well run together. Everyone knows that 4 Jeeps can get into and out of more trouble than just two!
Here is Scott checking out a spot on the trail. According to our trail book (I had already loaded the GPS with this trails waypoints), we would have a couple of notable obstacles on the trail. The one the book talked about, and for which Cliff Hanger is best known, is the 4′ ledge that you cross while the trail is at its narrowest section on the cliff edge (and it is a loooooooooooonnnnnnggggg way down to the bottom of that cliff, let me tell you).
Scott snapped a picture of Lady as we went over that section he was just checking out. Donna is keeping track of the passenger side tire for me. No need to hop out and spot on this one. We would be saving that for that ledge that was waiting up ahead for us. The book said it was a ledge that we would remember, long after the rest of the trail had faded away in our memories. Hmmmm…..maybe we should have ran Moab Rim again and left this trail for someone else! LOL
We pushed on forward, working our way over ledges and rocks. We had seen tougher trails before, but that didn’t mean you could day dream on this one. There were plenty of places where a misplaced tire would mean embarrassment at the least and an easy hi-centering of your Jeep if you weren’t careful. The sun was starting to warm things up a bit and it wasn’t too long before my cold-blooded co-pilot stopped shivering (boy, I sure am glad she doesn’t read these trip reports!).
We continued on the trail and the rocks would get a bit bigger every now and then. Here is Scott working his way over one. I got him to stop long enough to snap a picture. Scott’s TJ is nicely built. It sports an RE long arm kit, 6″ springs, Tera 4:1 and 2LO, and a half dozen other things that I am not going to list here. Trust me to say that his ride is a most capable one and Scott is a good driver (and spotter). We’ve done a fair number of AZ trails together and this was his first Moab visit, so he was really getting into the slick rock traction (and enjoying every minute of it).
While we worked our way along the trail, we had a chance to chat with Andy and Robert. Both were driving CJ-7s that had been converted to EFI. Andy’s light blue CJ was running on 35″ tires and pushed along with a Tera 4:1 and a NV4500 tranny. Robert was running on 39.5″x17″ Swampers with D44 axles front and rear and the same t-case and tranny setup that Andy had. Both ran ARB air lockers.
We made it to the first obstacle and all got out to check it out. We spent a good amount of time walking up and down it, looking at the lines that might be done. We quickly noticed the various colors of paint on the bottom of a rock shelf and realized that it most likely the results of careless Jeepers who weren’t watching where the hood went once the tires started climbing the rocks. (make note to self….don’t try that line!)
Scott was next over the ledges. He was bound and determined to make it up that first line that I didn’t…and by golly, he did (although I did toss a couple of rocks under that right rear tire of his). We found that a great big rock was waiting for his front diff just after he got his back tires up on the first ledge. Talk about no room to maneuver…..geez, I’ve seen the interior of a phone booth that had more space than this ledge did. Scott managed a little 7 point turn (back and forth about 3″ each time) and we finally got his driver side tire up on top of that nasty diff catcher. From there, it was pretty much a straight line to the top of the obstacle. He worked his way over the remaining ledges and was soon at the top.
Here is Robert, just about to the top of the ledges. At this point, he had not let much air out of his Swampers (he was at about 16 psi). He had tried the same line I had and didn’t make it either (so I didn’t feel too bad based on the differences in our tire height and clearance). With his ARBs turned on, he sat with his front tires up on the first ledge, slowly digging in his back tires. Later on in the day, he dropped them down to about 6 psi, before we headed back over THE ledge (oh yeah, we haven’t go to that yet in this part of the trip report).
Here is Robert spotting Andy up and over the rocks on the same obstacle. These pics (as always) don’t do the rocks justice. You really lose the depth of the obstacle with these very flat photos. Oh well, maybe they will make a digital 3D camera some time soon that we mod-poor Jeepers can afford! Then you can take a virtual Jeep tour without leaving your keyboard!
According to our trail book, and my GPS, we were getting pretty darn close to that ledge they kept referencing….that big 4′ tall ledge at the narrowest part of the trail. I was beginning to have my doubts about this trip. What happens if the outboard tire slips over the edge….bye, bye Lady (and me too most likely). How big is a 4′ ledge when you are trying to crawl over it without falling to your death? Oh boy, maybe I should get Scott to go first (NOT).
In a short time, we made it to the ledge that the trail book was talking about. This was the view out of the driver side window. A couple of feet to spare before you dropped many hundred feet to the valley floor. Those are HUGE washes in the picture….yes, the ones that look like wrinkles on the red dirt. I’ve seen pics of trails with less clearance, but this one was the tightest one I had been on.
We hopped out and scoped out the ledge. Going down wasn’t going to be too bad. We had to watch for a possible high center on the front axle, but that was mostly it, once we got a chance to look it all over. Climbing up….well, we decided right then and there that Robert and his BIG tires would be the first person to go back up. Like I told him, “I paid good money for my Warn winch and if I was going to use it, I wanted to tie off to his rear bumper!”
Here is another picture, taken from on top of the ledge. I am standing part way down it (white t-shirt). Teresa is watching off from the left side as the rest of us discuss tire placement, what was going to catch the rear bumper, etc. As you can see, the trial is pretty narrow hear and you have the cliff wall on the passenger side. Luckily, it was not too off camber so the chances of putting our sheet metal into the rocks was greatly reduced.
With Scott spotting me, I hoped into Lady and started down over the ledge. It went better than I hoped, and I managed to squeak by the front diff hanger part with but a few millimeters to spare. By now, some mountain bikers had caught up with us. They parked their bikes and climbed up on the rocks to see the 15 minute show as we all proceeded down the ledge. It is funny…..every time I see them riding their bikes over this stuff, I am very impressed with their abilities to keep it on both tires (most of the time). But, when we stop and talk with them, they are completely amazed at what we crawl our Jeeps over. We don’t think that much of it, and they think it is so cool that we can creep over this stuff and come out nice and clean like it was a walk in the park.
I’m just clearing the remainder of the rocks at the end of this obstacle. I was off the ledge some 10’+ ago, but you still have to watch yourself as you crawl over the rest of the rocks. Many of them will catch the diffs, even when running 35″ tires, so tire placement is till critical here, unless you want to get the HI-Lift jack out and have a rock stacking party! As you can see in the above pic, I just cleared a rock with my left front tire that is almost touching my rocker guards.
We finally made it to the end of the trail (it is a dead ender so you go out the way you came in). As you can see, we are pretty much on top of the world here. The valley, with the Colorado River running through it, is easily accessible by my backing up about 5′ and falling off this mesa (all the way to the valley floor….DOH!) It was lunch time and we all piled out to stretch our legs, enjoy the scenery, and grab something to eat.
The trip back was done in reverse order. As we had promised, Scott and I made Robert go first (new trail leader for the return leg) so he could tackle the ledge with his bigger rig. We all made it over the ledge without even slipping a tire. In face, Scott hopped out and spotted for his wife so she could have the thrill of climbing that big ledge. She did a good job and we all agreed that she deserved a Cliff Hanger t-shirt from the local t-shirt shop in down town Moab. (great place…..you gotta go there when you are in Moab)
So, we cleared the ledge and were looking for a dead end turn off that went over to a nice overlook of Moab. We came to rock ledge on the trail and Andy decided to take the hard line over it. Well, he got his t-case skid perfectly hung on the rock. Not enough traction with either set of tires (front or rear) to get him off the skid, so Robert had to put a tow strap on him and give him a little jerk. We all got a pretty good laugh out of it. After everything we had been through that day, Andy gets caught on a ledge in the middle of NO obstacle!
We made it back to the first major obstacle we did and everyone made it back down just fine. The line I used coming down this obstacle was the line I couldn’t make trying to go up it. Here is Scott working his way down the rocks. He went down the way I came up and I went down the way he came up (does that make sense?)
At this point, we are just about back to the trail head. We are working our way down to the creek crossing (you can tell there is water in the area because there are GREEN trees around). Even this part of the trail was pretty steep, as you can see (and very nice scenery too).
After everyone cleared the creek and climbed the stair steps back up to the trail head, we headed back to town. After a quick cleanup (us, not the Jeeps), we headed off to a restaurant for some dinner, a couple of cold ones, and some good company. We got to meet Robert’s and Andy’s wifes and spent a nice evening together. I can’t think of a better way to wrap up a great trail run.