Trail Report - Cliffhanger

Report and photos by: Randy L. Wheeler & Vance Anderson

Cliffhanger - Livin' on the Edge!

Trail Rating: 4
Location: The Cliffhanger trail is located off of Kane Creek Road southwest of town.
Trail Condition: Mostly rock with sandstone layers and stair step ledges. The trail crosses Kane Creek within the first 1/2 mile of the trail. Lockers are recommended for this trail.
Obstacles: Kane Creek, the decent and return between Kane Creek Road and Kane Creek.
Approx. Mileage: 8.6 total

The Cliffhanger trail is difficult. As you make your way up the trail, views of the La Sal Mountains are visible. Views down into Jackson Hole and the Colorado River can also been seen along this trail. The most difficult sections are between Kane Creek Road and Kane Creek and also farther up on the cliff-edge section. The drive out of the creek can be rough during times of increased creek flow.

The first obstacle out of Kane Creek. Cliffhanger Trail winding out of the valley. View along the shelf portion of the trail.
The first obstacle out of Kane Creek. Cliffhanger Trail winding out of the valley. View along the shelf portion of the trail.

Our trailboss for the day, David Killey, got us to the trailhead and aired down and locked in. The trail starts with a steep downhill ledge just to get down to the first creek crossing. The trail winds up out of the creekbed with a steep, rock section that gave some of the rigs problems. With 24 rigs in our group for the day, things were going to be slow and steady. The trail winds up and beneath sheer cliffs as you snake your way up and out of the canyon.

The first major obstacle on the trail is a rock ledge where the driver must negotiate a large rock outcrop on the right side at the same time turning left and staying out of a deep hole on the left. Most of our group made it up this obstacle without any major difficulties. However, our first breakage of the day occurred here. One broken axleshaft on a full-size Blazer and a broken U-joint on a Wrangler. These rigs were moved off the trail for repairs as the rest of the group pressed on.

Climbing the first obstacle. Coming down the ledge along the shelf. Traversing the ledge requires the driver's full attention.
Climbing the first obstacle. Coming down the ledge along the shelf. Traversing the ledge requires the driver's full attention.

As you climb up out of Kane Springs Canyon, views of the La Sal Mountains and the Behind-the-Rocks fins come into view. Once on top, the trail winds north along a well established route. Due to the size of our group, our trailboss elected to bypass the overlook that takes you to the canyon rim and views of Poison Spider Mesa. We continued along to the shelf road which takes us close to the canyon rim. The next obstacle is a three foot rock ledge that must be negotiated while staying focused on the fact that a mishap here could send your rig plummeting 1,200 feet down to the valley floor. One by one, we traversed this obstacle without any problems.

After this rock ledge, the trail flattens out for a short distance. Views of the Colorado River and the Potash Plant are visible in the valley below. The trail swings to the west, crosses a plateau, then goes uphill over a rock ledge and into some nice slickrock, which persists until the end of the trail atop the overlook point. We stopped for a quick lunch break on the overlook before heading back down the trail.

Traversing the ledge. Winding our way back up the shelf portion. View from the overlook.
Traversing the ledge. Winding our way back up the shelf portion. View from the overlook.

The views coming back along the trail are equally stunning as you snake your way along the cliff edge. As we continued on towards the beginning portions of the trail, David popped a bead on his left front tire as he was negotiating the rock ledge. A quick repair was made, his tire was inflated and we were on our way.

We finished up the trail and made sure the broken rigs were repaired and back with us. The Cliffhanger Trail was a real treat with incredible views, some challenging obstacles and numerous photographic opportunities.

For more pictures, be sure to check out Gallery Section in the related links.