Trail Report - Hell's Revenge

Report and photos by: Bart Jacobs

Hell's Revenge - Moab's Premier Slickrock Trail

Trail Rating: 4+
Location: The Hell's Revenge trail is about a mile northeast of Moab between Sand Flats Road and the river.
Trail Condition: Sandy with long stretches of slickrock, rock ledges, broken sand and sandy dirt.
Obstacles: Tip Over Challenge and Rubble Trouble
Approx. Mileage: 16 total (12 off-road)

About 6:30 Sunday morning it was raining hard, and I was debating how to waterproof my no-doored, no-back XJ on the way to the Red Rock Bakery in my warm, dry Suburban tow vehicle. I did my work there, uploading the previous night's trail report, and emerged outside about 7:30 to no rain and clearing skies. Things were looking up.

A full crew of 4x4s lined up for Hell's Revenge. Early on the Hell's Revenge Trail. This overlook was our stunning view at lunch.
A full crew of 4x4s lined up for Hell's Revenge. Early on the Hell's Revenge Trail. This overlook was our stunning view at lunch.

We met at the Branding Iron restaurant, a couple miles south of town, to line up for the Sunday Safari run on Hell's Revenge. I was amazed to see, despite the weather, 50 of the 55 registered rigs appear for line-up. Even more amazing was that four of the missing five showed up while we were traveling to the trailhead. We had a full group and it was going to be a long day.

The official Hell's Revenge trail starts up Little Lion's Back, just past the Sand Flats ranger station and to the left. The group traveled up that, past the old pond, through the fence, and lined up in the big open area to the north of the real Lion's Back, for introductions and airing down. Because of the size of the group we made this a brief stop and were soon on our way.

The big Dodge getting cleaned up at the Car Wash.

Just after this spot the trail winds around an off camber slick rock face and then begins a series of climbs and descents on some extremely steep slick rock faces. This is a bit unnerving for the first timers in Moab, especially those who have signed up for the 4-rated trail in a vehicle not set up with lockers, a sufficient lift, or lower gears. The real kicker is that because the slick rock faces are anything but slick, there is great traction and no one really has any troubles with the steps. No trouble, except for the carbureted truck in front of me. Almost at the top of the second steep face, his carb started puking out, and it began rolling back towards me. They managed to get it stopped rolling, get it started again, and made it the rest of the way without incident.

For the size of the group we moved fairly quickly past the steep faces and then along the mostly sand road out to the overlook for lunch. In fact, we were to the overlook by 11:00, which surprised almost everyone. I never tire of gazing out over the Colorado River from that unique viewpoint.

Flo, Bart's custom XYJ, takin' a dip in Mickey's Hot Tub. Bart's rig enters the Car Wash.

On the return from the overlook, the trail winds back to the west and across some other fun obstacles, crossing the famous Slick Rock bike trail a few times on the way. One spot in particular is off-camber and tilting left to a 100 foot drop. The trail eventually winds up to the top of the mesa and that's where you have the option of doing the Car Wash. It's a steep drop into a large hole with water in the bottom, then a steep climb out. Most of the group elects to do this and we end up separating the group a bit here. There is just no place to park this many rigs. After the Car Wash, the trail winds around a couple narrow fins, then past the famous Mickey's Hot Tub. I couldn't resist and decided to go in. I made it in and, yes, back out, and we were on our way down the last steep face I've heard people call the Dragon's Tail. Then it was on to Tip Over Challenge, where we caught the rest of the group.

From there, we took the trail west that leads to one of the last hard climbs out, named Rubble Trouble. There is no by-pass to this and it gave a lot of the not-so-well-equipped rigs the most trouble of the day. Again, the group separated here and since I was tail gunning, it was my responsibility to get the last of the group, and few followers, up the challenging hill. We managed this without too much trouble. From there the trail winds around a few tricky places, and eventually rejoins pavement, just below Lion's Back.

Hell's Revenge Hell's Revenge Hell's Revenge
This is the Hell's Revenge Trail.

All in all it was a great day, and there were no big breakdowns. Hell's Revenge is one of my favorite trails in Moab and it's always exciting and fun.