Trail Report - Pritchett Canyon

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

Pritchett Canyon - Moab's Toughest 4 Miles?

Trail Rating: 4+
Location: 4.6 miles West of Moab on Kane Creek Road. Boundary of the Behind the Rocks Wilderness Study Area.
Trail Condition: Sandy with long stretches of slickrock, rock ledges, broken sand and sandy dirt.
Obstacles: Rocker Knocker, the Rock Pile
Approx. Mileage: 18.5 total (4.4 off-road)
 
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Pritchett Canyon is located off of Kane Creek Road, south of Moab. After passing through the split rail fence, we stopped to air down and lock up. Our group today consisted of 4x4Wire.com staff members and friends. The trail makes its way up and into a steep canyon with panoramic views in every direction. This trail is well marked and features steep, short stairsteps, drops, and off-camber situations.

As we moved up the trail, the first obstacle is a short, steep ledge with a sharp drop-off on the left. One by one, we crawled off its off-camber departure and into the steep-sided canyon. The longer wheelbase Cherokees in our group scooted right down while the shorter Jeeps usually used some counterweight for insurance against a roll down into the creekbed below.

Tall, steep ledges were the order of the day on Pritchett Canyon.
Tall, steep ledges were the order of the day on Pritchett Canyon.

We wound our way up and down several rocky shelves as we worked up the canyon. About a mile into the trip Brian Simon twisted the rear driveshaft of his Wrangler while attempting to climb one of these steep rock shelves. As it turned out, no one in our group had the correct length shaft with the right yokes. So, we had to get creative and do a little half-and-half. That is, half of the twisted shaft and half of a donated TJ shaft. The crew set about like bees getting the new shaft fabricated. The portable welder proved itself well in joining the two pieces after they were cut to length.

Soon we were on our way to the first major obstacle of the day. Rocker Knocker is known for the effects of the big boulder on the left side of this stepped obstacle. This one required a very diligent line and trust in your spotter. Jeff "Jefe" Reynolds was first in his CJ-8 and showed the proper line. The loose dirt and slick rock forced most to air down to 6-8 pounds for increased traction. No breakage or mishaps on this one and we moved on towards the Rock Pile. Here the trail climbs up to the side of the canyon and then back down again. There are a couple more ledges including one very interesting one which was smooth-faced from being polished by the forces of the creekbed.

The Rocker Knocker obstacle required a careful line... ... and sometimes a little counter-weight. Jefe spots the awkward, but correct line up the final ledge.
The Rocker Knocker obstacle required a careful line... ... and sometimes a little counter-weight. Jefe spots the awkward, but correct line up the final ledge.

Then the trail's premier obstacle caught our attention. The pictures you see of this obstacle do not do it justice. This chunk of rock spans the trail and is so tall that it takes a pile of boulders just to get pointed up it. There is no bypass. Few rigs can drive this obstacle and today was no exception for our group. We all ended up requiring the steel cable to get up the ledge.

Not many make it up the Rock Pile without assistance. DCP02341.jpg (169342 bytes)
Not many make it up the Rock Pile without assistance. The obstacle requires a pile of rocks just to get pointed up it.

After Rocker Knocker, the trail is not over. We were presented with a couple more rocky, uneven ledges to scale before the final climb up Yellow Hill. There were moans and groans from onlookers on one of these climbs as I slipped off the proper line in my TJ and came down solidly on the passenger rear control arm mount. It sounded ugly but didn't cause any damage.

Pritchett Canyon's steep, twisting canyons and valleys presented incredible panoramas at nearly every turn. In the distance, we could see that the La Sal Mountains were getting a fresh blanket of snow. We kept our fingers crossed as a few clouds threatened rain but thankfully never produced. At the end of the trail, a meandering dirt road takes you back to HWY191. Is it Moab's toughest 4 miles? You'll have to be the judge...

Climbing one of the river-smoothed ledges in the base of the canyon. 4x4Wire Staff and friends are all smiles at the beginning of the trail. Just another incredible Moab canyon!
Climbing one of the river-smoothed ledges in the base of the canyon. 4x4Wire Staff and friends are all smiles at the beginning of the trail. Just another incredible Moab canyon!

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