Surprisingly Challenging: Moab’s Kane Creek Canyon Trail

Surprisingly Challenging: Moab’s Kane Creek Canyon Trail

Moab Kane CreekStory and photos by Albert Vandervelde

I have been heading down to Moab on a regular basis for Easter Jeep Safari now for over 15 years. And despite there being a vast array of trails, it seems we run our favourites every year including Moab Rim, Metal Masher, Poison Spider and Golden Spike, then run out of time for all the other great trails spread all around Moab. This year, with my Jeep not finished and the condo booked with friends, I made a call to Toyota to see if I could get my hands on a “loaner” vehicle us media types have access to for test drives and vehicle reviews. We recently had a chance to test drive the new TRD Pro models and I thought the new truck could more than handle the easier trails around Moab. This would give us a chance to hit some of the other great trails we typically don’t do when rolling on big tires in our highly modified trail rigs. I assured Toyota that we would do our best to not beat the truck up (too much) – but they understood where we were going and what we were in for. Yes I took a fully loaded 2017 Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro to Moab….for Easter Jeep Safari. Even my buddy Andy at Warn Winch chuckled at me.

My crew of wheelers included my usual sidekick Todd from Aqualu Industries, and along with Todd we had some Moab rookies. Dave brought along his Samurai, locked at both ends and more than trail capable, and Glen, who flew to Saskatchewan the week before we left to buy a lifted supercharged four-door JK Rubicon, which he drove home to Kelowna and then back and forth to Moab, and wheeled all week!

While Glen had been to Moab once before and rented a side-by-side, anything we did was new for Dave. I picked Kane Creek as our first trail. I had driven Kane Creek once before – actually on my first trip to Moab, back around 2000. Our group that day got bumped all the way down Kane Creek Canyon Blvd, as all the other trails were packed and busy. As you head down Kane Creek Blvd., you pass Moab Rim, Pritchett Canyon, Cliff Hanger and eventually it turns into Kane Springs Rd. – gravel at this point till you find the trail marker for Kane Creek Canyon trail. That first trip, I remembered the trail being quite easy; I found it odd the Safari rated it a 6 out of 10 on the trail difficulty scale – one below Moab Rim, which is a very difficult trail… Huh, how tough can it really be?

This trail is deceptive, and at 13-14 miles, offers a wide array of challenges. The trail starts as a dusty back road, as it winds its way along the canyon floor. A couple of dry creek crossings were interesting, and there were bypasses for me, while Dave and Glen had a chance to flex out their rigs. After a few miles, we came across a couple standing beside their truck – a slightly lifted Tacoma TRD Pro. The driver says, ‘well, that’s the end of your day, boys.’ I ask why, and he said there is no way you’re getting that stock Tacoma though the next section. Huh, I think, well let’s have a look. At this point, a group of modified Jeeps came along, so we got a chance to watch what they did, then we jumped to it, walking the Toyota across the ledge on two tires, and squeezed though the gap. We invited the other Toyota along but he didn’t seem quite as enthused about following us and declined. I think that was for the best…

Moab Kane CreekThe road at this point starts to weave in and out of Kane Creek and the red clay and sand berms make for a great rally course. Dave had that Samurai flying along at times with all four wheels in the air over the whoops and bumps as I tried to find alternate routes to pass that flying Sami. We were making some great time till we started to climb out of the creek bed and up the side of the canyon wall that would take us up and out the top of Kane Canyon. Here is where we found everyone running the trail this day as we came upon a line of 50+ rigs wrapping up and around the next corner – well, that’s not a good sign. We hiked up and I got a few comments of ‘are you the guy driving the Tacoma?’ Yup, I said, buts it’s okay, it’s a rental…

What we were up against was a challenge called Hamburger Hill, and a reminder that trails change a lot over 15+ years. Yup, this was a 6 rated section… well, no time to be a coward. Todd and I planned out our attack route right up to the large ledge the big Jeeps were battling, and a way to line up on the “bypass”, which, by the way, had you snaking right up to the edge – and I mean right to the edge of a 100-foot drop into the canyon. With all the Jeep guys’ cameras rolling, waiting for the end of our stock Tacoma and all the steel crunching, I hit the rear locker button, dialled in the crawl control to get the front end working (acts like a brake controlled limited-slip), and we made it right up and onto the rock slab in the bypass in one go. When I say onto the rock slab – I do mean onto – as in all four tires spinning away, and the frame firmly landed on the rock slab. With some hi-lift jacking in the rims, lifting each corner, we managed to stuff enough rocks under the tires to clear the slab and clear out the trail without holding the other four-wheelers up too much. Not bad – half way, and only one stuck. How much worse can it get?

Moab Kane CreekAs the trail wrapped round the canyon, the trail presented narrow gaps, steep drops and more and more rock climbs. Dave was having a great time in his mini-me Sami, and Glen’s new-to-him and Moab wheeled-for-the-first-time JK was doing great with a little bit of a finicky rear locker. We paused a couple of times to let other groups go by, but really, we were having a great time and I got a hang of the Toyota’s abilities and lack thereof – ground clearance and no rock sliders. And we came out the top with a small dent under the passenger side door, and some brush scratches from the creek bottom.

The best part was when we finally crested the last hill, and a large group of Jeepers all stood up and started clapping as I came over the hill in the Toyota followed by Dave’s little Sami and Glen’s JK. What an adventure, and it goes to show you even stock rigs (with a great team of guys determined to get that truck through) can have an amazing day in Moab and you don’t need to run the big bad trails to do it! I don’t think it will be so many years again till we run Kane Creek, and if its your first time to Moab, I would suggest not doing it in a stock off-the-showroom-floor 4×4 of any kind, but I will be back and bringing a bigger off-road rig next time – with rock sliders.


Categories: Features, Off-Road Plus