Easly one of the most famous off-road trails in the United States, if not the world. Golden Spike, home of the famous Golden Crack obstacle, is at the top of people's favorite trails in Moab, Utah. Full of amazing scenery, challenging obstacles, and even better stories, this trail is the perfect receipt to make any 4x4 trip legendary. You can easily say that this trail is one of those trails that offers it all. The trail has slickrock, fins, sand, narrow scenic canyons, waterfalls, ledges, long steep hills, amazing overlooks & viewpoints, wild obstacles, and sometimes standing water. If you are lucky, you might even see Golden Eagles soaring high above or catch a glimpse of a natural arch. So whether this is your first time in Moab or you are a seasoned vet, if you haven't done Golden Spike yet, this trail needs to be put at the top of your list to see why most people call this the best trail in Moab.
Trail Difficulty and Assessment
Lightly Modified 4X4 (Small Lift and Larger Tires)
Waypoint 22 and 25 have no bypass giving the trail its "6" rating.
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rating. As trail conditions change this helps us keep the community
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The hardest part of the trail that you
cannot bypass - you have to drive it.
The hardest part of the trail that is
purely optional - you can bypass it.
Rocky or undulated road surface. Potential rocks less than 36" tall and/or vertical ledges less than 36" tall and/or near vertical ledges or waterfalls less than 84" inches. Tire placement becomes more difficult. Can be steep and off-camber.Read More about our Rating System
Golden Spike comprises a combination of trail surfaces from dirt to sand to slick rock; this trail will provide you with a wide variety to keep things interesting. The trail does have moments of reprieve on the sections south of Golden Crack, as where from Golden Crack to the Gold Bar Rim Trailhead is one obstacle after another.
There are seven named obstacles along the route: Launch Pad, Skyline Drive, Zuki Hill, Golden Crack, Golden Stairs, Double-Whammy, and Body Snatcher.
Best suited for lightly to heavily modified vehicles.
Golden Spike also connects to Where Eagles Dare and Rusty Nail.
According to how you think about time on the trail, the good or the bad news is that the trail is out in the middle of other trails, meaning there is no fast way to either trailhead. You can come in from Poison Spider or, on the other side Gemini Bridges. Either way, you will spend an hour or two getting to the trail and need that hour or two to get off the trail.
1. Trailhead (0
The trail splits off Poison Spider Mesa and heads off to the north. You will notice that the trail marker is painted into the ground to help guide you on the right path.
2. Start of Fins (0.53
You will ride along the old petrified sand dunes for the first section of the trail, aka Fins or Slickrock. This is a fantastic experience and an excellent opportunity to space out the group and watch your friends ride these ancient petrified waves.
3. Launching Pad with Bypass (0.89
The first named obstacle of the trail is called the Launching Pad. This steep climb up the slickrock will likely get the heart racing. But the secret is all you need to do is air down low, engage 4wd, and keep it on the rubber tracks. You do that and most vehicles can make it up with little to no issues.
Bypass is to the left.
But note: the trail gets much harder. If this is too uncomfortable, it would be best to turn around.
4. Blind Drop (1.19
Not far past Launching Pad, you will make a hard right turn down a blind drop. To be safe, get out and see the tracks down the slick rock. The drop isn't bad compared to others, but you don't want to approach it if you are not on the right line. So take your time and be safe.
5. Poison Spider Cutoff - Turn Left (1.4
You will want to stay to the left or west at this spot. This little trail on the east is the trail over to the loop on Poison Spider Mesa.
Continue straight and up to take on Skyline Drive or turn left to take the bypass.
7. Skyline Drive (1.5
Skyline Drive is the second named obstacle on the trail and is well worth it. You drive up one of these sizeable petrified sand dunes, which is amazing for those that like long steep climbs and descents. The hills are long and require low gears going up and back down. Also, make sure you stay on the rubber tracks, as getting off the standard line could make things bad really quick.
8. Where Eagles Dare Trailhead - Continue Straight (1.76
At this point, you intersect Where Eagles Dare Trail. Straight across the valley is a very cool semi-arch you can drive in, but immediately to your right, you can get on the backside of Skyline Drive and get out of the sun. If you go over there, keep an eye out as there are what looks like dino tracks in that area.
9. Obstacle (2.13
You come to this optional obstacle after passing through what might be the most incredible canyon in Moab. How it doesn't have a name is everyone's question, but there is a bypass on the right. If the pool at the bottom is filled with water, it had a hard bottom and was about 24" deep when making this trail guide.
10. Zuki Hill (2.19
Just after the ledge obstacle is Zuki Hill; it is an excellent tire tester as the short hill is very steep with a slight bump to get started. Aired up or small tires will struggle here.
Just off to the southwest is a plaque on the cliff wall. Look, but watch out for the deep blue water hole after any rain.
11. Cutoff to Where Eagles Dare - Continue Straight (2.4
Stay to the east to stay on the trail. West takes you over to Where Eagles Dare. Just feet up the trail, you can see the obstacle "Where Eagles Dare" off to the west.
12. Intersection with Where Eagles Dare - Stay Right (2.71
Stay to the east to stay on the trail. West takes you over to Where Eagles Dare.
13. Intersection - Continue Straight (2.89
Stay to the east to stay on the trail. West takes you over to Where Eagles Dare.
14. Scenic/View of Gold Bar Arch (3.45
There is more to focus on than just the obstacles when on the trail. Here is one of the spots where it is worth stopping and taking in the scenery. Off to the left is Gold Bar Arch, sometimes referred to as Jeep Arch.
15. Optional Obstacles (3.51
The trail has several areas of ledges in the trail. According to what flavor you want, you can spice up your day with them. This ledge is about 3 to 4 feet tall. There are easier lines, but this depends on your wheelbase. Get out, take a look and decide which way you want to go.
16. Overlook (3.57
The overlook is off to your right, and the trail continues straight. It is only about 100-feet to the edge, so don't drive too fast. The overlook is a must-stop with great views of Moab and the La Sal Mountains.
17. Obstacles (3.76
The trail starts to get much more technical with more rock crawling style obstacles from this point on. It is okay to get out, look, then pick a line. The last thing you want to break your vehicle this far out. These obstacles are required and are about 4 to 5 feet tall.
18. Where Eagles Dare Cutoff - Turn Right (3.88
Stay to the east to stay on the trail. West takes you over to Where Eagles Dare.
19. Where Eagles Dare - Turn Right (3.98
Stay to the east to stay on the trail. West takes you over to Where Eagles Dare. There are arrows painted onto the rocks to help with guiding you the right way.
Notice the rock color change from here on out. The trail goes from those bright red colors to more of a grey.
20. Obstacles (4.58
One of the many required obstacles on the northern half of the trail. There are multiple lines that different vehicles can take. It would be best to get out and take a look and figure out which line is best for your vehicle.
FYI - This spot makes for great photos.
21. Mini Shelf - Hardest Required (5.1
You start dropping off many different shelves as you continue down the trail. This mini shelf is a fun obstacle with multiple lines. Go ahead and get out and pick the line that best suits you. This and Waypoint 22 are all part of the same obstacle area. These obstacles could be the hardest on the trail. You need to set yourself up for Waypoint 22, so make sure you walk both.
This section has options of either 3, 5, or 6-foot drops. So pick the best line for your rig.
22. Obstacle - Hardest Required (5.31
Planning is a must at this obstacle. Depending on your wheelbase, this might be the hardest required obstacle on the trail. This area has several different lines you can take. From the top of Waypoint 21, it is easier to stay to the left than swoop back around the tree you will see at the drop. It would be best to get out of the vehicle and look at what is needed, as this could put you on your side if you don't take the right line.
This spot has different drop heights; while the center is the shortest, the outside ledges can get pretty large.
23. Overlook (5.39
As you continue to run the ridge on the top of the cliff, take a moment to get out and look at the views. The best view might be off to the south behind the vehicles. You have an incredible scenic view of the Colorado River winding through the tall red rock cliffs. This view alone, people could spend weeks just staring at.
24. Waterfall (5.52
More of the technical obstacles of the northside of the trail. This one has several lines; you can try the V on the left or try and walk up the right.
25. Golden Crack (6.04
The Golden Crack could easily be one of the most famous obstacles in Moab or even the United States. It is a crowd-gathering obstacle because it is the pinch point of the trail and fun to see everyone drive over. However, you are far from everyone out here, so you might have it all to yourself.
The obstacle itself is a 4-foot deep, 3-foot wide crack in the ground. Because of the size, you want to drive across at roughly a 25-45 degree angle to ensure you don't get stuck in the crack. Keep in mind that it is possible to roll over here due to the depth. Walk it, and have a spotter.
26. Obstacles - Stay Right Around Rock (6.06
Optional lines. The first obstacle on the left actually takes you on Rusty Nail, which is one of the hardest trails in Moab - but to stay on Golden Spike, you will want to stay to the right.
If you take the first harder-looking obstacle on the left, you will have to route find back to Golden Spike when on the other side.
27. Rusty Nail - Fork North (6.16
The trail intersects with Rusty Nail. To stay on Gold Spike, stay to the north.
There is a trail sign at the fork, staying more north in direction.
28. Golden Stairs (6.45
The Golden Stairs' easiest line isn't anything to be afraid of if you are taking the shorter ledges in a long-wheelbase. But if you are in a 2-door, this can be a different story. It wouldn't take much to brake something here, so pick your line wisely.
29. Steps (6.56
More steps as you exit the trail. These steps look intimidating but are not that hard. Just take your time, pick a good line and crawl right up.
30. Ledges (6.66
Another rock crawling obstacle, the ledge/waterfall, is about 4 to 5 feet tall, and for a shorter wheelbase, the perception of it looks terrible, but they will easily be able to crawl right up.
31. Optional Double Whammy (6.7
Left for bypass, right for the named obstacle. Double Whammy is no joke. Often you will find a memorial to all the broken parts on the left side attesting to that. You need to understand throttle control and be ready to back off to get up. The easier lines are on the left while the harder is on the right.
32. Optional Body Snatcher (6.85
Bypass is by staying right, staying left to take on the obstacle. Body Snatcher is the last-named obstacle on the trail and this one earned the name it got. This is one obstacle you don't take unless you don't care about body damage. The named obstacle is on the left and heads up this small narrow notch. Right around the corner is where the rock is that does all the damage. So just because it looks easy from the bottom doesn't mean it is.
Stay right to avoid this obstacle.
33. Northern Trailhead (6.89
This is the northern trailhead. From here, you can return the way you came, or you can take Gold Bar Rim down to Gemini Bridges. Note: there is one large waterfall on Gold Bar Rim, but there is a winch point on it.
There is no camping on this trail. But if you want to camp, check out the camping off Gemini Bridges or Bride Canyon. There you will find great designated camping that is amazing.
If tent camping isn't your thing, Moab has everything from Hotels to RV parks.
From Moab, head north on Highway 191 and turn left onto UT 279 S.
Follow Poison Spider for approximately 5 miles to reach the southern trailhead for Golden Spike.
This trail is part of the Labyrinth Rims / Gemini Bridges travel management process being conducted by the BLM’s Moab Field Office, which is expected to be completed by 2024. This trail is threatened with either complete or partial closure in at least one alternative under consideration. A new travel plan is being created for this area due to a lawsuit settlement with the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance (SUWA), which seeks to close as many trails as possible so that the land west of Moab can be managed as Wilderness. The Grand County Commission and Moab city government are also calling for the BLM to close numerous popular 4x4 trails based on false allegations of “user conflicts” to convert them to hiking and mountain bike trails. The BLM published the Draft Environmental Assessment on September 7, 2022, and is accepting public comments on the various alternatives until October 7, 2022, at the BLM website. The BLM will host a public meeting through Zoom on September 22, 2022, from 5:00-6:30 PM MDT.
Many extremely popular 4x4 trails (including most of the Jeep Safari trails northwest of Moab) are at risk of closure, including Hey Joe Canyon, Ten Mile Canyon, Hell Roaring Canyon, Mineral Canyon, Golden Spike, Gold Bar Rim, Rusty Nail, Day Canyon Point, Dead Man Point, Hell Roaring Rim, Dry Fork Bull Canyon, Four Arches Canyon, the 7-Up trail, the 3D and Mashed Potatoes Jeep trails, the Dead Cow and Tubes motorcycle trails, and parts of Where Eagles Dare, Buttes and Towers, Wipe-Out Hill, and Sevenmile Mile Rim. Please comment, opposing these closures and asking the BLM to keep all of these trails open to motorized use. More information can be found on the Blue Ribbon Coalitions website. You can submit a comment either through Blue Ribbon’s action alert or write your own comment directly to the BLM here. The deadline for comments is October 7, 2022. A map of the route designations for each alternative is available here.
One of my favorites. From the spectacular scenery to the difficult/fun obstacles this trail is what wheeling is all about. Launching pad is just pure fun, don’t by-pass this one. Sky-line drive is gorgeous , but can get crowded fast (great group pic opportunity). The overlook at 16 is a great place to have lunch. It’s also a great place to park any less capable vehicles, if your goal is to get to the crack and return via Poison Spider. , the trail difficulty increases greatly after this point. The trifecta is a very long day and you will most likely finish in the dark, but going to the Golden and crack and then turn around and return via poison spider is a little less painful. The shelf at 21 is no joke, this can’t be by-passed so be ready. Take your time and pick a good line. There are a bunch of loose good size rocks at the bottom of both major lines that can be positioned to help you if that is your thing. Long based vehicles will handle these shelves much easier. The Golden Crack: Looks easier then it really is, but dang it was so fun. We went back and forth several times. Watch video and crawl it slow. My JLU with 37’s didn’t scrape at all, the Taco i was with did though (35’s). A camera positioned from the side inside the crack makes a spectacular video. Straight ahead and your committed to Gold Bar Rim. The rest of GS is more difficult and more frequent obstacles, but if you did the shelf you will have little difficulty. This is a must do if you come to Moab.
Easily in the top 3 trails in moab, this has it all. It has what might be the best scenery, it has obstacles that are hard, and because of how remote it is, is has only a little traffic. I love this trail.
Came onto the trail from Gold Bar Rim. This trail is a blast!!!!! Excellent scenery and views, especially from the overlooks at several points. Ran this trail on a 2 1/2 lift and 33's..and we put some marks on the skid plates and used the winch once, the rock rails got a work out as I fully expected them to. The Golden Crack is awesome, but pay close attention to your line and have a spotter and should be fine. Did some damage to a fender and the rear licenses plate bracket getting up the obstacles at waypoint 22. This is also where we had to use the winch. The other rig with us was a Gladiator on a 5 inch lift an 35's and handled the obstacle with no problems. We have been wanting to do Golden Spike since our first visit to Moab 3 years ago. Its everything you expect it to be and much more. Plan on a full day regardless if you come in from Poison Spider or Gold Bar Rim.
I have a hard time giving this trail 5 stars because it is just a pain to get to. By itself, it is a great trail with awesome obstacle. But the fact that I have to take one already long trail to get to it, and then take another long trail just to get out, make doing Golden Spike an all day trip! Granted, I think the best obstacles are on the north end from which you could easily get to via Gold Bar Rim or Rusty nail, and then just turn around and head back out.
From the Community
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Mapping Crew - California
Joshua Noesser grew up in Southern California but has lived in different parts of the country during his young adult life. Josh was first turned to four wheeling when he road with one of his friends dad up Surprise Canyon in the Panamint Valley at age14. After nearly 3 different roll overs later and a half dozen intense waterfalls, Josh was hooked. At 16 he purchased his first Jeep a CJ 7 and by 17 was putting his first locker in it.
Currently, Josh is the owner and CEO of Nybble, an IT Solutions Company based in Orange County, California. Nybble isn't your normal IT company where everyone stays in and plays video games. Nybble's average company trip is out on the trails since a good amount of his staff enjoy wheeling too. As Josh likes to say, he offers the only IT Company with the ability to provide services in extreme locations. "If you want a server at the top of The Hammers, we will take care of that for you."
Today you can find Josh out on the trail behind the wheel in one of his three different off-road vehicles. See the vehicles below for more information.
If you ever run into Josh, please say high, he is a very friendly person and is always happy to have a new person join the group.
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