Onion Creek

Moab, Utah (Grand County)

Last Updated: 04/10/2022
4.8 / 5 ( 21 reviews )
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Status:
Open
Typically Open: Year Round
Difficulty: 3-3
( MODERATE )
Length: 10.59 miles
Highest Elevation: 5769 feet
Duration: About 1 hour, 30 minutes
Shape of Trail: Connector
Best Direction to Travel: N/A
Nearest Town: Moab
Nearest Town w/ Services: Moab
Official Road Name:
Management Agency: Bureau of Land Management
District: Moab Field Office

Highlights

Highlight: Onion Creek
Slightly stinky to the nose but super pleasant on the eyes, Onion Creek is a must-do trail in the Moab area. No matter what your wheeling style is, the drive is sensory overload as you meander through several different rock formations formed hundreds of millions of years ago. The contrasts from the start of the trail to its end are simply startling.

Video

Route Information

Advanced Rating System

Recommended Vehicle:
Stock SUV with High Clearance and 4 Low
Concerns:
Summary:
Basic dirt road with no obstacles.

Technical Rating

MANDATORY
3
MODERATE
OPTIONAL
3
MODERATE
Typically, more rock or undulated road surface. Potential rocks and/or tree stumps less than 12" tall and/or vertical ledges less than 12" tall and/or near vertical ledges or waterfalls less than 24" inches. Tire placement becomes more difficult. Can be steep.
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Community Consensus

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Description

The Onion Creek Road surface is mostly compacted dirt with multiple shallow creek crossings. It is narrow in spots with no passing, and it climbs in elevation roughly 1,500' to Fisher Valley where it connects to the more difficult Rose Garden Hill and Thompson Canyon. There can be hidden washouts along the ridge that require extra attention and eyes on the road. Avoid in rain. Note: the creek crossings are frequent, but playing off the designated route and attempting to drive in the creek is strictly prohibited. This trail is suitable for any high clearance SUV when dry.
Impassable when wet.

Waypoints

1. Trailhead From Highway 128 (0 mi)
Follow the gravel road southeast.
2. Upper Onion Creek Campground (0.6 mi)
Stay straight through the campground looking directly ahead to the dirt road.
3. Scenic (1.2 mi)
Continue on the road. Views of Fisher Towers.
4. Fork - Continue Straight (1.5 mi)
Continue straight. This is the first of many creek crossings.
5. Scenic (1.8 mi)
Continue on the road. Traveling deeper in the canyon leads to more intense views and high walls comprised of reddish-brown mud and sandstone. The white residue along the side of the road and creek are salt deposits.
6. Scenic and Tight Road (2.9 mi)
Follow the well-defined road. The trail will get much more narrow in spots with blinds curves while intermittently dipping into wider wash areas. The "Totem Pole" spire comes into view. Be mindful of oncoming traffic.
7. Bridge (3.7 mi)
Continue along the road. If traffic is light, this is a good location to see where the creek is forming deep canyon walls. You gain in elevation from here on up to Fisher Valley.
8. Scenic and Widened Area (4.2 mi)
The road begins to widen with views of the upper Cutler rock formations.
9. Noticeable Rock Formation Change (5.1 mi)
Continue following the road. The landscape takes a dramatic change, with the contrasting lighter color rocks that were formed 300-million years ago. What is in view is the Onion Creek salt diapir. Over time, the heavy salt content that was formed when this area was once an ocean has slowly pushed and folded its way up through the other layers of rock. The slightly stinky smell you will encounter for the next few miles is actually sulfur which naturally forms in the area.
10. Entering The Narrows (5.8 mi)
Continue along the road. A few blind curves are present but with passing locations. The slight sulfur smell will be more present here as you shortly pass "Stinking Spring", which carries the foul-smelling sulfurous gas to the surface.
11. Scenic and Out of Narrrows (7 mi)
Follow the road.
12. Steep Narrow Climb (7.3 mi)
Drive up the 10% grade road. Be mindful of oncoming traffic as there is little room to pull over once you round the corner.
13. Start of Ridge (7.6 mi)
Follow the ridge all the way up to Fisher Valley. As you look off to the left (north) you can barely see the famous photographic posing rock from "Top of the World" jutting off the cliff side.
14. Gate - Continue Straight (8.8 mi)
Continue straight. The spur road leads to a smaller network of trails. If you were only interested in driving Onion Creek, this is a good spot to turn around. The trail technically goes for another 1.8 miles connecting to Rose Garden Hill and Thompson Canyon.
15. Fisher Valley (9 mi)
Continue straight.
16. Rose Garden Hill Trailhead (9.6 mi)
Turn left (north) to take on the challenging Rose Garden Hill or straight to connect to Thompson Canyon.
17. Trailhead From Thompson Canyon (10.6 mi)
Turn left (north) to take Thompson Canyon. The road leading right (south) goes to private property.

Directions to Trailhead

Starting Point: Moab, Utah

Drive north on Highway 191 to Highway 128, turn right on Highway 128. Between mile markers 21 and 22 you will see the sign marking the Onion Creek Road and turn right.

Camping

Designated
There is no dispersed camping along this trail from Waypoints 1-14. However, there are 12 improved BLM campgrounds along Highway 128.
Camping: Onion Creek

Trail Reviews (24)

Questions & Answers (5)

Q: When is the best time of year to explore this very fun looking trail?
–Overlanders (01/04/2021)
A: Either late spring or mid-fall are my two favorite times.
–Todd (01/04/2021)
Q: I keep seeing not to do if it rains. What's the reason? What about when it snows?
–Kevin (01/02/2021)
A: Hi. I am a geologist and been up this trail many times doing field work. A few years ago was caught in a vicious rain storm and was moving fast to get out to the main road as the creek level rose. Six crossings from the main road the creek became too high and sat on a meander for about 3 hours until water level dropped and continued across 4 more crossings at which point the road was blocked by huge boulders and we had to abandon the vehicle and walk to main road. Fortunately we had a satellite phone and called for a taxi from Moab. It was late before we got back to Moab. The county started to grade the road the next day as we drove a rental car to recover our SUV. We drove back into the canyon where it was clear that had we stayed we likely would have lost the vehicle and drowned. If it looks like rain stay out.
–Russell Davies (07/16/2021)
A: Hi Kevin, the root of the problem is traction and mud when the trail is wet and or flash flooding in heavy rain. Many trails in the area there can become impassable when wet due to the slick nature of the mud causing traction loss (it is like grease) or you can sink pretty quickly right up to your axles if the ground is really soft from the moisture. If it has snowed, it's cold and the ground is frozen, then you would only have to worry about the loss of traction due to ice, not so much about getting stuck in the mud or slipping on the grease-like mud. If I recall, the evidence of deeper and softer mud was at the higher elevations, at Waypoint 10 and beyond. If you look at the first photo in Waypoint 10, you can see where it was wet and someone had issues with soft, slippery mud. If you venture out in the snow, be sure to have the proper recovery gear, safety/emergency supplies for several days, and ideally--don't go alone. Happy New Year!
–Todd (01/02/2021)
Q: What’s the best way to get back to the town (Moab) when you finish the trail?
–Allen Shpigel (08/20/2020)
A: You could take Thompson Canyon and take Pole Meas around meeting up with castleton road, but that would be a LONG drive. Probably would take an entire day if not a little more. I've only gone that route over the course of multiple days because there is some really good camping back there. But like Todd mentioned, you best bet is to just return the way you came. If you have a well equipped vehicle you can take a shot at Rose Garden hill even and exit back to the highway at Cisco.
–Ryan Boudreau (08/22/2020)
A: Hi Allen, as mapped here to get back to Moab this is an out and back, so returning the way you came in. It’s such a pretty trail, you will appreciate the return trip as well. :)
–Todd (08/21/2020)
Q: Seem to be no problem to drive this trail with a Ram 2500. Am i right?
–Rejean Barbeau (04/27/2018)
A: Rejean, It is a beautiful trail and while you are long it should passable for you. Be aware that around waypoint 10 would be the only area where your length could be an issue, but if I recall, the turns are still fairly wide.
–Todd (04/28/2018)
Q: Yet another trail I want to drive on. Thanks for the great narrative, photos, and video. Are there any hiking trails in the area?
–Marc Nitz (06/06/2017)
A: The most popular in the area is Fisher Towers, https://utah.com/hiking/fisher-towers-trail, which is just up the road from this trailhead on Highway 128. We did see people exploring the canyon along this road, and we wrote it down as a future "on foot" exploration to try in the future.
–Todd (06/07/2017)

Writer Information

Todd

Founder

Todd is an avid wheeler who loves to explore new trails whenever and wherever he can. They say necessity is the mother of all invention and that holds true for Todd. His want and desire to find passable trails and new nooks and crannies of the Great American West to explore were his reasons behind starting Trailsoffroad.com. On any given weekend you can find Todd on some obscure 4x4 trail or using his legs to hike to an alpine lake.
For individual use only, not to be shared.