Overview

This route takes intrepid mountain bikers to the base of towering rock features in the heart of the remote Maze District of Canyonlands National Park. The route begins at Hans Flat Ranger Station before descending the infamous Flint Trail Switchbacks. From that point things only get more difficult as the trail traverses the head of Teapot Canyon before arriving in The Land of Standing Rocks where towers of Organ Rock Shale stand hundreds of feet tall over the intricate canyons of The Maze.

While the mountain biking technicality of this trail is intermediate, the length, remoteness, and typical need for vehicle support makes it a more difficult route to travel. Those that take on the challenge will be rewarded with solitude, breathtaking views, and exhilarating technical biking challenges. Vehicle support on this route requires high clearance 4WD vehicles and experienced drivers. Each party must be completely self-sufficient and experienced with traveling through difficult terrain and camping in remote areas with no services or support. This route is usually done as a multi-day camping trip. Advanced permits are required for overnight use.

Trailhead

This trip begins at the Hans Flat Ranger Station near the western border of Canyonlands National Park. To reach Hans Flat from Hanksville, UT:

  1. Drive north on Highway 24 for 19.0 miles to the Lower San Rafael Road on the right.
  2. Turn right (east) onto the Lower San Rafael Road and continue 24.1 miles to a signed junction with a kiosk.
  3. Turn right (south) toward Hans Flat and continue 7.0 miles to a fork in the road.
  4. Bear left onto the signed road to Hans Flat and continue 13.8 miles to the Hans Flat Ranger Station.

All overnight use requires a permit that is issued in advance from Canyonlands National Park. Several campsites exist in The Land of Standing Rocks as well as in the nearby Dollhouse area. Visit https://canypermits.nps.gov/ or call the Backcountry Office at (435) 259-4351 for permit information.

The Route

This route requires extensive driving on remote, backcountry 4WD roads. Be sure that you have sufficient supplies, including adequate food, water and gasoline to complete the trip safely. Once you enter this remote country, you are on your own and must be completely self-sufficient.

Before starting into The Maze, you must stop at the Hans Flat Ranger Station and check-in. The rangers will check your permit and can update you on current conditions and regulations. After checking in at Hans Flat, the fun begins. If you have the time and energy, you can unload bikes and start biking from here, but for the most scenic ride, continue driving south to the start of the Flint Trail. From the Ranger Station, the road heads south for 12.0 miles to the top of the Flint Trail; a dramatic set of switchbacks that descend over 1,000 feet through the nearly impenetrable Orange Cliffs to reach the area below.

Just before the start of the Flint Trail switchbacks, a small overlook provides a view of the road ahead. Stop here and make sure that no uphill traffic is coming up the trail. The road is extremely narrow and it would be difficult or impossible to find a safe spot to pass an oncoming vehicle. This is also a good spot to unload the bikes and prepare for the ride ahead. The distance from here to The Land of Standing Rocks is approximately 22.0 miles one-way.

From the overlook, keep riding south toward the start of The Flint Trail, bearing left at a fork in the road. The trail begins with a very loose, rocky section with a dramatic drop that is sure to get your adrenaline pumping. Use caution near the edge of the switchbacks as you work your way down the steep slope. Bikers may need to stop at each switchback to help spot drivers in the group as they make the turns.

After approximately 1.5 miles and nearly 1,000 feet of elevation loss, the Flint Trail switchbacks end. Keep following the road as it heads east to the signed junction for The Land of Standing Rocks. Once at the junction, turn right toward ‘Standing Rocks’ and continue riding. Over the next 7.0 miles, the road traverses a narrow bench high above the surrounding terrain. If you’ve studied a map of the area, you should be able to spot many of the striking formations in the distant Land of Standing Rocks, as well as most of your route to get there.

After approximately 7.0 miles, a 4-way junction is encountered at Waterhole Flat. Turn left toward The Land of Standing Rocks and The Dollhouse. The first few miles of the road are smooth and occasionally sandy. Keep riding as the road gets more technical the closer you get to Teapot Canyon. There is one reserved campsite just before getting into the most difficult sections called Teapot. If you’d prefer not to take 4WD vehicles all the way out to the end of the road, this is an excellent campsite to reserve. This puts you within striking distance of The Land of Standing Rocks and The Dollhouse as a self-supported bike trip for strong riders. Access to Teapot campsite still requires high clearance 4WD but it is significantly easier than the road ahead.

Continue riding past Teapot Camp as the road traverses small drainages at the head of Teapot Canyon. With plenty of slickrock and technical challenges, mountain bikers will thoroughly enjoy this section and will generally move quite a bit faster than the support vehicle which may struggle and require a spotter to aid in wheel placement over and around the many obstacles. Bikers should be prepared to stop and help spot drivers through the more difficult sections.

The roughest of the drive is over after approximately 1.5 miles from leaving Teapot camp, however it feels like much longer. Continue riding north toward The Land of Standing Rocks as you encounter numerous technical challenges as the trail winds in and out of minor drainages along the way. All together, it is just 14.0 miles from the junction at Waterhole Flat to the Land of Standing Rocks, however if you have vehicle support, plan on a pace not much faster than walking due to the numerous obstacles. If you are base camping at Teapot campsite, you should be able to move much more quickly with mountain bikes only.

As you continue riding north, take note of the two stone towers near the base of the mesa on the left. This formation is known as The Mother and The Child. As you approach this feature, the road gets significantly smoother and easier to ride and drive. Soon the monolithic towers in The Land of Standing Rocks come into view and the riding becomes very easy as the road surface turns into packed Organ Rock Shale.

Several campsites are located in The Land of Standing Rocks including The Wall, Standing Rock and Chimney Rock. Each is marked and easy to find if you have reserved a campsite. Several unimproved trailheads exist that provide hiking access to the canyons below. The Land of Standing Rocks ends at a trailhead near Chimney Rock. You can turn around here, or turn right and continue down the road to The Dollhouse where several more campsites and good hiking is available.

On the return trip, follow your route in back to the junction at Waterhole Flat. From there, you can turn right and drive back up The Flint Trail, or for an easier route out, turn left and follow the relatively easy, usually well-graded road 31.0 miles to Highway 95 near Hite.

Rules & Regulations

  • Stay on designated trails.
  • Pack out all trash.
  • No campfires.
  • Camp only in designated sites.
  • Pack out all human waste in an approved toilet system.
  • Check with Canyonlands National Park for current regulations before beginning trip.

Special Considerations

This route requires extensive driving on remote, backcountry 4WD roads. Be sure that you have sufficient supplies, including adequate food, water and gasoline to complete the trip safely. Once you enter this remote country, you are on your own and must be completely self-sufficient.

Mountain biking can be a dangerous activity. Ensure your equipment is properly maintained and appropriate for the terrain. Be sure to wear appropriate safety gear including a helmet.

Credits

This trail guide is provided by Backcountry Post.