Lockhart Basin is an amazing point to point offroad trail south and west of Moab. It creates a link between the roads and trails that head west of town (Kane Creek, Harrah Pass, Chicken Corners) with the highway entrance to Needles District in Canyonlands National Park.
Although do-able in a VERY long day, the trail is best experienced in several days. This allows for exploration of the surrounding area, which is expansive and beautiful.
During the course of the trail, which I clocked at around 60 miles of dirt, you pass through nearly every type of Moab trail. We experienced: tight ledgy switchbacks, difficult climbs up canyon rims, sand, slickrock and expansive red rock views. Following White Rim trail on the opposing rim of the canyon, this offers the same type of experience sans permits and regulations (dogs are allowed). Camping is limited to “existing campsites” – of which there are many and there are a few quite remote ones.
This Lockhart Basin trail review will cover how we tackled the trail over four days and three nights.
Beginning with a fuel stop and last chance for water in the town of Moab, we headed West on Kane Creek from the McDonalds. There is a great hiking trail and petroglyph examples nearby, just out of town. Continue on the road west along the river past many BLM campgrounds that offer great camping spots. Continue past Kane Creek and begin Harrah Pass.
Harrah Pass is an easy trail with exposure, meaning some people may find the heights a bit scary. Once down Harrah Pass, we saw a sign that isn’t legible but is covered in chickens. This is the start of your trail (to the left), as well as Chicken Corners (to the right).
We enjoyed a nice stop and walk around Catacomb Rocks, which was way more popular than we expected. It surprised us to see designated campsites in this area.
The trail immediately turns and climbs to the rim above. This is the most difficult part of the trail and the next 5.9 miles are slow and testing of any rig. The main difficulties are large rocks, ledges and exposure. We scraped a bit with Gladiator while Wrangler had no problem. Line choice is a key.
We worked our way up and camped on top of the rim, around 6 miles in. Campsites exist but can be faint and you will need to look to find the real good ones. That night it did rain and snow on us, which made for a cold and damp morning in the tent.
From the first campsite we headed back out and immediately encountered a busted rig completely blocking the trail. Luckily Rory and Moab Motorsports must have left early in the morning, as they were almost finished with recovery by the time we got there. This obstacle was the last difficult obstacle we would encounter.
Following the road South,we spent the afternoon crossing over into a tiny sliver of Canyonlands NP. A side road heads down a 6 mile long sandy, fast and fun wash to end near the Colorado River at a site of petroglyphs (much fainter than the ones from Day 1).
With the regulations within Canyonlands barring any camping, dogs, or fun in general, we opted to camp just outside the park. We camped in one of several existing sites backed next to rocks, providing protection from the wind and cold.
Water is available from an amazing spring near the river. You go about a mile up, next to the road where you see slickrock on one side and a really old car on the other. One of the cleanest, freshest desert springs I have ever seen, it seems like a true desert mirage.
We took water straight from the deep hole next to the rock hole for the dogs, but would probably recommend filtering for human consumption.
Heading back up the wash and then down the now much more mellow road, it still takes some time to get to the highway to Needles/back to Moab. If you take the fast way and stay on the main, now gravel road it is pretty quick. But we opted to explore some of the side roads just before you come out onto the highway.
There are also numerous sideroads to explore in the highway area.
Choosing road 25 completely at random, we followed it through slickrock, steep climbs and sandy dune-like landscape. This lasted for a few miles before we turned back to setup camp near the slickrock. We noted numerous camping spots near the road, some of which were the best developed campsites I have ever seen, anywhere.
With the majority of trail done, and camp setup, we explored the slickrock formations that define the area. It was a great few hours of climbing, descending, getting a bit scared at the steepness, looking at crazy rocks … it made for a great end hike to the trip.
With 99% of the dirt covered, the last day consisted of a long highway drive back to town and eventually back towards home in Colorado. Many side roads and options to continue the exploring are present. We considered visiting Canyonlands, heading South, etc. On the way back to Moab, Newspaper Rock is easily visited and is a huge example of petroglyphs. Hole in the Rock is also on the way back into town.
In summary, Lockhart Basin is a great place to do a multi-day adventure in the true backcountry of Moab. Just like White Rim, but without the numerous regulations. It is still way out there and you need to take similar precautions as White Rim (and also bring a portable toilet for human waste disposal).
In the three days between when we started the trail and before we got close to the end, we saw: 1 backpacker (I hope he survived) way out there, 3 bike packers (way cool), 2 human people (one being the legendary Rory Irish), 2 Jeeps in the distance, and one ghost motorcycle at 10:30pm that left no tracks. It was an adventure.