Slickrock Trail & Sand Flats Recreation Area

The Sand Flats Recreation Area (SFRA) near Moab, Utah, is a nationally significant public lands treasure at the heart of the Colorado Plateau. A high plane of slickrock domes, bowls and fins, it rises on the south to meet the colorful mesas and nearly 13,000-foot peaks of the La Sal Mountains. Cutting into the area on the east and west are the canyons of the Negro Bill and Mill Creek Wilderness Study Areas. To the north lies the deep gorge of the Colorado River and a hundred mile vista over Arches National Park. SFRA is home to the famous Slickrock Bike Trail enjoyed annually by over 100,000 visitors. The 7,240-acre SFRA is also popular for camping and jeeping.

Who manages Sand Flats Recreation Area?

The Sand Flats Recreation Area is managed through a unique partnership between Grand County and the Bureau of Land Management. In 1995, in response to repeated health and resource violations, this area was developed through the collaborative efforts of Americorps, the BLM, Grand County and the Moab Community.

You can help our unique partnership efforts by taking responsibility for the lands you enjoy. Learn the guidelines of sustainable land use by:

  • Understanding how your use affects the land.
  • Adopting minimum impact practices.
  • Sharing in the costs of services, education and maintenance.

Where do my fees go?

All user fees remain in this program and go towards services and maintenance. Information services include staffing the entrance station, campground and backcountry patrols, information and education in person and through displays, brochures and maps. General maintenance includes upkeep of campgrounds, toilet facilities and trails. Resource protection includes upkeep of fences, signs and revegetation projects.

Because a third of SFRA lands are Utah School Trust Lands a portion of fees collected goes to pay for the annual lease of this land. Your fees also sustain an apprenticeship program that provides work-study opportunities for local high school students. In addition a portion of fees helps to support the operation of Grand County Search and Rescue.

What is the user fee at SFRA?

SFRA offers day-use passes, good for 3 days. If you enter in a private vehicle the pass costs $5.00, enter on a bike the pass costs $2.00, enter in a shuttle/van the pass costs $2.00 per person.

Can I camp at SFRA?

Yes, Sand Flats has 124 campsites, open year round and offered on a first-come, first-serve basis. Campsites are spread out over 9 camp clusters. Each site has a picnic table and metal fire ring, with a vault toilet nearby. Campers need to bring in all their drinking water, as water is not available on this high desert plateau. Camping at SFRA costs $10.00 per night, per car for up to 5 people. Additional persons cost $2.00 each per night. Children 7 years of age and under camp free.

Does SFRA take group site reservations?

Yes, Sand Flats does take reservations for 2 group sites C-1 and E-1. The minimum number of occupants in a group campsite is 11 and the maximum is 16. The reservation fee is $10 and the base fee for the campsite is $50. The reservation fee and first night's camping fee ($50) is non-refundable. The base fee covers up to 6 passenger cars and 16 people for first night's camping only. Additional nights are due upon arrival.

What are SFRA camping regulations?

  • Camp only in designated sites.
  • Park vehicles in designated areas only.
  • 2 vehicles, 10 people recommended per site.
  • Quiet hours are 10pm to 6am.
  • Woodcutting and firewood gathering are not permitted.
  • Use toilet facilities.
  • No discharging of firearms or fireworks.
  • Pack it in. Pack it out. A garbage dumpster is located at the Slickrock parking lot.
  • Please note for emergencies call 911. For non-emergencies, such as after hour noise disturbances or vandalism call the Sheriff's Dispatch at 435-259-8115.

What is minimum impact?

Each year, millions of visitors enjoy Canyon Country. The impact of so much use is threatening the area's biological resources. You can help protect this fragile and beautiful land by following these four minimum-impact practices.

  • Tread lightly when traveling and leave no trace of your camping. Drive and ride only on roads and trails where such travel is allowed; hike only on established trails, on rock or in washes. Avoid taking shortcuts and traveling through cryptobiotic soils. When camping select an area of bare soil for your tent. Do not place your tent on top of vegetation. Use existing firerings and bring in your own firewood. Wood collecting of any kind is illegal at SFRA. Do not strip bark, cut or break off tree limbs. Please remember these trees provide shade and shelter for you, other campers and the animals that make the desert their home.
  • Help keep Canyon Country clean. Pack out your trash and recycle it, clean up after less thoughtful visitors and use toilets.
  • Protect and conserve scarce desert water sources. Leave potholes undisturbed.
  • llow space for wildlife. When encountering wildlife, maintain your distance and remain quiet. Teach children not to chase or pick up animals. Keep pets under control.

What is cryptobiotic crust?

Cryptobiotic crust is a living crust of bacteria, algae, lichen, mosses and fungi that covers much of the soil surface in this area. It is almost invisible in its early stages. As it matures, it develops a bumpy, blackish surface. The crust is essential to desert life. It holds sand together, retains water, and makes nutrients needed for larger plants to grow.

It takes 50-100 years for the crust to fully function: yet tire tracks and footsteps can crush it instantaneously. Bike and vehicle tire tracks are especially damaging because they form ruts. When it rains water flows in these ruts causing severe erosion. Walk, drive, or bike only on open roads or trails. When walking cross-country walk on slickrock or in dry washes. Avoid trampling cryptobiotic crust.

What are the trail rules at Sand Flats?

Whether traveling by bike, motorcycle, ATV or 4 WD vehicle users need to follow these rules:

  • Stay on the trail. If you need to turn around please do so on a rock surface.
  • Do not trample vegetation or cryptobiotic crust.
  • Avoid driving in potholes.
  • Respect all living things. The desert is an irreplaceable gift.
  • Pack it in. Pack it out.
  • Responsible recreation keeps this trail clean, scenic and OPEN.

How difficult is mountain biking on the Slickrock Bike trail?

The Slickrock Bike trail is rated a class 4 on a scale of 1-4 with 4 being the hardest. Its steep inclines and descents offer technical challenges to the most experienced bikers. The 2.3 mile Practice Loop is recommended to first time visitors and takes about a half hour. Please be aware that the Practice Loop is still rated as difficult and not for children, novice riders or out-of-shape individuals. The main trail is 12.7 miles but takes most people 3-4 hours to complete. The normal biking season is mid-February through November, but the trail is most popular during spring and fall. If you must ride during the summer plan a 6 am start to avoid the potentially life threatening heat. Trail map brochures are available at the entrance booth and the trailhead.

What is the Porcupine Rim Trail like?

The "other mountain biking trail" at SFRA is the Porcupine Rim Trail, popular and difficult (class 4) in its own right. The trailhead is located on the eastern end of SFRA, 7 miles up the Sand Flats road from the entrance station. The first part of the trail is shared with motorized users. At mile 11.2 the trail becomes single track with steep ledges and is suitable only for biking and hiking. The trail is usually ridden one way and takes 3 hours to half a day. From the trailhead to highway 128 is 14.4 miles or 20.4 miles to Moab. If ridden as a loop from town, the entire ride is 30.8 miles. Shuttle services can provide transportation to the trailhead. The Porcupine Rim trail is most popular in spring and fall and offers a variety of riding surfaces in a remote and rugged area of outstanding scenery. Trail map brochures are available at the entrance booth and at the trailhead.

Does Sand Flats have motorized trails?

Yes. SFRA offers over 40 miles of jeep trails that motorcycles and all-terrain vehicles (ATV's) are also welcome to ride. These include Fins 'n' Things Jeep Trail, Porcupine Jeep Trail, Hell's Revenge Trail and the first 11.2 miles of the Porcupine Rim Trail. Motorcycles may ride the Slickrock Bike Trail but it is not suitable for all-terrain vehicles due to steep side slopes and narrow ledges. All users (motorized and non-motorized) must travel marked routes. There are NO open play areas in Sand Flats. Motorized traffic yields to non-motorized traffic. Motorcycles and ATV's are responsible for following Utah State Regulations for off-highway vehicles. For more information visit www.stateparks.utah.gov/ohv/laws.htm. Trail map brochures are available at the entrance booth and at the Slickrock and Porcupine Rim trailheads.

What do I need to know to "play it safe" when recreating at SFRA?

The Moab area offers challenging riding amidst world-class scenery. The characteristics of the area that make it a special place for riding also make it extremely important to follow basic safety procedures. The Moab Bike Patrol has this to say:

  • Wear a helmet. Most trails are very rocky. Even the best riders can get tired and make mistakes. Helmets can prevent or reduce the severity of head injuries. Carry lots of water and high-energy food. At least a gallon of water is recommended per person per day. There is no water on the trails and summer temperatures often climb above 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Running out of water will put your health at risk. Eating at intervals provides an opportunity to rest and the energy needed to complete the ride.
  • Carry trail maps and know how to use them to track your position. Maps for Slickrock and Porcupine Rim trails are located at the trailheads and entrance station. Maps for 4WD roads are available at the entrance station. Detailed topographic maps are available in Moab at bike shops, bookstores and the Moab Information Center.
  • Stay found, save money. Grand County has the highest incidence of search and rescue in Utah. The high cost of these operations is normally the responsibility of the rescued party. If you decide that you have lost the trail, do not continue on in hopes of finding your own way. Retrace your route back towards the trailhead until you pick up the trail, find someone who knows the area, or return to the trailhead. If you cannot retrace your route, stay put, conserve energy and water, make yourself visible and await rescue. It's always a good idea to let a friend or relative know beforehand where you are going and when you should return. If something goes wrong you have the comfort of knowing that they will get help. Check your bike frequently. Riding on Moab trails loosens headsets and puts maximum stress upon frames and components. Frequent inspections reduce the possibility of injury.
  • Be prepared in case of emergency. Don't venture into remote areas with nothing but a t-shirt and shorts. Carry a windbreaker, sunscreen, sunglasses, maps, matches or lighter, pump, patch kit, first-aid kit, a good bike tool kit and extra food, water and clothing. Ride with someone else and stay together in case of problems. Discuss your situation calmly and make a plan to improve it.

What are some safety tips for traveling in the SFRA backcountry by motorized vehicle?

  • Let someone know your itinerary. First and foremost it's always a good idea to let a friend or relative know beforehand where you are going and when you should return. If something goes wrong you have the comfort of knowing that they will get help.
  • Travel with another vehicle. You chances of getting stuck in the backcountry are reduced with two vehicles and if one breaks down you have a way out.
  • Carry trail maps and know how to use them to track your position. Maps for Slickrock and Porcupine Rim trails are located at the trailheads and entrance station. Maps for 4WD roads are available at the entrance station. Detailed topographic maps and guidebooks are available in Moab at bike shops, bookstores and the Moab Information Center. If you decide that you have lost the trail, do not continue on in hopes of finding your own way. Retrace your route back towards the trailhead until you pick up the trail.
  • Changing conditions. Directional signs may be removed or vandalized. New roads can spring up. Use your map or guidebook but exercise common sense when discrepancies occur.
  • Inspect your vehicle. Before going in the backcountry make sure that your vehicle it is in top operating condition.
  • Drive or ride Safe and Sober. It is illegal in Utah for any occupant of a vehicle to drink or even open an alcoholic beverage. Please remember to buckle up.

Can I bring my dog?

Yes, SFRA is "dog friendly". You just need to keep your dog under physical or verbal control at all times. Dogs should not chase or harass wildlife. A good place to take your dog for a walk is to hike one of the four-wheel drive roads such as the Fins n Things Jeep Trail. The Slickrock Bike Trail is not recommended for dogs. Most dogs are not used to running on sandstone, which acts like sandpaper on their paws. Owners also need to remember to carry water for their pooch. If you are riding the bike trail and would like to leave your dog behind, one option is to find a vacant campsite, with shade, and leave your dog tied up for the few hours you are on the trail. Never leave your dog in a parked car as temperatures rise to dangerously high levels quickly in the desert. There is also a kennel in Moab.

Does Sand Flats waive fees for volunteer groups?

As a self-sustaining program SFRA cannot afford to waive fees. SFRA will, however, waive up to half of the camping fees for at least one full day of volunteer service. This half price fee is at the discretion of the manager. SFRA also has a scheduled volunteer service program that gives participants an annual pass for day-use valued at $20.00. Dates for these events are advertised in local papers and radio and usually held in the spring and fall. The volunteer labor of local and visiting volunteer groups are important contributions to operations at SFRA.

Back to top Print this page E-mail this page