Ut313 - Gemini Bridges Road(sh)
is hard to believe that as late as 1961, hardly anybody
knew of the existence of the natural bridges along this
route. The fact, that now just about everybody does,
hinges on a rockhound named Lin Ottinger, who was tipped
off by a local. Then it took a decade for him to find them
again a second time. Things have changed - there are still
arches to be discovered and named in the remote canyons of
Utah, but Gemini Bridges are not among them.
As Todd Campell already noted in his 1991 guide book
"now it isn't uncommon to hear of people hackysacking
on them, or wheelying across them. Natural selection has
its own special way of dealing with folks so
inclined". In order to achieve this kind of
popularity, a rockhound cannot bear sole responsibility.
You need more. Somebody has to profit from all this beauty
for things to really start happening, This is where all
the able, energetic Moab merchants come in. They help feed
hungry cyclists, sell gasoline canisters to motorcyclists,
house them if the feel so inclined and even rent portable
toilets to the campers. And yet, something is
different about this town, different from so many other
towns on the edges of National Parks. I think it is this:
there are no mini golf courses, pony rides or christmas
ornament stores in Moab (or at least I didn't see any).
There are just plain fewer tourist trap businesses in
general. Instead the town attracts business generated
through organized marathon events like Outerbike or the 24
hours of Moab, and also organized bike tours over the La
Sal Loop Road s(u)
. And then there are the music
click on profile for more detail
|1.(3960ft,mile00) START-END EAST:
Colorado River bridge north of Moab
2.(4580ft,mile08) Gemini Bridges Road trailhead
3.(4780ft,mile13) route continues right
4.(4910ft,mile14) stay left
5.(5110ft,mile15) Gemini Arch overlook is on left
6.(6050ft,mile21) TOP: road joins paved Ut313.
Profile continues right
7.(4580ft,mile35) same as 2
8.(3960ft,mile42) START-END WEST: same as 1
From East. Part of the fun of riding this route from
Moab is the excellent biketrail, utilizing an abandoned
roadbed between Arches National Park and the Gemini Bridges
trailhead - and not paying the parking fee at the private ATV
staging area at the trailhead.
Past the trailhead the route is now well signed with
"Gemini Bridges" sings, and after that Ut313 signs.
There are several additional alternate loops and junctions
along the way. Many options dead end below the cliffs of the
Wingate formation. The area appears to be totally closed to
camping these days (Oct/11). As a result I didn't see any
people at all on the road during my last visit, except for a
group of five Bridge frolickers. This is much less than during
Continuing from the trailhead, the dirt road parallels the
highway for a short distance back to Moab, then climbs the
first lip to deliver the picture perfect view of Moab between
power lines and rocks shaped like a million times magnified
tire track. Here the route enters Little Canyon. If you were
to guess that rain falling here, should end up back down near
US191 (let's assume it rains really hard, and the water does
not just absorb into the ground), you would a reasonable
person, but taking a closer look will show otherwise. The
water drains towards the Colorado on the west side. Little
Canyon hangs above US191, put there by the Moab fault, where
displacement has taken place due to massive underlying salt
layers. The road rolls down the upper part of Little Canyon.
But then rather than following the canyon down to the Colorado
River, the route turns west and follows what has been named
"the Boulevard". There is no shopping here, but
there are plenty of turnoffs to spend much possible time
exploring. After traversing lone standing rock outcrops,
grouped into garden like formations by the big gardener in the
sky - or geology, a steep sandy turn to the right at a
junction signals the exit from "the Boulevard".
These slickrock outcrops in this area are somewhat of an
oddity. This too can be the Wingate formation, the ubiquitous
cliff-forming orange, burnt sandstone, that makes up so much
of the cliffs around here. Only here, the caprock - the
Entrada formation, is not present and it erodes into fins and
A short series of climbs traverses sand mixed with rock
outcrops to the Gemini Bridges viewing area. Here it is not
uncommon to wander around with clickety clackety cleats
searching for - where the heck is this arch anyway - when
discovering that your are standing on top of it. Another thing
you are standing on is the Entrada formation - welcome back.
The bridges formed right at the edge of the reappearing
contact point between the Entrada and Wingate.
Natural bridges are formed when a river meander, deeply
incised into a canyon, becomes a cutoff meander. Arches are
formed by all other erosional forces of wind and water,
including seepage. Now that we have that out of the way ... It
is not really clear that Gemini Bridges are natural bridges.
They could be "just" regular old arches.
The road continues to the right of the arch/bridge viewing
area, then immediately turning left (just like the signs
indicate) Traffic past the bridge is much lighter, after heavy
bridge viewpoint visitation desire has been satisfied and
people return to Moab. Some maps refer to this as the Gemini
Bridges Bull Canyon road. This may be misleading. Following
directions for Bull Canyon from the bottom, the road
terminates and does not offer a easy route to the rim,
although Todd Campbell's guide books reports several
portagable cracks through the Wingate. Once on top of this big
lip of sandstone, the road traverses Arth's Pasture and
summits at the junction with Ut313.
From West. The road joins the Ut313
island in the sky s(u), a few miles north of the Ut313
summit, but only few feet below its point of highest altitude.
There is more on the Ut313 Island in the Sky s(u) page.
Cycling: An early mountain biking guide book, that
included a detailed description of part of this route,
including a geological primer was Tod Campbell's "Above
and Beyond Slickrock", published in 1991. He describes
the ride as a one way affair from top to bottom, ie. starting
at its junction with Ut313 and ending at the junction with
Ut191. Going downhill only it is not surprising that he rates
this as physically easy and technically moderate. Today a
number of single track turnoffs have been added.
Dayrides with this point as highest summit
PARTIALLY PAVED / UNPAVED
Ut313 - Gemini Bridges Rd(sh) , Mineral
Bottom Rd(sh) : Willow Springs Road > US191 south
> up Gemini Bridges Rd > Gemini Bridges Rd s(u) >
down Ut313 a short distance <> out and back on Mineral
Bottom Rd > to a turn around point a mile or two inside
Canyonlands NP, along the Green River >> Mineral Bottom
Rd(sh) > down Ut313 > back to starting point: 78.1miles
with 4830ft of climbing in 2:55hours (VDO MC1.0 m3:11.10.14).
back to cycling
Utah's summits and passes