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FR88 the Notch

The road following Elk Ridge from Natural Bridges National Monument towards the southern part of Canyonlands NP has been used occasionally for a supported bike tour, lasting two or three days. But It is also possible to split up this route into adjoining loop rides, adding some additonal roads. This is one of those loops. It follows the traditional Elk Ridge route between points 3 and 11, which includes its highest summit point. The advantage over doing just the ridge is, that you get to see even more of the Abajo Mountains and the multilayered pedestal it sits on from a very different eco zone. The riding surface on the rest of the described loop is not quite as comfy perfect as on the ridge route.

click on profile for more detail
01.(5550ft,mile00) START-END SOUTH-EAST: jct CR228 South Elk Rd - CR268 Cottonwood Rd
02.(7710ft,mile18) Profile turns left onto FR95, south of Round Mountain
03.(8640ft,mile20) Profile turns left onto FR88. Right is also FR88, to Beef Basin
04.(8704ft,mile23) first right to Deadman Point. Profile stays left/straight
05.(8630ft,mile25) second right to Deadman Point. Profile stays straight
06.(8760ft.mile26) TOP
07.(8700ft,mile26) left goes to rim above Chimney Park area. Profile stays straight
08.(8280ft,mile28) the Notch (big Notch)
09.(8620ft,mile29) intermediate summit point
10.(8250ft,mile34) little Notch
11.(8190ft,mile36) Profile turns left onto CR228 South Elk Rd
12.(5550ft,mile47) START-END SOUTH-WEST: same as point 1


From South-East.  The junction of CR228 South Elk Rd and CR268 Cottonwood (Creek) Rd is signed. A few miles up this junction on Cottonwood Rd, the road enters the Ute Indian Reservation, complete with bearpaw marked signs and the list of things that are prohibited. One of these items is bicycling. The sign does not refer to this public access road. Bicycling is still legal, even in this part of Utah. The sign combined with what looks like a man made lake in the road may make this approach look somewhat intimidating at first look. In October this ford was easily crossable, but you do get wet feet. The road continues, switching in and out of the reservation as well as a great parade of Cottonwood trees, which however look very sick.

The creek fords continue but they do get much smaller, until you can't decide weather to still count them as a stream crossing or a crack in the road, when you realize that you've lost count anyway. Suffice it to say there are quite a few. As the grade of the road picks up, closer to the junction with FR95, the surface switches intermittently to gravel or hard medalled. The top was being worked on, so I don't know what the final result will be. When the route turns left onto FR95, the view shed opens up onto red cliffed mountains to the north. The climbing is now at a more steady rate than earlier, on a fast, hard medalled surface. FR95 ends onto FR88. From here on many junctions lead to points on the rim and the point of decision comes closer, which ones to ride, which ones to skip, which ones to assign a project number to. The road crests at a point that is hardly noticeable even with an altimeter. It is located shortly before the turnoff to a spur overlooking the Chimney Park area. The spur is only marked with a FR170 sign (meaning FR5170).


From South-West. (described downwards). Next on the menu is the main course in the scenic department. The main course in the climbing department is already digested. A few switchbacks lead down to a land bridge dividing Dark Canyon in the west, from Notch canyon to the east. A climb leads back up to the mesa, still carrying the name Elk Ridge. Finally a long fast descend leads to the junction with CR228 South Elk Road. The fast descend on perfect surface continues east on South Elk Road. Approximately where the road emerges from dense tree cover onto a rocky dessert scape, still high above the darker valley rocks, the surface turns into a fairly deep gravel. Still, going downhill is no problem. The road levels out for a short time where it crosses over Navajo sandstone, then dives deeper. It crosses Cottonwood Creek just before you get back to the starting point of the profile.


Dayride with this point as highest summit:

FR88 the Notch s(u) , additional out and backs : 2 miles east of jct CR228 - CR268 > up CR268 Cottonwood Creek Rd > west on FR95 > south on FR88 <> out and back to Deadman Point >> south on FR88 <> out and back to Chimney Park area >> FR88 the Notch s(u) <> out and back to Steamboat Point >> south on FR88 > west on CR228 West Elk Rd > back to starting point: 70.7miles with 5550ft of climbing in 6:29hours (VDO MC1.0 m3:11.10.19)
Notes: Steamboat Point took a lot of time, but it's hard to find a place to see the canyon through the tree. Perfect October weather.