One of the Greatest Off-Road Events, Ever
This April Shock Surplus was lucky enough to attend Easter Jeep Safari in Moab, Utah… and we brought along an EJS first-timer to show him what it’s all about. And, yes, that noob is me, Brandon, so I’m going to tell you all about my experience. First things first, what even is Easter Jeep Safari?
Well, it all started in 1967 by the Moab Chamber of Commerce. What was originally just a single day event held on the "Behind the Rocks" trail on Easter Saturday eventually expanded to the nine day event we have today encompassing over a few dozen trails and including a huge vendor expo.
The Red Rock 4-Wheelers club was formed in the 80s and has since handled managing the event. For a complete list of trails, registration information, and more; go to rr4w.com and make sure you check their list of trail ratings. Each trail is given a difficulty rating that will allow you to determine if your rig is equipped enough to ride. Difficulty ratings range from regular county dirt road to all the way up to custom buggies only. So if you’re just starting out with a stock Jeep or truck, or if you’ve already got a beefy modified factory vehicle, or you want to test the extremes of your monster custom rig... there’s a trail for you in Moab.
In addition to official EJS trail runs many other organizations and manufacturers also host their own trail runs and of course you can get out there and ride with your own crew whenever you want.
Getting to Moab
Moab is pretty much in the middle of nowhere, all of the closest major cities are around 4 to 7 hours away. So no matter where you are coming from there’s going to be a trek in front of you.
In order to join forces with our founder, Sean, who is an EJS veteran and my Moab tour guide, I had to first journey from Los Angeles up to Reno, Nevado. My first choice of camp site was closed due to winter weather conditions but some locals pointed me to the Pleasant Valley Campground near Mammoth Lakes which was open and lived up to its name.
Fortunately you don’t have to actually own a Jeep to join in on the off-road fun, so we loaded up Sean’s well equipped Toyota Tacoma and headed to Great Basin National Park. You’ll want to do some research online before you embark; keep a few backup campsite options open, check if there are fire restrictions, closed roads, and be mindful of seasonal operating dates. When we hit Great Basin all of the campsites were full so we simply found the next closest spot which happened to be dispersed camping on BLM land near Sacramento Pass. The Bureau of Land Management covers about 250 million acres so your odds of finding a spot to pop your tent are high. And off course, don’t forget to leave no trace.
Finding a Moab Campsite
As we rode the final stretch on the road to Moab we starting feeling that Jeep hype. Convoys of Jeeps being towed and of course a few making the journey on their own rubber were surrounding us on the highway as towering rock formations began rising from the horizon on all sides. A quick google search of “moab camping” led us to investigate Kane Creek Rd which heads southwest out of town along the Colorado River. The first few campgrounds we passed had vacancies but looked more like parking lots than campsites and despite being on the water they weren’t very enticing, so we ventured further down the road as it veered away from the river and starts to follow a small tributary snaking through steep canyon walls. Nestled into a series of tight bends we found a fantastic spot next to the creek at Hunter Canyon Camping Area. Naturally after we got settled into camp we used the remaining daylight to explore the area and snap some pics.
Exploring Canyonlands National Park
At almost 340,000 acres, Canyonlands National Park deserves it’s own month long exploration. With an unlimited amount of breathtaking views and miles of easy off-road trails, this park is a great way to soak in the varied terrain of Utah without the stress of a challenging rock crawl. Just don’t get too close to the edge. We dropped in via the Northern entrance to the park, starting on Shafer Road. After rounding the first turn just moments into the trail an epic descent filled with switchbacks reveals itself and the expansive canyon to which it gives you access. As we proceeded down the trail we spotted a turn off for Gooseneck Overlook and took a brief photo and leg stretching break for a while before heading back to Shafer Road. We decided to take an alternative path home and turned onto Potash Road which snakes along the river-carved canyon’s edge and passes by Dead Horse Point. Moving along we spotted another interesting off-shoot road that ended at another lookout point. Here we discovered a couple and their Jeep admiring the view with their two little pups. This brief taste of Canyonlands piqued my interest for the trail runs to come.
Fins & Things Trail with Icon Vehicle Dynamics
Ah the hype and excitement at the staging area before the trailhead… with all the custom rides lining up you can’t help but get pumped. A motley crew formed ready to tackle the Fins & Things trail; a few Jeeps, the brand new Ford Ranger, a rough and tumble Willys CJ, and of course our own Tacoma all riding on shocks from Icon Vehicle Dynamics. With a difficulty rating of 4 this trail is more accessible than it looks but is nothing to shake a stick at as it contains many steep ups and downs on slickrock that will likely make contact with your bumpers or more. As with most trails the serious obstacles can often be bypassed with a less severe path forward. But peer pressure keeps us staying the course… especially on Frenchie’s Fin! The serious incline tested the limits of the Tacoma. We had an immensely enjoyable time connecting with friends new and old and it was pretty rad having so many photographers running around snapping all the best shots of these capable rigs in action. After a hot meal we snuck back to our neighboring canyon valley to further scope out spots for our upcoming night photography workshop.
Porcupine Rim Trail with 4WP
After having been on my first trail run at EJS it was hard to guess how this second run would compare since it’s rated a 5, one step up from the previous. Knobs and ledges of bedrock are riddled throughout most of the trail keeping it bumpy and often coming in a step-like cascade. All the hard driving is worth it as you are rewarded with the incredible view of Castle Valley 1,500 feet below. The La Sal mountains stand snow covered in the background. It is quite the vantage point. After enjoying a lunch from on the ridge with our gracious hosts we set out to hit the end of this out and back trail. Split from the pack, we started worrying about being solo as we tackled obstacles on the ride back to Moab, but our fears were put to rest as the friendly folks from Dana made sure to hold back and spot us over some tough climbs. After a long few days we finally treated ourselves (and those around us) to a shower as we rested up at a hotel for our final day in Moab.
Arches National Park
We didn’t have a full day to commit to Arches but we definitely appreciated our quick drive through tour. Just minutes from Moab, this is yet another must-see spot filled with incredible rock formations and stunning landscapes. There are some off-highway service roads you can explore in Arches but the well-known trails are mostly outside the park in the surrounding areas. If we had more time to explore this would be a great spot to park the truck, strap on the hiking boots, and head out with your camera.
Night Photography Workshop
The dramatic lighting in night photography, especially if you can capture the stars or even the Milky Way, just looks so damn cool. We’ve been honing our skills and wanted to share what we’ve learned with the community so we invited anyone with a camera and a truck to come out and give it a shot at one of our favorite spots near Hunter Canyon. We covered some photography basics, all the usual night photo tips and tricks, and even had fun with some light-writing. Our attendees got more comfortable with their cameras and produced some great shots! We loved meeting new friends and can’t wait to host more workshops.
It was finally time to air the tires back up and hit the highway. As we said farewell to Moab we almost immediately started daydreaming about what it would be like to come back and spend a month here. On our way back home we tried to outrun a rainstorm and wound up camping outside of a closed campground in Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest. We were treated to a break in the rain while setting up camp and woke up to a dusting of snow. I snagged my car in Reno and headed back towards LA while the sun was setting over the Sierra Nevadas I was grateful for my Moab experience. With an infinite amount of natural wonders to explore, some of the most fun and challenging off-road trails around, and a ton of other outdoor activities to enjoy, Easter Jeep Safari is not to be missed.