Backwards Bill Trail

 

This trail combines the second half of the Wipe-Out Hill Trail and the first half of the Sevenmile Rim Trail for a more challenging trip that retains much of the scenic highlights of both. due to the fact that all vehicles must ascend Wipe-Out Hill, we have special requirements on this trail. Vehicles must have a minimum of one locker.

 

Scenery

The colorful Entrada sandstone of Big Mesa, atop the white Navajo sandstone, provides the initial scenery. Once Wipe-Out Hill is ascended, the Merrimac Butte, and the Monitor Butte, are each visited. A short sand section precedes the ascent of Sevenmile Rim. Views down to the west arm of Sevenmile wash are first to be seen and finally rim views of Arches NP and the Sevenmile wash pouroff provide a lot of the remaining scenery.

 

Road Surface

The majority of this trail alternates between slickrock surfaces and sand.

 

Obstacles

This trail starts from the Dubinky Well Road. It heads into a small BLM unimproved camping area, and though this section is easy, it features small broken rock sections that are rough and slow travel. Once through this section, next comes a sandy section descending into a bowl like pasture. Soon a fork is encountered, a turn right keeps one on the trail. The trail loops around and climbs a small hill before beginning a longer descent curving left to start into a small wash. The wash turns the trail toward the towering walls of Big Mesa. The trail curves in the wash bottom and finds a right turn to climb up onto a slickrock section, then back onto a sandy hill climbing upward. Quite close to Big Mesa now, a couple short ledges get one up onto a relatively flat piece of slickrock that allows one to turn right and begin paralleling Big Mesa’s colorful Entrada Sandstone walls.

The trip follows the slickrock for a way, then departs it via a dirt road, soon to encounter a “T” intersection. The only choice here is a left, because the route that goes straight has been closed and should be marked as such. Now heading along the south end of Big Mesa, the trail becomes sandy again. The trip continues to wander along, still paralleling the tall mesa wall, finally encountering Rattlesnake Hill, named because of the twisting path one uses to descend it. At the base of Rattlesnake, the trail turns hard left into a narrow wash. Passing under a low tree branch it soon emerges into a large flat area of slickrock, where it makes a left turn to continue along the east wall of Big Mesa.

A somewhat obscure fork is soon encountered, and bearing left is the correct way, even though the straight ahead route is the most obvious. If one correctly makes the turn onto the left fork, the trip follows the slight descent of the slickrock and then parallels the straight ahead trail for a slight bit before departing the slickrock onto sand, curving left to follow Big Mesa’s walls. Wandering now, the sandy trail descends into a wash, climbs mildly up a sandy hill, then down again into another shallow wash, then climbing again out of it via a section of slickrock. Now the trail is tucked up very close the the massive wall, and one winds around fallen boulders that have dropped from the mesa. Some more sandy roadbed is next, and a descent of a long hill begins, dipping in areas over a few ledges. Just before the trail starts to curve right, one can see a trail approaching from the right. This is the straight fork that wasn’t taken earlier as it rejoins the trail. As the combined trail curves right a bumpy, off camber section of alternating slickrock and sand is encountered, then the trip starts a curve to the left and drops into another wash. In the wash bottom it curves left, almost doubling back on itself before a slight right turn brings one to the base of Wipeout Hill.

One of two ascents must now be chosen, there are no bypasses! The right hand side is considered the easier, but it demands attention because of its steepness. Smart drivers will avoid putting the right tires in a depression at the base of the first section, and as the front tires get up the second section, one must immediately start turning left to avoid a rocky outcrop that can mash a bumper or fender. The left hand route up Wipeout Hill features an offcamber ascent that is relatively easy, but once up that a tall shelf awaits. Usually getting the front tire up onto the top is not too bad, but the rears often don’t want to follow. This necessitates a mild “Moab Bumb” to finish the climb. Once up this shelf a rocky section finishes the ascent, and heading right soon connects one with the trail as it rejoins the RH side trail.

From Wipeout Hill, several trails depart. The correct departure to stay on the Backward’s Bill Route heads right to climb a steep smooth slickrock section that gets a bit off camber near the top. No sooner is one on top than the trail heads steeply down onto a relatively flat slickrock section. It wanders along this section, then climbs up the slickrock to finally top out on a ridge, Here it makes an abrupt left to avoid falling off the far side. Notice the trip has now departed Big Mesa’s walls, the walls to the left are those of the Merrimac Butte.

Though mostly on slickrock, the trail is bumpy and sometimes off camber until it encounters the “toaster”, a squeeze between a couple of large rocks. After this things open up and the trip heads left to pass between the Merrimac and Monitor Buttes. A short abrupt shelf on the Monitor side (RH) drops the trail onto a sandy section, One soon encounters an intersection, and a right turn is correct here. Still on sand a long straight section heads one roughly toward the La Sal Mountains. Ignore the trails leaving to the left along here, the goal is the right hand side of the slickrock rising up to become the Sevenmile Rim. Close to the slickrock, a “T” intersection is encountered. The left turn is correct. Quickly another intersection appears, and a right is correct here.

The road then bears right and starts to drop as it approaches a large slickrock expanse, interspersed with short scraggley Juniper trees. This part of the trail is twisty, curving around rocks and trees, bumping up small shelves, sometimes almost doubling back on itself, all with the goal a getting up to the Sevenmile Rim. Once there, a left turn keeps one from going off the edge, and starts one paralleling along the rim’s edge. Sometimes ten feet away, sometimes 50 or more feet distant,.this section of trail along the rim is pretty obvious, but one might want to watch for a fork going left to Uranium Arch. “Arch” is spray painted on the slickrock, pointing the way.

If this fork is chosen, one should backtrack to the main trail after viewing the arch, as the many trails leaving from the arch can get one confused in short order. Anyway, the main trail follows the rim and eventually bears left to start descending from the rim along the walls of Corral Canyon dropping off to the right. From this point all the twisting and turning is to get around Corral Canyon. Most intersections encountered require a right turn. One minor one to the right, if even noticed, ends quickly at an abandoned drill site, so this mistake is easily recovered from. As the trip heads north to head Corral Canyon, a short mean hill features several climbs. It has a bypass just before getting to it, but the hill offers a final chance to break a driveline for those intent on doing so. Past this hill the trail continues north until it meets another intersection, where a right turn keeps one on track. An occasional side trail enters here and there but the main trail is so heavily traveled it is obvious which way to go. After the turn to head east, as the trip again approaches the rim, it starts bearing to the left to again head north. At this point it starts a rough, bumpy descent, and then emerges of the lower face of the rim to switchback down to a graded county road. A right turn heads one further down hill to finally emerge at US 191, north of Moab.