1 Day Trail – Rated 3 1/2
The Steel Bender lies between Moab and the La Sal Mountains in the vicinity of Mill Creek, a major drainage from the mountains. The trail crosses the creek a few times and travels a lovely part of its canyon. It overlooks the North Fork of Mill Creek as it climbs to the base of South Mesa on the skirts of the La Sals. It is another variation on the canyonlands landscape, and it offers further variety to the scenery and the four-wheeling opportunities of the Moab area. The trip can be done in stock 4×4′s, but only because there are bypasses around some of the challenging spots.
Portions of the trail are in two beautiful parts of Mill Creek Canyon. Other portions ride the higher country toward the mountains and overlook canyonlands vistas toward the west from a 6,000-foot elevation.
The canyon-bottom trail crosses stream-washed rocks and the stream itself in a few places. The higher country has dirt and a little sand — all generously mixed with rocks and rock ledges. There is a little slickrock near the upper creek ford.
Mill Creek has a strong perennial flow that is highest in springtime, but the fords usually do no more than dampen your hubs. Not far above the creek is a steep, ledgy chunk of rock that may push some to the easy bypass. As the trail climbs, a succession of rock steps can be difficult for stock equipment, but each ledge area has a bypass. A couple of minor tributary canyons provide steep, rocky descents and testy climbs. One gully has an optional shortcut that may surpass the 3½ trail rating. The final creek ford is followed by a short, steep climb that can get muddy and slippery.