FATMAP difficulty grade
There are a LOT of riding options in the Moab area—after all, Moab is internationally known as a premier mountain biking destination.
Famously, Moab riding is known for slickrock...
lots and lots of slickrock! The Monitor-Merrimac route is perfect for a non-technical introduction to riding it. This ride starts about 15 miles from Moab, with ample parking on Mill Canyon Road.
The classic 7-mile ride is a loop that is most commonly ridden clockwise, but is also quite excellent counter-clockwise.
The main choice is whether to ride the sandy Mill Canyon first (as an ascent) or last (as a descent).
Either way, mountain bikers may have to do some hike-a-bike to negotiate the deep sand, while fat bikers can cruise right on top. The highlight of the loop is an amazing intro-level, non-technical, slickrock playground with stunning views of the eponymous Monitor and Merrimac Buttes.
The impressive rock formations are named for their resemblance to the historic Civil War “ironclads” the USS Monitor, and the larger CSS Merrimack.
The glory of this route is the ample slickrock riding that circumnavigates a huge rock formation.
One of the first things to know about slickrock riding is that routes are marked by painted white dots.
Following the dots is easy for the most part, but it is necessary to keep one's eyes peeled! The massive expanse of slickrock provides plenty of opportunity to practice step-ups and ledge drops that are not too risky.
In fact, the Monitor-Merrimac loop is widely known as the “easiest” slickrock riding in the Moab area. For view-junky riders, the riding is easy enough and the mileage is short enough to afford plenty of scenic appreciation.
There are “Wow” places aplenty, like the huge rock sitting all by itself, a kind of otherworldly outlier that appears to have been dropped out of the sky.
The route is mostly easy to follow, with carsonite posts marked with a bike icon and arrow.
In the washes before and after the slickrock, there is a place here-and-there that can cause a head-scratching moment, so one should pay attention. After riding Monitor-Merrimac, riders will feel ready to take on some of the more technical routes in the massive Moab mountain bike trail system!