the maze from millard bottom

The boat and bike.

Solo Maze trip, with a twist.

During a spring 2014 outing to that certain remote part of Canyonlands I combined three non-motorized ways of travel, namely mountain biking, packrafting and hiking. While it sounds complicated at first it turned out remarkably simple both in planning and execution. This was important as I, as usual, conceived the idea to this trip some 36 hours before setting out.


On the river side of the Maze, there’s only one spot where a road leads all the way down to the water: the mouth of Millard Canyon on the Green. It’s directly across from the White Rim road in the Island in the Sky district, near a spot where this road also dips down close to the river.


Seeing a potential back door to the Maze not needing 4×4 wheels, jet boats or a long commute to Hans Flat I packed up the bike with some light bivy gear, 3 days of food and a 5 pound Alpacka raft and pedaled out the White Rim. Nearly 10 miles upstream of Millard I launched the boat with the bike and everything and leisurely drifted with the current.


At around noon on day one I pulled up on the beach at Millard and began the 25 mile ride to the Maze Overlook. The huge terrain out here, this early in the year, had a very remote feel to it. It was obvious no vehicles had ventured this far out yet for the 2014 season.


Storm cells, headwind and crusty sand made for a taxing ride. At sundown amidst sprinkles I got to camp and quickly dipped below the rim to a secure rock shelter, out of the wind. Had a beautiful evening and excellent sleep.


A bright clear morning on day 2 was ideal for a loop hike into the Maze involving the super fun descent down from the Overlook, the ridge near Pete’s Mesa, Chimney Rock and Pictograph Canyon. 13 miles later, with fresh water from the abundant springs in the canyons I was back at camp for a modest lunch and nap, then relocated my camp to the top of the Golden Stairs, with its far ranging views of the Fins, Ernie’s Country and the benches ultimately leading to Hite.


The third and last day started with mare’s tails, strong gusts and shortly followed by building darkness to the west. Ahead of me I had a long cruise back to the boat, but hoping for at least partial tailwinds I decided to spend a few hours first descending the Golden Stairs trail and visiting Lou’s spring on the outskirts of the complex Fins area. Unable to completely relax, with an eye constantly to the sky, I rushed this amazing hike leading to an area worthy of many days.


Back up I cleared out before 11 and pedaled non stop for 3.5 hours to arrive at the Green in complete overcast, ominous conditions. Relieved to find the raft not absolutely destroyed by pack rats (a worry that stressed me out most of the ride back!!) I recrossed the river and rode the White Rim back to the car. That evening it rained hard over the entire region. Over the span of three days I saw just two jolly backpackers at the Harvest Scene.


For full disclosure I should remark that although I secured a permit for this trip, I was later contacted by the NPS and told that it is illegal to move a bike on the river. Whether this obscure rule is in fact in the regulation book or merely a misinterpretation by an office bound ranger remain to be discovered


All photos with a GoPro Hero 2.



A minor defile below the Buttes of the Cross


Rock shelter bivy


Water in the desert!!!


If there’s a cairn there’s probably a way.


Moki steps


More fun Maze mazing.


This catwalk would have freaked me out with a heavy pack along.


The incredible Lou’s spring, unfortunately marred by the bizarre tragedy of last year. Thankfully I had forgot about it until returning.


Golden Stairs tarp camp.


The bike, a Surly Krampus. Socalled mid fat technology.


Golden Stairs trail, a hard to follow jumble of broken rock and debris zig zagging down thru layers of sandstone. On the map marked as 1.3 miles but gps’ed at 2.2


China Neck


Yes that little thing of a mere 5 lbs can haul a full size mtb and do class 4 (with an optional spray deck)

2 thoughts on “the maze from millard bottom

  1. Mark Gall March 26, 2016 / 10:30 pm

    I’m a retired law enforcement ranger, who has never worked in Canyonlands. As I own an older Nunatak quilt (which I’ve used in over 15 third world countries in South America and Asia), I just read about your Canyonlands trip. I’m familiar with NPS regulations though, and wanted to give you my take on your question of taking a bicycle on the river. Bear in mind that I’m not at all taking sides here; I’m just telling you what the regs say. NPS regulations come basically from 36 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR), and other criminal regs from the U.S. Code. Some CFR regs are Park specific, and that is where you find the bicycle prohibition. It’s under the Compendium part of 36 CFR 1.7(b). For Island In the Sky District (I assume that is where you are speaking of) it states:
    “Vehicle travelers and bicyclists are required to stay on designated roads at all times.”
    That would mean that you cannot take a bicycle on the river, regardless of you riding it or not. Bicycles are in the same group as motorcycles and 4 wheel vehicles, so you couldn’t take a small motorcycle with you either. The law is written like that because your use of the bicycle cannot be controlled in many places. Parks I worked at had similar regulations. By the way, when I walked around Annapurna mountain in Nepal several years go, I met a guy from India who CARRIED his bike + pack up over the 17,500 foot pass (Annapurna is about 26,000+ feet), and rode it when he could. I thought my wife and I were carrying a lot, as most people hire porters to carry their pack; we carried our own stuff.
    Take Care
    Mark Gall


    • nunatak admin March 27, 2016 / 2:32 pm

      Hope that Nunatak bag will go to many more exotic locales.

      Good job on hauling packs around Annapurna. While it is not any more difficult than the JMT, except for the altitude, it certainly is not the norm.

      Thanks for clarifying the rules. I was likely in the wrong doing this, and should probably remove the post.

      One reason I did not look into the regulations prior is related to my other work: a local bike touring company, where I am regularly employed, hold a permit allowing us to ride to a remote part of the river inside the CANY. Here a jet boat pick up the guests and their bikes and carry them, via maybe 15 NPS controlled river miles back to Moab.

      With your background I am curious if you have any input? Probably commercial and special use permits include privileges not available to regular visitors, however damaging to the resources they might be.

      Which parks did you work in?


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