Portal Overlook hike
An incredible hike with stunning views and way less traffic that most of the popular trails in the area. Though it involves more climbing than typical for the region, it is well graded and definitely worth the effort.
Head north from Moab and turn left onto the S 279, just after crossing over the Colorado River. Continue along this highway for 4.0mi until you reach the Jaycee Park campground. This turnoff comes up super fast, so watch out! If you find yourself driving underneath the dozens of climbers at ‘Wall Street’ you’ve gone too far. The trailhead is located opposite the 7 Site campground.
|When to do|
Out and back
Route Description for Portal Overlook
Start the hike just past the large dumpster and hike along the narrow, sandy, single-track path. The trail starts out flat for the first 0.5mi or so, then emerges from the trees and starts to gain elevation quickly. Thankfully, the terrain becomes more pact and easy to walk on as well. Beginning deeper in the canyon, you will backtrack near the roadway you drove in on before gaining enough elevation to leave it behind. You will also be granted great views of the Colorado River as you climb.
As the trail steepens you might start to notice mountain bike tracks. This trail is in fact also a popular mountain bike decent, so watch out for speedsters shredding the incredibly gnarly trail! At times the route can be hard to follow here, but there are plenty of cairns to assist you along the way.
By the halfway point you should be able to see the Le Sal Mountains peaking around behind the opposite canyon walls, looming over the Moab skyline. If you go early enough in the season these mountains can still be snow covered, giving fantastic contrast to the hot and sandy desert you’re currently trudging through. One season we actually got snow on this hike in late April, though that is incredibly rare.
After gaining most of the elevation for the hike, you’ll emerge from the entire Canyon and turn left to continue along the ridge-line. From here the trail seriously narrows. For those scared of heights this might be the turnaround spot. Don’t worry though, the views in the early section of the route are similar to those at the end.
As you close in on the end of the trail you will start to get views looking down into Arches National Park. In the distance you will even be able to make out Balanced Rock pretty clearly. The end of the trail is denoted by a switch from single to double track. Spend some time here to enjoy the enormity of the scenery, as it truly is spectacular for a complete 360 degrees. You will be able to see great planes, dramatic towers, the quaint city of Moab, the Colorado River as well as the La Sal Mountains all from the end point of this hike.
In late summer the canyon walls can give shade to this hike later in the afternoon.
Take breaks in the shade underneath some of the large boulders located along the trail.
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