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Packraft Canyoneering and Mt Biking !!!

• Medieval Chamber Packrafting (Easy-Mod)
• The "Pedal, Paddle, Pedal" (Moderate)


As you can imagine, there are many wonderful canyons out there situated far from the convenience of a road. Some of these canyons descend into larger canyons which contain rivers, large creeks or some other body of water. Often these waterways allow - even require - the use of a boat to traverse. What to do when the canyon you just rappelled down ends up at such a watery terminus? You inflate your packraft, of course!

Packrafts are ultra-lightweight, ultra-durable one person rafts. They weigh less than five pounds and pack down into a neat package not much bigger than a loaf of bread. Four-piece, collapsable paddles - weighing in at only 28-ounces - fit neatly in the sides of a pack and provide the necessary propulsion while on the water. Though small and extremely lightweight, these boats aren't pool toys. They are extremely durable, highly manueverable, high quality watercraft designed for whitewater and remote regions. We use the finest packrafts available, made by a small company called Alpacka Raft in the San Juan Mountains of Colorado.

In addition to being great tools for canyoneering, packrafts also can be coupled with mountain bikes to create amazing, self-supported "pedal and paddle" explorations of Moab's legendary bike trails and rivers.

Packrafts make many of the impossible canyons and rides possible. And not only do they make them possible, they make them tons of fun! Combining canyoneering and rafting to accomplish a singular goal of exploring a beautful canyon is one of the most fun, most rewarding days you can have in the backcountry.

If you're looking for a unique, beautiful and exciting day of adventure in the backcountry, join us for a day of packraft canyoneering or packraft mountain biking!

Packrafting on the Colorado River
Desert Highlights Logo
50 East Center St.
PO Box 1342
Moab, Utah 84532
(800) 747-1342
(435) 259-4433
www.deserthighlights.com
info@deserthighlights.com


Gallery of Medieval Chamber & Packraft Trip Images
Like torture? Look elsewhere, because the Medieval Chamber & Packraft trip is a very pleasant adventure into one of the area's finest canyons... If this is starting to sound familiar it's because this wonderful day begins with a descent down into the same breathtaking Medieval Chamber found on our One Day Canyoneering Adventures page. However, upon reaching the end of this half-day canyon jaunt, rather than drive back into town and say our goodbye's at lunchtime, we head straight out to the Colorado River and spend the second half of our day with fabulous whitewater packrafting!

Medieval Chamber is Moab's classic half day canyoneering outing. The canyon has two distinct sections. The lower canyon is lush, with a clear running stream and a massive natural arch. The canyon's upper reaches are bounded by an awesome array of petrified sand dunes. Connecting these two sections, well.....gets interesting. You see, situated halfway along the canyon's journey to the Colorado River lie two of the most spectacular rappels found anywhere on Mother Earth. The first seems to journey right into the very heart of her. The second reminds you that she is a very exciting and beautiful woman.

After a short hike from the trailhead we reach the route's namesake feature, a deep vertical shaft of sandstone creating the first drop. Indeed, from above it looks ominous and, you're now thinking, well named. After a few minutes of discussing gear and technique you'll clip into the rope and peer over the edge, the light of day obscures your view of what awaits at the bottom. You immerse yourself into its darkness. The overhanging walls and smooth sandy floor of this well-hidden grotto become apparent once your eyes adjust. At the bottom you'll probably think you're in a different world than the others still at the top. You'll probably also think that the rappel wasn't as terrifying as you thought it'd be! Behind you, the Keyhole, a subtle and narrow passageway, provides escape from the Chamber's seemingly exitless confines.

Once all down, we continue on and are soon presented with a very interesting scenario. The massive Morning Glory Arch - despite being the sixth longest arch in the world - is discreetly shoehorned into the canyon and we quickly find ourselves level with the top of the 243' long span. The canyon floor plummets 100 feet below. Since we've just pulled our ropes at the Chamber, there's no way out but to rappel and this rappel is one of the most spectacular in the Moab area. As we walk out on the middle of the arch it becomes obvious that there are no anchors on top. Hmm. Time to find a partner! Next, we'll simply drape the rope over the arch and you and your trusting partner simultaneously rappel off opposite sides and counterweight one another! Yep, that's correct. Well, there's more to it than that, of course, but we'll discuss details in the canyon :) Needless to say, it's an amazing rappel in a truly spectacular setting.

Below this awesome span a lively spring gushes transforming the canyon from a dry, shallow-walled slickrock valley to a deep redrock gorge carpeted with lush colorful plantlife. A pleasant one hour down Negro Bill Canyon brings us to our awaiting shuttle vehicle. From here we grab our Alpacka packrafts and drive upriver a few minutes for a half-day of whitewater fun on the Colorado River!

Gallery of Medieval Chamber & Packraft Trip Images
We'll have a delicious, well-earned lunch along the river's edge and relax a bit while learning all about the wonders of packrafts and river safety from your guide. Then it's time to inflate your packraft and hit the water! Now before we get underway we should talk a bit about something river runners call the "put-in." Put-ins are typically convenient locations along a river where you can drive a large truck towing a trailer laden with heavy rafts. These put-ins are often comprised of maintained concrete or dirt ramps where you back up, drag, slide and heave these rubber behomoths off the trailer and into the water. One of first things that becomes apparent in the world of packrafting is that the common idea of a put-in is "deep sixed" - that's another river runner term meaning "tossed out." With a boat weighing less than five pounds you quickly realize there's simply no need for concrete ramps nor vehicle access. You pretty much launch wherever you want. So on this particular outing we'll park the shuttle vehicle (ie, large truck) near the finest rapid along this stretch of the Colorado River and head off on foot a short distance along the riverbank and put in wherever looks good. If you're looking for major excitement right away, you can put-in at the top of the rapid and enjoy the ride. Feeling a little timid and wanting to get a few strokes of mellower water before tackling some waves? Then put-in just below the rapid. Now here's one of the many real beauties of the packraft - once you've ran this rapid or paddled the calm below the storm, you can paddle to shore, lift your five pound boat on your shoulder and simply carry it back upstream for another run. We'll run this one till we get our fill then, eventually, continue downstream. While the river below this rapid mellows a bit it still contains some fantastic little rapids that can be avoided if desired. Packrafts are extremely maneuverable and the Colorado River's channel is wide, so you can pick and choose just how mild or wild you'd like your ride to be. There is a road paralleling this stretch of river, so just as there are no limitations on where we can put in, there are no restrictions on where we can "take out."

This is one of the most enjoyable trips in the Moab area, especially in the hot summer months when being on the water in the afternoon is a real blessing. The day's awesome technical challenges in the canyon and the fun whitewater on the river make it a very unique and memorable adventure.


Medieval Chamber & Packraft

Big, Dramatic Rappels and Easy Hiking - mixed with a dash of some great whitewater packrafting!


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Price: $160/person + 7.85% tax. 10% discount if trip has three or more people.

Length: 7 to 8 hours roundtrip from Moab (includes 60 minutes round-trip driving time). Trips depart at 8:00 AM. Trips depart 7:00 AM in June, July and August.

Season: All year

Physical Difficulty: Easy

Technical Difficulty: Moderate

Rappels: 2 - (90ft/27m, 100ft/30m)

Rapids: 3 - (up to Class II/III)

Total Hiking Distance: 3mi/2km

Total Canyon Descent: 626ft/191m

Min & Max Elevation: 4196ft/1279m & 4659ft/1420m


The Pedal Paddle Pedal is destined to become one of the most classic mountain biking and packrafting trips in the West. The legendary Green River and its beautiful side canyons provide both a peaceful and exciting venue for this unforgettable day of exploring some very remote backcountry.

Gallery of Pedal Paddle Pedal Trip Images

Our day starts bright and early with a very enjoyable downhill mountain bike ride along the mesa top high above the Green River gorge. Easy, carefree pedaling soon leads to the rim of Spring Canyon, a very deep and rugged tributary of the Green. A spectacular dirt road carved into the sheer walls of Spring Canyon switchback down, down, down into the depths of one of the prettiest canyons around Moab. This old road was blasted out over 50 years ago to access the rich deposits of uranium located in the lower end of the canyon. The mine sites have long since been abandoned and the dead-end road largely forgotten. Solitude, peace and quiet reign down here. The road rolls and weaves gently along the canyon floor amidst tall stands of cottonwood trees and sheer 500 foot high sandstone walls. The awe-inspiring scenery often steals our attention away from the task of watching the road ahead!

The exhilirating downhill ride quickly brings us to the lonely junction of Spring Canyon and the Green River. It's here where we enter the magnificent Labyrinth Canyon carved by the Green River. The road veers to follow along the river's edge downstream for another couple of miles. Lush (by desert standards!), pastoral expanses of sagebrush meadows along the river provide scentful, bucolic riding. In many ways the ride down Spring Canyon and along the river is reminiscent of sections of the nearby - and more famous - White Rim Trail in Canyonlands National Park. Soon we reach the road's terminus and prepare for the next chapter of our journey.

At road's end we'll get off the bikes and relax a bit in this calm canyon setting. Taking the rolled up packrafts and disassembled paddles out of our backpacks seems an unlikely step here. While most folks are familiar with mountain biking, not many are familiar with packrafting. After all, who mountain bikes with rafts in their packs!? The unique brilliance of this trip really begins to take shape here as we inflate our rafts on a sandy bench by the river.We'll spend some time here discussing the fine art of mountain bike packrafting; how the boats inflate, how to lash the bikes to the raft and how to get in, get out and get on with our river journey. It's such a simple and beautiful thing, so much so you'll probably want to order up one of these boats as soon as you get home!

Floating peacefully down the Green River now, we'll look an odd sight. With bike frames, stacked wheels and backpacks strapped high on the front of our rafts you may wonder how this awkward combo can be stable on the water. The wonderful thing about your raft's unlikely cargo is that it actually helps to balance the packraft. These boats are so light that the bike's weight on the bow nicely offsets your body's weight, which is predominately situated at the stern. These boats actually perform better when burdened with your bike! Several lazy river miles lay between us and the nearest road downriver - nine to be exact. Within those miles is some of the most incredible, true wilderness scenery Labyrinth Canyon has to offer. There are no roads to be found, no noisy vehicles or crowds. Just quiet wilderness. Several beautiful side canyons flow into the Green, including Two Mile and Horseshoe. Precarious towers of sandstone soar high above us on either side. I'm gonna stop describing things here, because - simply put - it's next to impossible to find the words to describe the surrounding beauty.

Gallery of Pedal Paddle Pedal Trip Images

As the day progresses, the changing shadows on the canyon walls become our timepiece. Without a care, we'll eventually find ourselves rounding the bend with the gaping mouth of Hellroaring Canyon coming into view. Two massive isolated towers of sandstone stand guard at its entrance. A faint jeep road along the river's edge is barely discernable here. We'll ferry over to solid ground and pull our boats up the sandy riverbank. In no time we'll have our wheels back on the bikes, rafts rolled and stowed and on our merry mountain biking way on our last leg of the journey. But not without a stop at one of the more interesting historic inscriptions found on any of the miles of sandstone cliffs in southern Utah. Denis Julian, a French fur trapper, etched his name along with a curious image of a sailboat near the mouth of Hellroaring Canyon. Of course, there are many such etchings found in the southwest. The mysterious, ubiquitous images of the Anasazi culture, over a thousand years old, are found all over the area. And evidence of the early pioneers who scratched a living, and their names, along these canyon walls are sprinkled here and there. But Denis Julian was special. His inscription is dated 1836, long after the Anasazi abandoned the area and long before the Mormon pioneers arrival. Who was this man? Many think that he was the first white man to visit this area. Another of Julian's inscriptions lies further downriver in Cataract Canyon, suggesting many to believe he was - not only the first white man in the area - but the first to make a full descent of the Green and Colorado rivers in a boat, more than 30 years prior to John Wesley Powell's historic "first descent" of these rivers in 1869. Perhaps the distinction is important to only a handful of regional historians, but it's just one more fascinating mystery still unsolved in the history of exploration of the American West.

A few fun miles of riding down this trail soon leads to our journey's end at Mineral Bottom. Still within the massive depths of Labyrinth Canyon, this is where we meet our shuttle vehicle and enjoy, in the comfort of our van, a truly spectacular ascent of the Mineral switchbacks. Yet another product of the uranium mining boom days of the 1940's, these switchbacks lead us out of the confines of Labyrinth Canyon and back to a well-deserved shower and beverages in Moab.

In retrospect you'll find it very difficult to define which segment of the day was the highlight. Each segment of this amazing journey - the descent down Spring Canyon, the riverside riding, the Green River float, the Hellroaring Canyon trail - would be an incredible day on its own. Put together, however - and astonishingly all in a day's time - these segments collectively make up one of the finest adventures you'll experience...


The Pedal, Paddle, Pedal

Breathtaking Mountain Bike & Packraft Journey into the Green River Wilderness


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Price: $240/person + 7.85% tax. 10% discount if trip has three or more people. Additional $40 discount if you provide your own bike.

Length: 10 to 12 hours roundtrip from Moab (includes 2 hours of extremely scenic and dramatic round-trip driving time). Trips depart at 7:00 AM.

Season: Year Round

Physical Difficulty: Easy to Moderate

Technical Difficulty: Moderate

Rapids: None; A very scenic float through an amazing wilderness canyon

Total Distance: 12mi/19km biking and 9mi/14km of packrafting


 


Costs are based upon a two person minimum (four for the Music/Muddy) unless otherwise noted (10% discount on groups of three or more and repeat guests; minumum of five for the 10% discount on the Music/Muddy trip) and include all National Park fees and all necessary technical gear (harnesses, ropes, helmets, packs, drysuits, wetsuits, etc).

Check out our Frequently Asked Questions page to help you decide on trips and what to bring.


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