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Planning a trip to Utah for this summer. Our plan is to base out of Moab and explore Arches, Canyonlands and Capitol Reef parks. Getting around I'm planning on trying to take "scenic" routes as much as possible, but nothing crazy. Mostly gravel roads that actually show up on a higher res paper road map I bought.

The one notable trail I'd really like to do is the Shafer trail to get to Canyonlands from Moab. I'm open to other suggestions for trails as well, but please keep in mind that I'm a novice off roader (lots of gravel driving experience though) and I'll have my family with me.

My main question is would anyone consider skid plates to be a requirement for the Shafer trail and the other driving I'm describing? I'm on stock suspension with Falken Wildpeak A/T tires that match stock tire diameter. Thanks in advance.
 

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Skids are not a horrible idea even if they are not "required"...stuff gets thrown up while driving and there's even a greater chance of that on trails, than on the road.. Honestly, they aren't horrible for on-highway driving either, including in snowy conditions. There's a lot of "stuff" out there we are driving over and throwing around!
 
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Planning a trip to Utah for this summer. Our plan is to base out of Moab and explore Arches, Canyonlands and Capitol Reef parks. Getting around I'm planning on trying to take "scenic" routes as much as possible, but nothing crazy. Mostly gravel roads that actually show up on a higher res paper road map I bought.

The one notable trail I'd really like to do is the Shafer trail to get to Canyonlands from Moab. I'm open to other suggestions for trails as well, but please keep in mind that I'm a novice off roader (lots of gravel driving experience though) and I'll have my family with me.

My main question is would anyone consider skid plates to be a requirement for the Shafer trail and the other driving I'm describing? I'm on stock suspension with Falken Wildpeak A/T tires that match stock tire diameter. Thanks in advance.
Hiya! I've done all of that and more.... but, first and foremost, for off-roading, I strongly suggest ONLY the Primitive Racing skid plates. For brush and forest trails, there's other brands - but I would NOT use anything but Primitive Racing skids in Utah (and I've spent weeks overlanding there to come to that decision, lol).

MOAB...
Shafer Trail
can be done without skid plates, with care, slow speeds and watching what you are doing. I strongly suggest to turn around at the end of Shafer Trail (you won't see a big marker for it - look for a sign on the left that has all the BLM rules and warnings), because, if you continue, you will be on...

...Potash Road - for that, I suggest skid plates. (LOTS of care without them, and you can make it through). It looks like a breeze for most of it, but you will hit washed out and rough areas where you risk damaging your CVT on rocks. BUT, the views on Potash Road are spectacular, including some amazing vantage points overlooking the Colorado River. AIR DOWN for Potash Road.
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BLM378
Also around Arches are things like BLM378, which I suggest skids for, and suggest you skip if it's rained (everything turns to wet clay-like cement glop), but the views and especially the sunsets are stellar...
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Salt Valley Road/BLM145...
Is safe for non-skidded driving, and has some amazing (and free) camping spots all along it. The road is VERY washboarded, so, air down for comfort and bring a portable pump to air back up.
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There are side trails off it, that definitely require skid plates, so, be aware of the terrain if you turn off. One such trail, which I wouldn't take in an Ascent without both skids and a lift is the Tower Arch 4x4 Trail (do NOT take this without a second car with you, and a lift and skids) off Salt Valley Road... this hole is big enough to use as a sofa, and you'd have to drive up and over it.
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The "easy" part goes from steep rock shelves into soupy sand... it's not "easy". This is over 15° and the drop offs get very steep. The sand "incline" at the bottom is actually the flat part.
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Once you move outside of Arches and Canyonlands, right between the two (adjoining both) is...

Gemini Bridges...
Do NOT
attempt Metal Masher Road, if you visit Gemini Bridges - I am not even sure if it's possible with my 2.4" lift and skids (I'll find out August 2022). Stay on Gemini Bridges Road, and be VERY careful, and, you can make it without skids (but I recommend skids, especially if you're newer to off roading and aren't yet the best at picking a line). The views are spectacular...
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PART TWO coming soon...

If you've found this post helpful, and feel like paying it forward, please drop a few bucks on my Make-A-Wish Fundraiser (link in my signature).
 

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One more shot from Gemini Bridges before I move onwards...
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Onto...
Capitol Reef National Park...
There's camping right outside of it, in Fishlake National "Forest", which gives you the most stunning view of Capitol Reef I've ever seen. It is at the southwest corner of Capitol Reef. You probably don't need skids for this if you're careful.
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Cathedral Valley is STUNNING in both diversity and stopping points. It's on the north end - if you travel through the park (road is paved or packed, and if you stay on Cathedral Valley Road, and are careful to NOT do any of the "side quests", it generally doesn't require skids). There is some water wading to be done on it, because Hartnet Road exists in a river bed for part of the length, but the water barely touches the bottom of the car if you don't go during rainy season - so always check crossing conditions first.
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As you can see, interestingly green and wet... and then you head into this equally gorgeous land where you will find abandoned buildings from towns that are no more, as well as Temple of the Sun and the Moon and SOOOO much more..
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ANYWAYS...
I've spent well over thousand miles off-roading, soft-roading and overlanding throughout those areas, as well as other areas in Utah, so, if there's any place else in particular you're interested in, or a place you would like more info about, let me know!!!

Oh, and by the way... this is the "single group" campground at the bottom of Shafer Canyon Trail - if you're camping, it's an amazing spot to rent. There's even a well maintained vault toilet there. Bring weights to stake down the tent though - even though it looks like it's packed dirt/mud, it's actually a rock slab.
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ONE LAST TIP
(for you or anyone doing these for their first times)
Absolutely pay attention to any warning signs they put up about a road being impassable. Most all of these are "rock sand" (pulverized rock) and "clay sand" (exactly what it sounds like), and, if they're wet or holding a lot of water, they are impassable, and even the biggest of 4x4's will get stuck. It's a hefty recovery towing bill once things dry out. And, as for snow, some of the passes and switchbacks are really skinny and get really slippery. So, same thing for snow warnings.
 

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There's a gazillion more pics of the area near the top of my photo gallery (currently near the top), if you want to check them out...
 

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Ok, one more tip... I find Gaia GPS to be indispensable when off roading. It's tough to get lost when it's got almost all the trails. Make sure you pick the right maps (eg: NPS map, Open Maps Geo map, etc), and then download the region. It works great alongside my laminated paper map, since it's often hard to tell where one is when you hit close together trails or intersections.
 

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Nice!!! LOTS of fun, and even more places one can visit!
 

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DARK RED THIN LINE: Park road, paved
RED: need skids (and perhaps lift)
ORANGE: skids would be nice. Be very very careful without
PURPLE: clay sands... truly impassable when wet
GREEN: don't need skids

Lots of rock dust sand and bentonite clay sand, hence the water/wet/rain warning signs you will see.

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Blue circles are some of the better dispersed camping. I have not tried the roads to the northeast. There's places on the southwest area I didn't trace red that require skids and a lift.
 

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Gemini Bridges Road (green route from top right to bottom left) can be done with care... but skid plates would be nice. There are some dicey spots that you need to pick your lines well on.

Arches is directly across Rt 191. Canyonlands is directly south.

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CATHEDRAL VALLEY/CAPITOL REEF
This is the Cathedral Valley loop through Cathedral Valley and northern-ish Capitol Reef. Route 24 is paved to packed dirt. Once you get to the loop, the blue outline and the orange spur are all good without skids, with care.

ALL of the cross trails (not colored in) in that loop are 4x4 trails and should only be done with skids and probably a lift.

There's over 6,000 feet of elevation change, and you'll go from trees and water to desert, with the Bentonite Hills in the first half (Google them to see that bit of beauty). I highly recommend this. Fill your gas tank first, and bring water if you do it during the summer.

It is especially important that you do not attempt this if it's rained, if it's going to rain, or if it's recently rained. The Bentonite Hills are Bentonite Clay.

BUT, that aside, it's well worth it, if the weather works out.

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BENTONITE HILLS, first half of Cathedral Valley Road
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And finally, for anyone looking to adventure in the area, who doesn't have a local friend/guide, I have MANY miles of off road trails mapped. I wish I'd used GAIA on my first run out there in 2019... I probably have 2/3rds this many miles, I could have added to this trail collection from 2021.

Ironic part is, there's STILL a lot more to see (I'll be back in August 2022 to see more)

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Rob, when you have a chance, drop me a PM concerning your August trip. I'd love to join you on one of these adventures and the ONLY way I can make it would be to plan plenty ahead.

The GAIA GPS is an app you use on your phone, or another GPS device?

BTW, THANK YOU for the quantity and QUALITY of information that you share with this group!!!(y)
 

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Thanks for the kind words!

Gaia GPS is an app for iPhone or Android - and also works as a web app on a computer. Probably the best and most comprehensive routing/mapping/maps software I've used for off-roading. When I lead each month's MtnRoo Tri-State adventures, or other trips of my own, I use it to plan, to track routes, to follow routes my friends and I have previously made, etc.
 

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Also, @raymieb just did a Moab trip... there's SO much to see there, so, he may have some tips and cool places to visit as well. Perhaps he can drop some tips and photos here.

And, @8gv are those rentals? If so, any place you'd suggest renting from? And, please, share some pics and spots, if you have any! I'd love to rent something like that, take the Ascent far out into the back country, then basecamp it and head out even farther on one of those.
 

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Is there a rear differential skid plate available for the Ascent? I am not seeing one listed on the Primitive site. I want to get all 3 soon for my soon to be delivered 22.
 

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Is there a rear differential skid plate available for the Ascent? I am not seeing one listed on the Primitive site. I want to get all 3 soon for my soon to be delivered 22.
Yes. Don't get them separately. They almost always have a special if you get all three. Also, I strongly suggest the front lip.

Front skid (select front lip from drop down):

Mid Armor:

Rear Diff:

The front lip does NOT look like the photo on the page. It's been upgraded to be better tapered... looks like this photo by @PWCMedic04
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The discount is automatic. Just add all three at once. $128 off for the combination I added as an example.
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