Trail Report: Onion Creek Canyon & Rose Garden Hill [UTAH]

October 15, 2013

One of my favorite aspects of running trails in Moab is that you can (usually) leave the doors off.  Our jeep did not see doors the entire week.

But, this morning was a 6AM departure and a pretty long drive along the Colorado River.  It was freezing.  Some of the most beautiful scenery I have experienced in a long time.  But freezing.

Route 128 follows the Colorado River for most of it’s length.
The morning light was amazing off the canyon walls.

We continued on Route 128 East.  After about 40 minutes, the road left the canyon and the river, opening up into a huge desert plateau.  We pulled off onto Onion Creek Road where we made a quick bathroom break and to air down.

Onion Creek Road is more of a forest service road.  It was recently impacted by flash flooding and heavy rains, and we encountered work crews trying to restore the road and the creek.  We counted at least 30 creek crossings, but have since heard the road repairs have drastically reduced that number.

The road took us deeper into the canyon, where we were surrounded by amazing views and harrowing canyons.

The canyons seemed bottomless as we navigated through.

We stopped for one final break, on the floor of the canyon.  Surrounded by steep, jagged walls, the rush of Onion Creek, and beautiful deciduous trees that thrived along the water.

Onion Creek flowing through the canyon.

It was time to start climbing.

After about 1,000 feet of climbing and ridge running, the terrain gave way to a breathtaking expanse of alpine, desert meadow surrounded by jagged rock formations and mountains.

The massive alpine meadow and distant formations where the formidable Rose Garden Hill awaits.

The trail narrowed, became rockier, and more of a trail than a road.  After some brief route finding, we were on our way to the famous “Rose Garden Hill,” a 1/4 mile uphill, rocky beast peppered with ledges, stairs, and other evils.

The trail with Rose Garden Hill looming in the distance (that vertical line in the center, far away).

When we finally made it to RGH, it took us 4 hours to make the 1/4 mile jaunt.  Every rig had to winch, save for one that made it (albeit on the “tippy” option) on it’s own.  There was a ledge that somehow, snagged all of us, ending in a high centered situation.  A 4″ winch tug was all it took to get us over it.

Roy, caught on the same ledge as the rest of us.

With all that time on our hands, I managed to not take any photos.  We were all helping winch, build road, and spot.  So, below are a few stills I took from some GoPro footage of the section.

I could have sworn my line selection was the better one. I was wrong.
It was a winchfest.

Eventually, we were back on the trail.  Our side trip to “Top of the World” would have to wait for another day as the sun was dipping lower and lower.

After a brief desert rain shower and some high speed forest road driving, we were soon back to Highway 128 for another long and freezing drive home.

Who knew the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow was a 2 Door JK!?
The long descent back to Highway 128.
Our Jeep group heading home (see the Jeeps?).

test-nr-banner_2WHAT CAME IN HANDY:



6 thoughts on “Trail Report: Onion Creek Canyon & Rose Garden Hill [UTAH]”

    1. Thanks Patrick! I must have been respooling my winch and didn’t see the second make it up. Thanks for the clarification!


  1. Fun road. Those shelfs will get you. When I was there we were all going down so no winching needed. Still took a few hours with a group of ten LandCruisers (3 with trailers).


  2. Thanks Andrew. It is a really fun road. I am interested to learn more about your trailering as I am building an M416 for an exped trailer. Looking to hit Rubicon and Moab again in 2014, as well as some new areas.


  3. My friend Sean was the driver and the builder. His review of building the trailer is here:×4/review/dinoot-offroad-trailer-review-53728.html

    I was along for the adventure and to make some photos and learn more about the trails. I drive a stock xterra currently and am doing all the trails I can with it (and there are many) before I build it out or switch to a Jeep or Landcruiser platform. I’m working on a blog post about the Rose Garden Hill trail for my blog. Hopefully posted in the next couple of weeks (


    1. Andrew – Thanks for the link. I have a friend with a stock Xterra, thinking about joining us in Moab next year. Do you find that it does OK?


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