Utah’s Five Miles of Hell
Well, it’s been almost twenty years since I first rode across the Five Miles of Hell on that 1994 FanticKRoo and wrote this story.  I recently crossed it again for my 59th birthday on October 26, 2013 on my Scorpa.  I think this was the Scorpa’s 5th time across there and once again it performed great and crossed over and back again unscathed.  I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone on bikes other than Trials bikes cross it both ways on the same day. Since I’ve been across it more than a dozen times now across since 1995, I figure it’s about time for an update.


The Five Miles of Hell is probably one of the most awesome single track motorcycle trails in the U.S.  A misconception is that the trail was originally designed to be a Mountain Bike trail, but 5MOH expert John Weiss actually cornered the trail pioneer, Dick Brass who told him the 5MOH trail was conceived to connect the Lone Man Wash Trail to the Red Trail, so motorcycle riders wouldn’t have to ride the mining road all the way around the top.It quickly became a favorite motorcycle trail because of its beauty, difficulty and level of fun.  On any given weekend in the spring or fall you can find dozens of Enduro type machines crossing the Five Miles of Hell, and although a handful of advanced to expert mountain bikers do occasionally try to ride the trail, I’ve only seen two and they weren’t having much fun as one of the bikes was broken.Most of the time you’ll be carrying a mountain bike as there are a few sand washes in the bottom of the canyons that have to be negotiated.

The 5MOH is best enjoyed on a Trials motorcycle as this trail is what Trials bikes are all about.  During our last crossing, we met a group of Enduro riders working on a broken bike.  We wished them our best then carried on as there wasn’t much we could do to help them.  They watched us ride away, then once they got the bike running, took the first bail out they could find.  They had no idea that the Trail would be as intense as it was.It was obvious to them though, after seeing how much easier we were riding it on our Trials bikes than they were on their Enduro bikes, that Trials bikes are the ticket on the 5MOH.

Actually the 5MOH trail is right at nine miles across.  Guys who fly (like iron man John Weiss) can cross it in 2.5 hours, but most of us mere mortals usually take 3 hours to cross it one way on a Trials bike.  Some riders can cross it faster, but it’s best to go slow and enjoy the spectacular scenery that is found there.  I’ve often ridden across it, have lunch then ride it backwards.  You want to make sure that you are up to it if you decide to ride it both ways.The trail is a whole new experience going back across.  For those who have had enough after the initial trip across, there is a return trail (used to be an old mining road) that goes around the top of the 5MOH from the far side that will take you back to the trail head.  Like the 5MOH trial, it is a single track trail.  ATV’s, Jeeps, etc. are not allowed on either the 5MOH trail or the return trail around the top.

If you decide that the trail is too much for you, as more than a few riders have found out in a hurry, there are three bail out trails (marked in green on the map below) that will take you from the 5MOH trail to the return trail.  The 5MOH crosses lands managed by the BLM and it is important that riders stay on the marked trail to ensure that it, and trails like it, stay open for us to enjoy.  The trail is marked with white paint dashes painted on the rock.  If you can, try not to ride on the paint marks to keep from scuffing them off.


The 5MOH Trail head
Notice the pile of broken bike parts paying homage to the keepers of the 5MOH

The 5MOH is not for the faint of heart.  It is a rigorous, demanding trail and should only be attempted by experienced riders.  A rider that is not able to ride comfortably in the WTA’s Sportsman class (our third hardest) should probably not attempt the 5MOH.  Even those riders may need help occasionally on some of the harder parts of the trail.  You wouldn’t want to take your ten year old kid across there on an 80cc bike.  Beginner and Novice riders probably should pass on this one.  It is best to go your first time with someone who has been across before as it is easy to lose the painted marks on the rocks, and if one were to get lost it would be virtually impossible to find another route out.  The 5MOH is also not a trail that a rider should tackle alone, which is only common sense.   Over the years, many of the harder parts of the 5MOH, such as the wall that many call “The Crux” and the dreaded “Slot” have become even more difficult.


These are three different views of the wall known as “The Crux”, a series of ledges that have gotten rougher over the years.  There’s no easy lines. Andy (on the left) took the hardest line…right up the middle!


These three pics are of “The Slot”. The slot is actually about two thirds across riding from west to east.
Going east bound you go down it.  Going west you have to go up it!
     So what should you take on your journey across the 5MOH?
1st…your machine should be in good operating order.  You should do everything you can to ensure that your bike is ready and prepared to tackle one of the toughest single track trails you’ll ever encounter.  Make sure your tires and brakes are good.  Trials tires work best, even on the Enduro type machines as 95% of your riding will be on rock.  There are a few short sand gully runs that you’ll have to make to get from one access down a canyon to the next access up.   I run about 7 pounds of air in mine, front and rear to help from getting pinch flats.   Knobby tires with thirty pounds of air do not work well on the slick rock.  They just tear things up.  Be aware…there are only two ways to get a broken bike out of the 5MOH.  Piece by piece on your back, or you can lift it out by helicopter.  You won’t be able to push your bike out, well you could if you had two weeks and twenty guys to help, and your buddy’s bike can’t pull your bike out.  So make sure your bike is as good as you can make it before you start.


2nd…if you take a Trials bike, you’ll need to take extra gas.  Over the years we’ve discovered two extra quarts (ok two liters now days) of gas are sufficient to ensure that you can complete the ride the trail over and back.  In the past, I carried the two liters of fuel in a two liter pop bottle in a back pack.  They are tough, don’t leak, can survive a fall without splitting open and can hold enough to ensure that you can get across …and back, plus once they are empty they can be crushed to be easily hauled out and weigh next to nothing.  Some riders take two or three smaller bottles instead of one big one.  If your bike requires premix, make sure you’ve added the right amount of oil.  In recent trips across the 5MOH however, I have decided that the less that I have to carry on my back…the better.  Like I said, this is a rigorous trail, and even a single liter pop bottle of gas will start feeling like it weighs fifty pounds before long.  So, now days I carry as little as possible in the back pack.  Instead, after seeing what some of the other guys are using, I too have come up with a carrier that carries the fuel on my front forks where my front number plate goes.  Mine is pretty simple, made of two old number plates sandwiched together on which are mounted two aluminum bicycle water bottle carriers.  Some guys carry a single 1 liter bottle.  I now carry my gas in two 1 liter aluminum bottles. They don’t weigh much more than a plastic jug and are reuseable.  The neoprene beer can holders help keep them from jarring around on the rough trail.  Either way works, but these are the two options that we use.


The pic on the left is how I carry two, one liter bottles of gas.  On the right shows John with one, two liter bottle.

3rd…like your bike, your body requires fluid too.  Temperatures on the 5MOH can easily top triple digits during the summer.  That’s one of the reasons why spring and fall are best, when it’s cooler.  Just as you took two liters of fluid for your bike, two liters of fluid (I take 50/50 Gatorade/water) for your bod are the minimum I’d take too.  If you have a CamelBak type of hydration backpack with big pockets it can carry the gas bottles too if you decide to go that route.  Only take what you’ll need.  Like I said, the less you have to carry on your back, the more you’ll enjoy the trip.  I’ve been across it before when I had so much crap in my backpack, I was exhausted before I got to the first big wall climb.  You’ll know which one I mean when you get there.


Those who have ridden the 5MOH will recognize this as the first wall climb when riding from west to east.  This is where a lot of lesser experienced riders turn around.   The camera really flattens it out!
4th…It takes normal riders about three hours to cross the 5MOH one way.  So it takes almost a full day to cross the 5MOH both ways, and in the spring and fall the days are shorter, so get an early start. We usually ride it in October and try to leave the parking area at10:00 am. You should also take some sort of lunch and snacks such as power bars as usually we ride the trail across, have lunch in the gully on the other side, then ride it back across.  Like I said, it’s a little easier going back, plus your load will be lighter, but you’ll till have to climb up through that nasty crack and then go down some of those miserable ledges that gave you fits when you had to go up them in the morning.


5th…it’s wise to take whatever tools or emergency equipment you might think you would need, however, if there are half a dozen guys going, there’s no need to have six tire pumps.  Often riders get together and divide up much of these things so that one rider doesn’t have to carry everything.  Spread out the tools among the riders to keep things light as possible.   Some things to consider are: spare spark plug, tire plugs, patches, tire irons, air pump, and specific repair tools.  ALWAYS carry matches and or a butane lighter such as aBic lighter.  Some guys also carry a personal two-way radio.  Make sure you are on the same channel that everyone else is on before you leave the pits.  Don’t assume that someone else is going to have the stuff that you may need to get your bike going again.  We’ve never lost anyone down in there yet, but we do know of a couple of mountain bikers (the only two I’ve ever seen in there in ten years) with a broken bicycle who most likely spent the night down there in the trail as they were about half way across when we came up on them and it was getting late.

6th…take time to enjoy the ride.  This is not a race.  It’s a trail ride across some of the most spectacular scenery you will ever see.  Very few people will ever have the chance to see what you will have the opportunity to see.  You could hike across the trial, but it would take two or three days to get across it and back, so we’ve never EVER seen any hikers down in there, and the trial would flat kill a horse, so you won’t see any of them down in there either.  It can be crossed by mountain bike, but in all the times I’ve ridden it I’ve only seen two and like I said one of those was broke.
Here’s a video I found on You Tube of some guys crossing it on Trials bikes a couple of weeks after we did that will give you an good idea of what’s instore for you!  As you can see, it’s quite a trail even on the Trials bikes!


Follow the trail, or you’re lost!  There’s no other way across!
Rob (on the left) carries his fuel and a terrific camera in his pack
Lunch at Lone Man Wash at the east side gully Trailhead


7th….keep an eye on your buddies.  Some riders may need a little help on some of the tougher parts of the trail.  Some riders tire more quickly than others.  And it’s wise to keep the group together.  There are always some guys who will want to race out ahead.  That’s fine, but they miss what the trail is all about.

8th…Take the time to enjoy.  Bring a camera.  You are one of the handful that will ever see the beauty and experience the fun of the 5MOH.

9th…Thanks to Rob Norbutt, Steve Moosman, and John Weiss for their GREAT pics of the 5MOH!