(Photo Credit: Kaya Lindsay

Springtime in Moab means stellar temperatures for all outdoor activities. It’s warming up, but it’s not too hot yet, and there’s usually a nice breeze keeping you cool when the days get above 80. 

It also rains in the springtime! Rain brings the beautiful wildflowers and transcendent springtime storms. It also makes this dry sandy landscape more malleable and delicate for a few days after it rains. Sandstone is much softer than other stones, and can very easily be worn away by overuse. 

Here are a few things to know before you start recreating on sandstone after it rains!

There are two main sports that you need to take into consideration when it comes to recreating on wet sandstone: Rock Climbing and Mountain Biking

(Photo Credit: Greg Rakozy

Basically, the biggest issue with recreating on wet sandstone is that it can permanently alter the rock and can ruin a trail or a climbing route. Sandstone trails can develop a wet clay-like consistency when wet, which will hold the shape of anything that imprints on them. This means your shoes, your tires, your dog’s footprints, anything can leave a mark. With mountain biking, people are concerned with the tire tread marks digging deep grooves into the sandy mud, which will then leave permanent scars on the trail’s surface. 

Additionally, the wet clay-like mud that forms in Moab will cake itself to your tires and make your ride exceptionally short. 

If you are planning on embarking on a mountain biking adventure in Moab, great! Just make sure you wait a few days after it rains before you start heading out to bike. 

There are several companies in Moab that keep track of the trails and report on them. Poison Spider Bicycles has an active list of trails that are currently closed, and reports on when the trails open again as well! Click here to find out which trails are currently closed

The Facebook group Moab Trail Mix is an organization dedicated to keeping trails in Moab open, maintained, and cared for. They frequently have trail reports and can give updates on when certain trails are too muddy, or just dry enough to enjoy! Check them out, give them a follow and please stay up to date on trail conditions after it rains. 

“Wet clay doesn’t sink back down level with the surface around it. Instead, it tends to retain the shape of whatever it last came into contact with—your shoe, your tire, your dog’s paws. This means that once the trail dries out, that clay is going to harden into that same shape, deforming the trail surface to create ruts.” – NTXtrails.com

(Photo credit: Kaya Lindsay

The other popular recreation activity you want to take into consideration is rock climbing. The climbing in Moab is world-class and brings in people from all over the world. The sandstone cracks that Moab is known for are bullet hard most of the time, but add in a little water and they can deteriorate rapidly. 

Climbing on wet sandstone can be damaging to the climbs, and can even be dangerous to the climbers as wet sandstone can weaken protection placements. 

If you want to watch a terrifying video, someone on YouTube made a compilation of bolts in wet sandstone failing

Primarily, it is considered bad ethics to climb on wet sandstone because of the damage it will do to the climbs. Classic and beautiful lines can be ruined for everyone if the climbers involved make the decision to climb on wet sandstone. It’s important for all of us to remember that these climbs exist beyond our experience of them, and the climbers that come after us deserve to enjoy their undamaged beauty. 

“Climbing on wet sandstone can forever alter the rock and cause gear placements to fail. Always wait 24–48 hours after a rain to climb on sandstone to avoid damaging the rock and risking weak gear placements. Desert rock can be damaged forever to be absolutely sure the rock is dry before climbing.” – Access Fund 

(Photo Credit: Kaya Lindsay

In conclusion, if you are new to the area (or even if you’re not!) please don’t recreate on wet sandstone. Make sure you check which trails are open before you mountain bike and wait for at least 24-48 hours to climb after it has rained. The delicate nature of the rock out here is part of why the landscape is so beautiful. The rock has been altered by millions of years of rain and water and formed bizarre shapes like Delicate Arch

It is our responsibility as individuals who love this desert environment to keep the trails in good working order and to climb and bike responsibly. 

A Note on Kindness 

(Photo Credit: Kaya Lindsay

Many people who come to Moab simply don’t know that recreating on wet sandstone is rude and unsafe. If you see someone riding their mountain bike, or setting out to go climbing, please educate them respectfully. Shouting, yelling, or name-calling is not helpful or necessary. You can direct them to any of the sources linked in this article, such as the Access Fund, or Poison Spider Bicycles, and send them on their way. At Moab Gear Trader, we want to make sure everyone is getting out and enjoying the recreation opportunities in Moab–and safety and respect go hand in hand. 

Additionally, if you are a visitor to the area and someone lets you know about local ethics, please respond with kindness. We understand that it might be your one vacation for the year, but this environment will be here for much longer than you will, please treat it with respect and care! And remember that the desert is special because we protect it, rainy days are beautiful in their own way, and they don’t have to ruin your trip if you are creative.

(Photo Credit: Kaya Lindsay

Thanks for reading and we look forward to seeing you in our store very soon!