Rider: Mike De La Rosa. Photo: Greg Heil
The cold blast of a winter storm’s leading edge stung our faces as we dropped into Eagle Eye, one of Moab’s newest mountain bike trails, but even the impending weather couldn’t wipe the smiles away. Narrow, flowy singletrack swooped down the mountainside, funneling into Moab’s iconic slickrock slabs. We dropped into short, steep rock rolls, looking for optional hucks and drops at every opportunity.
To connect from Eagle Eye to Falcon Flow, we popped out onto the chunky Porcupine Rim 4×4 road, blasting off of endless ledge drops polished smooth by the passage of OHVs. Jeep Week was just getting underway, and a band of gas guzzlers was slowly inching its way up the mountain. “There’s 35 of us,” shouted one spotter. “You’ve got time for a sandwich.”
Maybe enough time for a sandwich, but I’d rather not spend an hour on the side of the trail twiddling my thumbs while retirees in exorbitantly priced toys crawl uphill slower than I can walk. Instead, we hopped on our rigs and wove our way between the Jeeps, hucking ledges in front of metal fenders and railing wall rides up and around their trail-hogging oversized tires.
Falcon Flow got us away from the Jeep traffic and cranked the swoopiness up to 11! Moab’s version of a flow trail doesn’t have berms or jumps, but the artfully crafted trail tread does indeed swoop and flow down the mountainside. A few of the sculpted corners have a slightly banked trail tread, but due to the lack of soil to use in trail construction, they aren’t quite worthy of being labeled as “berms.”
The trail transitioned through several zones, from exposed mountainside to pinon forest to grasslands, offering up breathtaking views the entire way… if you can tear your eyes away from the trail. While we tried to take in the vistas, Falcon Flow just begged us to keep pedaling and railing corners, the miles flying by in a rush. Even when a few short climbs punctuated the descent, they were over quickly, and it was back to ripping.
A New Finish to One of the World’s Best Mountain Bike Rides
At the time of this writing in Spring 2022, the Eagle Eye and Falcon Flow trails are the newest significant addition to the Moab mountain bike trail network and together are known as the “Raptor Route.” The Raptor Route serves as a new finish to the iconic Whole Enchilada route. Once fully completed, Raptor Route will comprise 10 miles of all-new singletrack descending into the Sand Flats Recreation Area. So far, the first two stages of the three-stage route have been completed.
The first stage to open was Falcon Flow, the longest of the three. The second stage was Eagle Eye, located at the top of the route. Currently, riders can easily connect from Eagle Eye to Falcon Flow on the rugged Porcupine Rim 4×4 road (where we had to slalom through Jeeps), but the third and final stage will provide a seamless singletrack connection. According to Madeline Logowitz from Grand County, they hope to have the trail complete by the end of November 2022.
The goal of the Raptor Route is to allow for an easier way to finish the grueling Whole Enchilada route. The classic finish on Porcupine Rim “is extremely technical at a point where riders are often exhausted and dehydrated,” according to Rachel Fixsen in the Moab Sun News. “Search and Rescue personnel have responded to many incidents on the Porcupine Rim trail, which is in a remote area,” she continues.
“Have responded” is a bit of a euphemism that covers up the seriousness of Porcupine Rim. While not all Search and Rescue responses to Porcupine Rim have been due to fatalities, Porcupine Rim is quickly turning into one of the deadliest trails in Moab. Several mountain bikers and even a hiker have died on the trail, most of them due to dehydration, according to a series of articles published in local news outlets.
Local authorities hope that the addition of the Raptor Route will give mountain bikers an easier alternative to finish the grueling Whole Enchilada ride. While riders already had the option to detour off the route and finish by descending the Sand Flats road, the prospect of losing most of your elevation on a road is one that most mountain bikers will avoid — some, to their peril.
Even if you do bypass Porcupine Rim, riding the entire Whole Enchilada with the Raptor Route finish is still no joke. This “easier” version of TWE still measures almost 32 miles long (to return to Poison Spider bike shop, a popular shuttle pickup spot) with over 2,260 feet of elevation gain and 8,780 feet of elevation loss.
The primary difference with the Raptor Route is that it eases off the gas as the ride wears on and you wear out. In contrast, finishing on Porcupine Rim essentially saves the most demanding riding for last.
Riding the Raptor Route on Its Own
While many riders will undoubtedly rip the Raptor Route at the end of the Whole Enchilada, even on its own, the Raptor Route is a fantastic ride. We shuttled the Raptor Route using a Tundra to schlep us up the washboarded Sand Flats road. After popping out of the bottom of Falcon Flow, we were able to pedal a few miles of gravel road and conveniently ride right back to our campsite in Sand Flats.
Of course, you can pedal Raptor Route as a loop, and these superb trails are even accessible via the commercial shuttles. Most commercial shuttles don’t use Sand Flats Road and instead, early in the season, drop riders just a little further up the mountain near the top of UPS. But instead of pedaling up to UPS, you can coast down a short stretch of dirt roads and drop straight into Eagle Eye. At the end of Falcon Flow, you’ll have to do some road pedaling to return to Moab, but hey: it’s a hell of a lot better than grinding up thousands of vertical feet on steep, sandy roads to get to the top of the trail!
The next time you plan a mountain bike pilgrimage to Moab, consider putting this fantastic romp on the Raptor Route on your ride list!