|One of only 2 signs I saw that actually mentioned "Trans La Sal"|
In today's ultrarunning community, there are a handful of "classic" traverses or adventure runs that run across or through the best of the national parks or forests. R2R2R, Zion, Teton Crest, Bryce, etc. These are all fantastic traverses in their own individual way. Most ultra-runners worth their beans have heard of most of these by now, if not attempted them. There also exists a plethora of other traverses than incorporate off-trail terrain, with lots of 3rd/4th or even 5th class terrain that may not appeal to the standard ultra-runner, like Nolans, WURL, or other peakbagging sagas. Two years ago I set out with good old Steve and Court to bag all the 12k' peaks in the La Sals, which was a spectacular day in the mountains, despite us failing to navigate our return journey correctly. This prompted me to do some more research about the trail systems through the La Sals.
One such pure trail run that I was not aware of until moving to Moab a month ago was the Trans La Sal trail. This obscure route was created many years ago, but either never really caught on or has purposefully been kept a secret by those in the know, maybe like the Zion Traverse was 10 years ago. There isn't much info on the internet about it, other than the CalTopo link I'll share below. The La Sals seem to be somewhat of a hidden gem mountain range, nested between the uber popular Wasatch and San Juans.
The route is completely logical, without any contrivances or pavement to link the trails together. In fact, there is no pavement anywhere on the route and very little non-singletrack. The route is almost exactly 30 miles with 8500' of climbing running south to north, or a bit more vert at 9500' running north to south. During my 7.5 hour trek I saw exactly zero people on the trail(quite a few campers at Oowah and Warner), which on a Saturday in the prime season of August was surprising. Good luck having that experience in the Grand Canyon. The route seeks out to accomplish just what the name suggests, covering the entire distance from one end of the range to the other, without crossing any actual summits. The wildlife is abundant, though unfortunately the non-wildlife has a higher prevalence(cows) which makes the drinking water situation a little more dicey. Might want to bring a filter or some Flagyl if you're planning on doing this one unsupported.
There are a couple variations, but the standard route starts at either the Doe Canyon Trailhead at the South end near La Sal(the town) or up at the North at the Bachelor Basin "Trailhead"( in quotes as it doesn't deserve to be called such, good luck finding it without prior knowledge or a GPS app). I chose to go south to north merely because we had a ward campout planned up at the Medicine Lakes area, so a dropoff would be easy. I would highly recommend a GPS app for this route as there are lots of trail systems up there that are unmarked or not marked with the same trail numbers as the map, as well as dirt roads that come and go. The route finding isn't complicated, but it's not NPS trail marking quality.
Basically the linkup is as follows: Doe Canyon to Pole Canyon Trail up to the South Mountain trail. South Mountain trail all the way to La Sal Pass Rd, then down to Squaw Springs. Squaw Springs to Boren Mesa, to Oowah Lake. Connector trail to Warren Lake, then Miners Basin Trail up and over, then take Bachelor Basin Trail up and over and down to the Castelton Rd. This link below will do more good than those words, but still nice to have some names to go with the pictures. Reasonable access points should you need support are: La Sal Pass Rd(4x4), Geyser Pass rd, Oowah Lake, Warner Lake, Miners Basin Rd.
Trans La Sal Cal Topo
|Looking back at South Mountain after traversing around it. I ascended the obvious central couloir via Pack Creek earlier in the week to summit that peak.|
|Looking towards Tuk|
|Cool old cabin|
|Steep climb up to Miners Basin. Wildflowers and storm approaching|
|Looking back down into Miners Basin on the climb up to Bachelor|
I had a great day out on the mountains and would highly recommend this to anyone looking for a longer day in a remote and beautiful setting.