2023 Easter Jeep Safari: Metal Masher Trail Ride

Originally published on Apr 14, 2023 | Updated on Nov 13, 2023

This article is the second in a series of 2023 Easter Jeep Safari trail ride stories contributed by off-roading industry veteran, automotive enthusiast and journalist Verne Simons.

Every year thousands of off-road enthusiasts gather in Moab, Utah in April just before Easter. This event is one of the oldest off-road events in the world with trail rides organized and led by the Red Rock 4-Wheelers. The week-long event is known as Easter Jeep Safari (EJS), but there is space for every off-road enthusiast and a ton of bonus activities in and around Moab at EJS time. EJS is also a time when manufacturers and retailers of off-road parts like RealTruck head to Moab to convene with off-roading enthusiasts, manufacturers, and members of the media . That’s just what happened for EJS 2023.

Photo: Verne Simons

RealTruck on Metal Masher Trail

Photo: Verne Simons

Trail rides will often carry a corporate sponsor to draw interest, and this scramble on the infamous Metal Masher trail was sponsored by RealTruck (also check out our coverage of the RealTruck Trail Ride to the Whitewash Sand Dunes and Arches National Park).

The trail chosen by RealTruck for this organized ride is an often overlooked, challenging and scenic trail on the north end of Moab known as Metal Masher. It is a trail that starts just off Gemini Bridges Road in the area that is probably a bit better known for the trail’s Golden Spike and Gold Bar Rim. Metal Masher is no slouch, with some tough optional obstacles like Windowmaker Hill, Mother-in-law Hill, Rock Chucker, and a few other cool and scenic obstacles like Mirror Gulch. The view over the rim down towards highway 191 is also spectacular. 

Goony Bird Rock Greets the Group

Along Gemini Bridges Road on the way to the start of Metal Masher you drive past the feet of Gooney Bird Rock. The rock does have a definite bird-like look and rumor has it that touching its “toes” (it will make sense when you drive by it) with your tires before hitting a trail will bring you good luck. Truth is, Gooney Bird Rock is made up of ancient dune and river deposits. 

Photo: Verne Simons

Our Fearless Leader for Metal Masher

Photo: Verne Simons

Leading the trail for this day’s adventure was off-road Icon and our good friend Trent McGee in his 1964 International Harvester Scout 80. This 4x4 is more than just a little custom with big strong Dana 60 axles, a Cummins Turbo Diesel Crate Engine, 38-inch tires, ARB Air-Lockers, and tons of gearing, but still uses many parts that can be found on much more pedestrian off-roaders like a leaf spring suspension, a Warn Zeon Winch and more.

Optional Climbs Near the Start

Photo: Verne Simons

A little ways into the start of Metal Masher the trail hits slick rock and there are a few optional lines that lead to more difficult climbs. These climbs are a great way to get a feel for how your 4x4 will climb slick rock if this is your first time on a Moab trail or if it’s been a while since you hit slick rock. The RealTruck Bronco was on hand to test a number of new products the company has designed specifically for the Ford vehicle, one of the most popular and potent off-roaders available. 

Daniel’s Gladiator on an Optional Climb

Photo: Verne Simons

The long wheelbase of the Jeep Gladiator is perfect for steep climbs. Adding a lift kit from Superlift, like a 6-inch Rock Runner long-arm and some big Interco tires helped Daniel Delancy’s TJ make short work of the harder lines on these optional climbs near the start of Metal Masher. The lift and tires look great, but they also help improve the approach angle at the front of the Jeep, the breakover at the middle, and also help with that long rear overhang that tends to get snagged off-road. This Jeep also has King shocks for a great ride and Ultimate Dana 60 axles for huge strength off-road.

Celebrity Sighting…no Paparazzi, Please!

Photo: Verne Simons

Ian from Big Tire Garage and Four Wheeler TV somehow talked the folks at RealTruck into lending him the keys on this nice and new Jeep Wrangler Unlimited JL Sahara (it was cold and this Jeep has windows and a heater…probably also has seat heaters). It was also outfitted with many aftermarket goodies from RealTruck for testing, but didn’t have lockers in the axles. That meant Ian had to put in some work to get it up the tougher obstacles. Luckily, he has some experience driving off-road. Yeah, his hair is funny looking, but Ian is a great guy and fun to spend time with.

The challenge of Rock Chucker

Photo: Verne Simons

Rock Chucker is the first “real” optional obstacle on Metal Masher and it’s a doozy. There are several lines that look like they may work, but the loose looking and gigantic boulder at the bottom makes getting lined up for the big climb just after it a challenge. One line is to the far right, while other lines are more up the middle of the boulder and then to the right. There are  deep holes behind the boulder that get axles hung up on the rocks and can make things very tippy on either approach. This is a fun obstacle for the experienced driver in a well-built rig with flexy suspension, strong axles, and lockers.

The Climb up Mirror Gulch

Photo: Verne Simons

After Rock Chucker the trail continues up the mesa to Mirror Gulch which is fun and technical and absolutely beautiful. The hardest parts of the Mirror Gulch are a pinch point about halfway up and the large hole near the top. The hole near the top doesn’t look like much, but it caused many folks on our ride to have to back up to try a different line. 

Up, Up and Away

Photo: Verne Simons

Josh Cooper is our buddy, and he took his Jeep Gladiator on Metal Masher with RealTruck. Like always, Josh made the obstacles he tried look easy. His Jeep, as well as several other privately owned rigs on the trip, are used by the company to test new products. This first hand, real-world, parts testing means that the products RealTruck makes and sells are something they can easily stand behind.

Lunch and Arth’s Rim

Photo: Verne Simons

With about half the trail done, we stopped near Arth’s Rim for a quick lunch and to get some time outside the vehicles so we could spend some time together. These industry runs are a great way to make connections and learn what’s coming for companies and off-road trends. Arth’s Rim affords one of the Moab area’s many spectacular views over a cliff to the Northeast. It's breathtaking and a great place to have lunch and talk to friends.

Down Widow Maker

Photo: Verne Simons

Widow Maker is an extreme and optional climb on Metal Masher. It takes a well-built rig with power and great traction. Long wheelbases usually help. A few rigs in our group decided to give the steep climb a try. You can get to the bottom via a detour without driving down, or being winched down the obstacle, but that’s what the folks in our group decided to do. Jeff Ismail from IH Parts America gets winched down the Widow Maker by trail leader Trent McGee. 

We Need a Spotter Ian

Photo: Verne Simons

Daniel Delancy was also winched down the Widomaker and gave the obstacle a few tries with some spotting and advice from Ian Johnson. Ian has made the climb in a couple of trucks and said something to the effect that the obstacle requires getting your front end up on it, getting some heat in the tires, and then giving it all you’ve got. The problem with that is there is a large rock at the bottom left in this image and if you make it part way up you’ll tend to go left. If you don’t make the climb you roll back down onto that rock which can cause all kinds of issues, most of which are not good at all.

Heat in the tires

You can see two things in this image. One is that Daniel was able to heat up the tires in his Gladiator even doing a bit of a smoke show. That’s cool. The second thing you can see is that rock on Widow Maker that causes problems. After a few tries at the climb, Daniel stood the Gladiator on end (thanks to said rock) in a frightening moment. Good driving kept the Jeep shiny side up, but Daniel realized that that day was not his day to conquer Widow Maker.  He respectably and wisely took a pull from the winch back to the top.

Photo: Verne Simons

Widow Maker Conquered

Photo: Verne Simons

Jeff Ismail built this truck about 3 years ago, calling it Project Hideous, on an IH Trout vehicle platform (its part Scout and part Truck…so Trout). Since its completion Jeff has fine tuned the build and has gotten a very good feel for what it can do. With an ample application of International Harvester 392 based horse-power and a ton of commitment Jeff conquered the Widow Maker to everyone’s cheers! Nice Job Jeff!

The End is near…

Photo: Verne Simons

With the excitement of Widow Maker in our veins the group headed out on the last few miles of the trail, heading roughly straight in a Southwesterly direction. There are a few more optional climbs along the way if you didn’t get enough action on the rest of the trail, including one called Mother-in-Law hill. Here Adam “Doc” Garrison starts up one of the climbs in his Jeep Wrangler Unlimited JK with a 4-inch Superlift Rock Runner long arm suspension.

Headed Back into Moab

Photo: Verne Simons

The end of the Metal Masher trail dumps you back on Gemini Bridges Road. In fact, you drive past the Gemini Bridges on the way back into town if you want an extra stop. Metal Masher is a fun trail that we are sure we will run again and again when in Moab. Truth is, anyone can run the trail in just about any 4x4 with low range and off-road experience, but we sure would recommend some locking differentials, some suspension lift to clear big tires and recovery equipment This is true especially if you want to try any of the harder lines on the trail. The trail can take 3-5 hours depending on your pace and how many times you stop to look around or play on the several optional obstacles. 

Recommendations from the author: 

-OnX Offroad has most of the trails outlined on their phone-based GPS service which will work without cell service as long as you remember to download the app and the maps of the areas you plan on visiting before you lose cell service. 

-FunTreks Guide to Moab UT Back Roads & 4-Wheel-Drive Trails is also a huge resource for anyone who wants to explore Southeast Utah.  

-Rugged Ridge Trail Access Program powered by RealTruck for additional support toward education, stewardship, legal fees or any activity advocating the conservation of public land and access to recreational trails.

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