51st annual Easter Jeep Safari kicks off April 8

The red-rock carpet is being rolled out this weekend, as the 51st annual Moab Easter Jeep Safari kicks off.

The nine-day off-road extravaganza is Moab’s largest annual event, attracting thousands of visitors to the area.

In a year where Moab already appears to be experiencing a higher number of visitors than usual for March and early April, and the consensus among some local businesses is that upcoming days during Jeep Safari are expected to be extremely busy.

“I’m up 30 percent from last year this week,” said Natalie McDowell of the Wicked Brew drive-up coffee shop. “I am not sure about next week, but our March numbers were about 45 percent up from last year, and Jeep Safari was in March [in 2016].”

This year’s Jeep Safari begins on Saturday, April 8 and ends on Easter Sunday, April 16.

Although this year’s event won’t feature the fanfare that accompanied last year’s 50th anniversary milestone, organizers still expect large numbers of participants, and said that all trails are essentially booked full.

“It doesn’t look like it’s died off any,” said Rex Holman, business manager of Red Rock 4-Wheelers Club, which organizes and sponsors Jeep Safari each year. “High gas prices and other factors don’t seem to be keeping anyone away.”

The various scheduled trail excursions sold out within the first three days after online registration opened online in January, Holman and other club members reported.

Holman said the Red Rock 4-Wheelers Club currently has more than 1,400 members, including many from throughout the United States and other countries around the world. Adding to the event’s international flavor, participants come from countries such as Australia, Japan, and Israel. One man from Lichtenstein has come to Jeep Safari every year for the past 25 years or so, bringing a few friends with him each time, Holman said.

Starting Saturday, April 8, registered participants will begin making daily trail rides on the Jeep Safari’s 38 official, named trails. Each trail is ranked on a 1 to 10 scale according to level of difficulty, ranging from the 2-rated Chicken Corners to the 9-rated Pritchett Canyon.

“Our biggest day is Super Saturday, the day before Easter, when we’ll run 33 different trails in one day,” Holman said.

All official Jeep Safari trails are approved by the Bureau of Land Management through ongoing permits, and the club operates the event under the stipulations and guidelines set forth by the BLM.

“We try to teach responsible trail etiquette and be good stewards of the land,” Holman said, adding that club members actively raise funds and support for trail maintenance and upkeep.

“We try to maintain them at a level that is safe,” Holman said. “If there is something that creates an unsafe situation, we’ll do what we can to fix it so that not just our club members, but the general public can continue to enjoy that trail safely.”

On Thursday, April 13 and Friday, April 14, the ever-popular Jeep Safari Expo show will take place at the Old Spanish Trail Arena, featuring dozens of vendor and manufacturers’ booths. This year’s Boy Scout barbecue fundraiser, where local Boy Scout troops will serve as many as 2,000 dinners, will take place the afternoon and early evening of Thursday, April 13, at the arena.

The Moab area’s weather forecast for the next 10 days shows mostly sunny days with moderate temperatures.

For more information, including trail maps, regulations, and a downloadable copy of the full Jeep Safari guide, visit rr4w.com.

ByBy Jeff Richards

The Times-Independent