Put this event on your off-road bucket list
Rally on the Rocks (ROTR) is one of those events that just keeps getting bigger and better. I had the privilege of attending this rally two years ago and was thoroughly impressed. The event was well run, experienced trail guides were out on every ride to make sure rookies like me didn’t get in over their heads and everyone I spoke to had an awesome time.
This time around I would be pulling double duty as both a participant and a vendor for GPS Offroad Products. I try to get out to as many events as possible and considering nearly all of my media buddies told me they had plans to attend, I figured this was a worthwhile one to come to. And I was right.
Just pulling into the vendor area I had to weave my vehicle through a sea of OEM semi trucks and other vendors who were on hand offering test rides, demos and just about every accessory under the sun. Technically the event hadn’t even begun yet but several vendors were already up, running and selling product.
The 411 on ROTR
ROTR takes place every year the weekend after mother’s day in Moab, Utah. This year’s event was the largest in the rally’s seven-year history, surpassing last year’s attendance by almost 250 people.
With over 3,000 miles of trails, Moab is a popular destination for 4x4s, ATVs, UTVs, hikers and bikers. The scenery alone is worth the trip and if the idea of rock crawling is a little intimidating to you, an event like ROTR is the perfect opportunity to get your feet wet. That said, this event isn’t just for rock crawlers. Most major obstacles have a way around them and there are plenty of tamer trails that will still let you get out and enjoy the amazing scenery.
The $105 registration fee (Late registration was $115) includes an event t-shirt, goodie bag filled with products from event sponsors, all the necessary BLM and usage fees and an amazing catered dinner. Participating in this event also includes four days of guided trail rides by experienced trail guides. The guides are there to coach you should you feel brave enough to tackle any of the bigger obstacles like the Devils Highway Hot Tubs or Hell’s Gate.
The event organizers work closely with local law enforcement as well as the BLM and have received the highest approval rating of satisfactory every year. That says a lot about the organizers as well as the participants in terms of obeying the rules and helping to keep our riding areas open.
Each day begins with a riders’ meeting before participants hit one of the nineteen different trails sponsored by the rally. Many of the trails leave right from the event area while others must be trailered to. Whether you’re interested in loading up or not, you can easily ride every day without covering the same piece of ground twice.
On the Trail
It always gets a little crazy when you’re trying to work and play, but I try to mix business with pleasure as much as I can so I’m not just stuck in a vendor booth for an entire event. In fact, the vast majority of vendors spend the day out on the trail with participants. Event organizers invite every vendor to sponsor at least one trail ride throughout the week as a means of encouraging them to get out and participate in the event. Because we were a late addition, we didn’t end up sponsoring a trail, but I definitely made sure to get out and ride some slick rock!
Wednesday morning I opted to ride Hell’s Revenge. Hell’s is a very popular trail because of the scenery and the massive slick rock formations, as well as its proximity to the event area. We were escorted from the event area by the local police department and had just a quick five-minute drive to the trail head. The steep climbs and rapid descents of Hell’s Revenge are somewhat reminiscent of a roller coaster. Traction is rarely a problem because most of the trail is on solid sand stone and the rock formations make for great photos.
I lucked out on this ride because Rocky Mountain ATV had prepared a BBQ lunch for us at a viewpoint about halfway through the ride. Every ride stops for a lunch break but usually you have to bring your own. This was a nice touch and I thoroughly enjoyed the grilled bratwurst!
As another first, there was a couple on the ride that had arranged to exchange nuptials on a rim overlooking the Green River. We were all invited to watch the ceremony and congratulate the bride and groom. Definitely an inexpensive way to get married and you can’t beat the scenery for wedding photos.
After lunch (and the wedding) a few brave souls opted to run an area called Hell’s Gate. It features a very steep descent with a couple of ledges and then a challenging wedge-shaped climb. This was the first year that the obstacles were open to participants. However, it was required that you wear a helmet and that your machine was equipped with a five-point harness, long travel suspension and a six-point roll cage. (Helmets are not required on the trails but are strongly recommended.)
Another amazing obstacle on this ride is the Devils Highway Hot Tub. This 12-15-foot deep pit will swallow your jeep or Side-by-Side whole. Only one person attempted the climb and he had to have a rope tied to the front of his RZR. The rope was meant to keep the nose down and keep him from flipping over backwards, but it turned out he needed a little help getting out of the pit. In his defense, there was a pool of water in the bottom of the hot tub so his chances of climbing out on his own were pretty slim from the get go.
On day two I had the opportunity to run another popular trail, close to the event area, called Fins ‘N Things. Fins is similar to Hell’s Revenge in that there is a good bit of slick rock but the climbs aren’t nearly as tall. We did find some short, very steep parts of the trail that allow you to test the low-end grunt of your machine. You can usually go around them if you’re not feeling up to it, but we had a pretty experienced group so everyone opted for the challenge.
Because we were moving pretty quickly, we actually stopped and ran Hell’s Gate again on our way back to the event area. Some of the popular trails will have up to 30 machines, which can make for a long day. I was fortunate enough to get in a smaller group that was moving pretty quickly, so we had plenty of time to run both trails.
As a testimony to how popular the event has become, five different OEMs were offering demo rides and answering questions for event goers. There was even a film crew on hand with Can-Am shooting a TV spot that will feature real testimonials from potential customers after test driving the new machines.
Inside the pavilion, dozens of other vendors were set up selling parts, accessories and even repairing damaged vehicles. Most off-road events are a great place to score some mega deals on parts for your ATV or Side-by-Side.
One of the vendors I think deserves some major recognition for what it’s doing is the Sage Brush Coalition. This group is dedicated to preserving our right to ride in the state of Utah. Currently there is a bill on President Obama’s desk that would turn over 1.4 million acres of the Greater Canyonlands area into a national monument. That basically means no hiking, biking or off-roading of any kind. The Sage Brush Coalition is raising funds to bring in an organization from Texas that teaches local communities how to fight and protect their property and its productive uses.
Utah is currently one of the most off-road friendly states in the country and hopefully it will remain that way for years to come. You can read up on the Sage Brush Coalition and its work with the American Stewards organization on its website.
Different activities were planned each night of the rally, including an Ice Cream social, a Show ‘n Shine competition and a movie night on a gigantic screen. Organizers even provided free popcorn for everyone who made it to the 9 pm showing of “The Nitro Circus” movie.
The Show ‘n Shine was new for this year and there were vehicles of all shapes and sizes with prizes for several different categories. Although it didn’t win a prize, I think the “Mater” replica Kawasaki Teryx4, complete with audio of Mater’s voice and siren stole the show.
The last night of the rally culminated with a delicious catered dinner and a raffle of over $20,000 in sponsored product. There were tires, wheels, bumpers and a host of other accessories raffled off and as a means of giving back. ROTR organizers gave 50% of the proceeds of raffle ticket sales to the Sage Brush Coalition.
While I didn’t get as much seat time as I would have liked, I had a great time and still managed to log over a hundred miles on our Can-Am Maverick. I was a little bit more courageous on some of the obstacles than I’ve been in the past and after a few more trips to Moab, I might just be ready to tackle one of the Hot Tubs! I know for sure that I’ll be back and plans are in the works to make next year’s event even better.
Whether you enjoy rock crawling, sand duning or playing in the mud, do yourself a favor and make it to Moab for the Rally on the Rocks at least once. I can promise you’ll have a great time with hundreds of other enthusiasts in one of the most beautiful off-roading locations on earth.