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Moab’s Old Mail Trail: Mill Creek to South Mesa

Moab Meanderings | Saturday & Sunday, February 24-25, 2024

After spending a couple of days searching for rock art along the Pahranagat Trail in Nevada last week, I decided to stay a little closer to home this weekend to spend some time near Moab before it really starts getting too busy around there. Earlier this month after Diane and I had hiked a short section of Moab’s Old Mail Trail along the rim of Mill Creek, I became very interested in learning more about this route and started doing some research into it. Although I wasn’t able to find very much information about it, I think I was able to find enough to try my hand at tracing this historic route from Mill Creek to South Mesa. I really didn’t have much information to go on besides some broad locations, vague newspaper articles, the segment of the existing trail and some educated guesses on my part, so I may not have gotten it all correct. But even if I am completely wrong with my guesses, this turned out to be a very nice hike and a great way to spend the day in the backcountry. That said, if anyone out there has more information about the route of the Old Mail Trail, I’d love to hear about it in the comments below!

I left home early Saturday morning and made my way to Mill Creek where I parked my Jeep and started hiking just after sunrise.

Morning Light

The sun came up over the top of South Mesa as I followed some 4×4 tracks to the base of the mesa.

Across The Valley

Hiking Higher

After leaving the roads behind I set out cross country until I came to a well-constructed trail that would take me the rest of the way to the top of the mesa.

Constructed Trail

There was an expansive view from the Old Mail Trail.

Old Mail Trail View

Lichen on a boulder along the trail.


The trail turned up into a cleft of South Mesa that would take me the rest of the way to the top.

South Mesa Notch Canyon

A view from the notch.

South Mesa Notch View

Wilson Mesa (North Mesa) viewed from South Mesa.

Wilson Mesa

There was still some crunchy snow covering the trail higher up on the mesa.

Snow-Covered Mail Trail

After following the trail to the edge of the large parcel of private property on top of the mesa, I turned around and headed back down the trail.

South Mesa Descent

Overlooking the upper reaches of the Mill Creek Canyon WSA.

Mill Creek Canyon WSA

Passing by a large boulder next to the trail.

Behind the Boulder

When I reached the base of the mesa again, I took a different way back so I could make a loop and explore a shallow canyon.

Sandstone & Sky

Following the canyon back down towards Mill Creek.

Canyon Exploring

Little Canyon

Little Canyon Exploring

Here’s a view looking back towards South Mesa after I returned to the Steel Bender Trail. Look closely and you might be able to spot Triggerguard Arch.

Fins & South Mesa

South Mesa

South Mesa

Hiking under a large fin that towers above Mill Creek as I returned to my Jeep. I had hiked about 15 miles with 3,000 feet of elevation gain today and my legs were still feeling pretty good!

Big Fin

After grabbing a campsite in the Sand Flats Recreation Area for the night, I returned to one last section of the Old Mail Trail above Mill Creek that I had not hiked yet and spotted this small sign along the trail.

You are on a portion of the Old Mail Trail. This horse trail served as a mail route for miners and ranchers who lived on Wilson and South Mesas in the late 1800s and early 1900s.

The Old Mail Trail Sign

There was a nice view from the Rim Trail this evening, too.

Mill Creek Rim

Mill Creek Overlook

Mill Creek Overlook

I was hoping for a colorful sunset this evening, but there was only a short-lived touch of magenta in the sky after the sun dipped below the horizon.

Just a Little Sunset

On Sunday morning I went on a short hike into the very last section of Mill Creek that I had not hiked before, which also might have been a part of the Old Mail Trail, depending on where the route dropped down into the canyon. I haven’t been able to figure that part out yet…

I explored a couple of alcoves along the way.

Alcove Light

Alcove Exploring


Of course, I came across a number of rock art sites throughout the weekend, some I have been to before and a couple of new ones, so here are a few photos of what I saw.

Disappearing Backpackers

Disappearing Backpackers II

Sparse Panel

Moab's Ascending Sheep


Little Hunters Panel

Horned Serpent

Disappearing Sheep

Concentric Circles

>> Moab’s Old Mail Trail Photo Gallery


    • Randy Langstraat
      Randy Langstraat March 4, 2024

      I’m just way behind on Trip Reports right now and wanted to get something recent out. I’ll eventually get to the others.

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