Words and pictures by Chris Collard.
There are few places on earth that rival South- Eastern Utah in stunning aesthetics and recreational opportunity. It is home to two of America’s National Parks, and claims the title of one of the world’s top mountain-biking, hiking, and photography destinations. What many may not know, however, is that the region (specifically the Moab area, which has over 2 000 km of meandering two-tracks) offers some of the best fourwheeling on the planet.
If a trip to the United States is on your agenda, Moab is the place to go, spring is the time to do it, and the Easter Jeep Safari (EJS) is the event to check off your bucket list.
The idea for the Safari, which began in 1967, was conceived by members of the Moab Chamber of Commerce; it was originally a one-day trail ride and fund-raiser for the local community. That first trail ride was a small gathering of friends, a few of whom were designated guides. The inaugural Safari traversed the Moab Rim just west of town, lunch was at a viewpoint over Moab Valley, and ice cream was dropped in by parachute from a Cessna 150. During the next few years, the event began to attract participants from nearby Salt Lake City, and within a decade it had landed centre-stage in the American four-wheel-drive scene.
For US-based 4×4 aficionados, the Easter Jeep Safari has become an annual pilgrimage; a reason to pack up the trail rig and head for Moab. Spanning a full week prior to the Easter holiday, the EJS is the Grand PooBah of organised 4WD events, and the most concentrated gathering of off-road enthusiasts in North America. The quiet township of Moab swells from 5 000 to over 15 000 souls.
Why, you ask? Well, EJS is the spring gathering, the who’s-who of all things off-road. Automakers show up with their latest models, aftermarket manufacturers are on hand with the newest and coolest gear, and the atmosphere is that of a grand carnival…for 4x4s, of course. And the streets? They’re lined with Jeeps, Land Rovers, Toyotas, Nissans, Unimogs, and a few Pinzgauers. We even see the occasional Unicat, a few oldiron Ford Broncos, and full-sized trucks.
For die-hard Jeep fans, Wednesday is your day. Jeep presents their latest crop of Skunkworks-Engineering concept vehicles at their Main Street Jeep Camp, and this year they revealed the new Jeep Renegade. Fortunately, prior to the public display, we were invited to join them in their concept Jeeps for a Monday trail ride through Lockhart Basin.
On Thursday and Friday, the equestrian arena south of town hosts the vendor show – a gala of off-road parts and accessories.