“This trail is permanent fun from mile 1 – never a dull moment – lots of enticing variety – like a multi-plate gourmet meal.”
“The community aspect each night and morning in camp is a charming and meaningful part of the event.”
“I went from loving the majestic beauty to cursing the challenges it was throwing at me. I went from trying to justify dropping out to tears of joy at knowing that I was going to finish.”
“I have to say the desert has grown on me, I miss it, even with cold water on tap here … This experience has altered life as I know it forever!”
Unique beauty, amazing wildlife and profound solitude – all the elements of true adventure – reward racers willing to brave the strenuous Desert RATS journey. Vast landscape and ancient obstacles combine to create the rugged and stunning beauty of the Kokopelli Trail. Desert RATS is more than just a race. It is not only a journey through true backcountry desert but within yourself. While some will race, most are there to test their mental and physical limits. Don’t expect to set personal records for the distance you’ll cover; you will need to pace yourself for the heat and terrain. You must have patience and grit in order to not be fighting your own frustration. The race is about the experience, pushing yourself and making friends along the way.
At Desert RATS, the adventure is the goal. It’s about reaching deep within yourself, adapting to adversity and overcoming the challenges in front of you. Those who enjoy Desert RATS the most come into the experience prepared and willing to be flexible in every way.
The racers who truly enjoy the event and gain from the experience are those who appreciate the beauty of the land, the camaraderie of other adventurers and the thrill of relaxing in the Colorado River at the end of the day. This adventure is not for everyone. It’s not an expedition to survive or a race to win, it’s an experience to live.
While every racer’s week is different, the common experience is the grand scale of the event. The heat is extreme, the beauty is vast and the friendships run deep. Our hope is that as you travel this incredible landscape you will discover a piece of yourself.
After a challenging day on the trails, racers sit down to a hot meal and share stories around a campfire. The course is a carefully laid out, truly authentic, wilderness experience. Bathe in the Colorado river, sleep in tents and run across the amazing desert landscape while dining on delicious meals and mingling with friends that will last a lifetime.
Now in our 16th year, we are the longest-running stage race in North America. We have a full medical staff of doctors specializing in expedition medicine, along with experienced base camp and aid station crews that can’t be matched. We designed the toughest race possible then put together the infrastructure and a caring professional crew to get you safely to the finish line.
Racers will run from Grand Junction, Colorado to the world-famous Moab, Utah along the beautiful 143-mile Kokopelli trail. Distances will range from day to day between 9 and 42 miles. This is a grueling event that will challenge the most seasoned athletes, yet it is designed so that less experienced ultrarunners can train for and successfully complete the course. The entire length of the trail is stunningly beautiful with jagged canyons and breathtaking vistas.
Racers will rendezvous in Moab, UT on Sunday to receive their Expedition Journals with detailed course directions and final race instructions. Early on Monday, runners will be transported to the start line near Grand Junction and head off for the first of six days. Each day runners will be greeted at the finish line and directed to the tent city where they can mingle, access their gear, enjoy a hot meal provided by Gemini Adventures and rest up for the next day. Each morning runners will rise for a light breakfast, also provided by Gemini Adventures, and an early morning start of the next stage from the site of the tent city.
Each night the camp buzzes with excitement as the day’s results and overall standings are posted and the nightly meeting is held to make announcements.
Runners finishing the entire 143-mile course will arrive in Moab, UT with the satisfaction of having completed the ultimate adventure running race. That night, all runners completing the entire course within the established rules will be presented with a finisher’s award at a memorable post-race part, open for all runners and their families.
What is Desert RATS?
Desert RATS is a six day supported foot race that covers a distance of approximately 143 miles. Each participant must carry his/her own pack containing food, water, safety equipment and other essential material (see Mandatory Equipment).
What does Gemini Events provide?
Gemini Events will provide tents and meals for racers. In the morning, breakfast will be provided prior to race start. Racers will make their own sandwiches the night before each stage and will be available at a designated aid station on the course as lunch the following day. A hot, full meal will be provided at camp each night. Sleeping and overnight supplies will be transported to the finish line/Base Camp for the racers. Each racer is limited to one 50L bag. Racers may bring their own tent but are then responsible for set-up and break-down.
Pre-Race Registration and Gear Check
Pre-Race Packet Pickup and Gear Check will be Sunday, June 16th from 4-6pm. You will need to bring all of your required gear. Racers will also need their medical form (if not previously submitted via email) and their two passport-sized photos with entrant’s name on the back – one will be affixed to the Expedition Journal and the other in the racer’s emergency information. Gemini Events will not have medical personnel on hand to provide medical examinations at check-in.
Mandatory Pre-Race Meeting
All racers must attend a pre-race meeting at the host hotel on Sunday, June 16th at 7:30pm. At this meeting runners will receive necessary information that they will need for the week. We will also introduce the staff and take questions.
We will have parking options in Moab to leave your car for race week, within walking distance of the host hotel. There will also be minimal parking available at each base camp for your family/support crew. Please notify us before the start of the race if you plan to have crew or visitors at base camps along the trail.
The host hotel will be announced as soon as confirmed. It is suggested you reserve rooms for Sunday night as well as Saturday the 22nd. However, within Moab most hotels are very close together, if you want to book before we announce. Daily outdoor camping will be available at pre-selected sites. Gemini Events will provide tents (6-8 persons per tent). Participants may bring their own tent but are then responsible for their own tent setup and breakdown.
Each day’s stage finisher will receive a dog tag momento of that day’s journey.
Stage Race Overall first place male and female will receive champion awards and comp entries to next year’s event.
2nd – 5th place male and female awards will also be given.
All non-placing finishers of the entire course within cut-off times will receive a finisher’s award.
All racer’s finishing with a total of less than 30 hours will receive a sub 30 hour finisher’s award.
Mandatory gear must be carried at all times while out on the course and will be checked at aid stations. Racers must be able to present gear upon request or will be penalized (see Mandatory Equipment).
During check-in, Gemini Events will provide each participant with a race number. This must be worn in plain view by race staff. Each participant is obligated to ensure that his/her race numbers are clear, visible, in good condition and in the proper place.
2018 was our first year offering live tracking as a trial. The goal is near-real time tracking for every racer and we will work to continue improving this service.
All participants will start together on the first stage. Stages 2-5 may have staggered starts according to cumulative time, with the back half of the field beginning earlier and the times adjusted at the finish line. This is to minimize the wait time at the finish line. If, on the last stage, there is a close race between the first and second place, we will do a “rabbit” start ensuring the first person to cross the finish line is the winner of the entire race.
Dropping Out/Missed Cut-offs
There will be cut-offs at some aid stations as well as the daily finish lines. Each leg must be completed in the time allowed. These cut-off times are lenient and designed to ensure the safety of runners. Cut-off times will be adjusted if start times change.
In the event a competitor drops out of the race or misses a cut-off, it is imperative that he/she notify a Gemini Events official. Racer safety is our #1 priority – please don’t make us use valuable resources searching for a racer that is not lost.
Several options are available to participants who withdraw from the race. A participant who is in adequate physical condition but withdraws from official standing may elect to:
- Continue to participate in subsequent stages after dropping out of a stage. They will receive recognition for the stages completed, but will not have an overall stage finish time.
- Be driven to Moab (subject to viability) with lodging and meals being at his/her own expense.
- Be driven by Gemini Events every morning from the start of that day’s start point to the finish point of that day as part of the base camp crew.
Competitors who drop out and stay on the course must continue to follow the race/camp rules. No refunds of unused days is made.
The 43 mile Expedition Stage is the only stage where night travel is permitted. Racers are required to carry glow sticks, and headlights are strongly suggested.
Aid Stations are located throughout the course of each stage of the race. There are up to five aid stations per stage determined by the length of the stage. The participants must allow the race officials to record their time and undergo a gear/medical check.
The daily rankings are done by the time used to run that stage of the race. Overall stage race ranking is done by adding times for each stage of the race. Times will include penalties, if applicable.
Gemini Events will supply racers with unlimited water for drinking purposes and limited evaporative cooling. No bathing. Water will be available at the start of the stage each morning, aid stations and water drops. Each racer must supply his/her own drinking containers. Cups will not be supplied at aid stations. Each night’s camping area (except for the first night) will have opportunities for rinsing off in a river.
Daily outdoor camping will be at pre-selected sites. Gemini Events provide tents (6-8 people per tent). Participants may bring their own tents and they will be transported to the camp area. However, racers that decide to bring their own tents are then responsible for setup and breakdown of personal tents.
A crew of medical doctors specializing in expedition medicine and heat related illnesses will be in attendance throughout the race and will use assistance vehicles throughout the course. Medical personnel will be available each day and will ensure that any participants who are suffering from physical ailments have the option to be brought back to the base camp. The medical team is allowed to remove from the race any participant they feel is physically unfit to continue the race.
Gemini Events must remind all participants that the Desert RATS is a race through the desert where climatic and ground conditions can be extreme.
Crewing is permitted in designated areas only. Designated areas are defined as start lines, aid stations and finish lines, and may be further limited at the discretion of race staff. Camping and meal plans for crew members will be available on a first-come, first-serve basis for a fee. It is the responsibility of the racer to notify us if they are planning to bring crew. Some crewing expenses could be waived in exchange for volunteering on behalf of the race (contact Race Management for details). Crews are not allowed to remove racers from the race course or camping area. If a participant is supplied by persons at unauthorized areas during the race, he/she will be heavily penalized. Crews are also subject to all race regulations and all local, state and federal land management rules and regulations.
Weather and Terrain Conditions
The 143 mile (approx) course encounters a wide variety of terrain (sand, rocky desert, stony ground etc). In case of sand storms lowering visibility to zero, the racers must stop in their tracks and wait for instructions by the organizers.
Gemini Adventures reserves the right to modify the course and the length of the various stages as a result of unfavorable weather conditions or regulations in certain areas.
Temperatures in June:
Daytime: 95 F
Record high: 113 F
Night: 58 F
Record low: 37 F
The participants of the Desert RATS must follow the course as marked by Bureau of Land Management. Stage #1 will have additional markings at difficult-to-read turns. There are several natural landmarks which will also serve as additional points of reference. GPS is allowed and highly recommended. The full course and individual stages are available as GPX files on the course page, and Gemini Events recommends the Gaia GPS mobile app.
An Expedition Journal will be supplied to each competitor upon check in. One of the passport-sized photos you provide at Check-In will go into the Journal. The photos do not need to be official passport photos; they are for safety purposes. This book will reveal the exact course and will include maps, course description, crew information and various points of interest along the course. This book must be carried with you at all times and must be presented at each Aid Station. A lost Expedition Journal will result in a 1 hour time penalty. Each evening a briefing will be given relating to the next day’s stage by the organizers.
- Capability to carry 140oz of liquid
- Expedition Journal
- One lightweight survival blanket
- Salt tablets
- Emergency mirror
- Small flashlight with spare batteries
- Knife with folding blade
- Disinfectant ointment or spray can
- D-Cell Emergency Strobe Light – visible up to 2mi. LED lights with a strobe effect are generally not considered emergency lights.
- 2 luminous signal (glow) sticks (expedition stage only)
If you have questions on any gear specifics, please email Kyla.
Each participant must present all required gear at Check-In, and specific gear will be spot-checked at Aid Stations throughout the race.
Nightly Supplies – These supplies are required but do not need to be carried each day. These items along with your other personal belongings (fitting into one 50L bag, sleeping bag included) will be transported forward by Gemini Events for each racer.
- Sleeping Bag
- Sleeping Pad, Warm Clothing
- Eating Utensils (i.e. plates, spoon, fork, cup etc.)
Gear: If a racer cannot show mandatory gear, he/she will be penalized 1 hour in addition to the time it takes to gain possession of these materials. If this penalty puts the racer over the allotted time he/she will be eliminated from that stage and the official standings. If the materials can not be obtained the racers will be eliminated from the race.
Food & Water: Each competitor must in all circumstances carry of a minimum of 1000 calories and 80oz of liquid. This means entering each Aid Station with 1000 calories and leaving each Aid Station with 80oz of water. When spot checks are made, any competitor unable to present the minimum will receive a 1 hour penalty.
Race Stage Start: Timing for each stage begins with an official start time. If for any reason a participant is late to the start, he/she will be on the running clock.
Cut-Offs: A racer who exceeds the maximum allowed time for any daily stage or fails to make any individual aid station cut-off will not be an official finisher for the stage race, but may still receive credit for individual stages completed within the time limit.
Expedition Stage (approximately 43 mile stage): During this stage, when night time traveling is permitted, any use of distress signals without valid reason will be subject to a 1 hour penalty.
Leaving the Trail: Under no circumstances are racers permitted to intentionally leave the trail. At the race director’s discretion, penalties may be waived for getting lost, but by default a 1 hour penalty will be given for the first time a racer leaves a trail. If the racer leaves the trail again, they may be removed from the course and eliminated from the race.
Drugs: Any use of illicit drugs by a participant noted by the medical team will result in the elimination of that person from the race.
Ground Assistance: The use of any mechanical transportation will result in elimination from the race.
Trash: Any littering by a participant will result in elimination from the race.
Every night there will be a staff meeting. Any race decision can be appealed and must be presented to the staff before the nightly meeting in order to be discussed that night. Upon discussion a decision will be made shortly thereafter. Appeals regarding missed cut-offs must be made before the nightly meeting in order to gain access to the following day’s stage.
Cancellations and requests for refunds must be made in writing in order to avoid any misunderstanding. Email is preferred.
Cancellation refunds will be made on the following basis.
Cancellations prior to January 1 qualify for a refund of 50%.
Cancellations between January 1 and April 1 qualify for a refund of 30%.
Cancellations on or after April 1 do not qualify for refunds.
This is a general description of the course. Exact details will be given at the beginning of the race. Each racer will be given an Expedition Journal with a course description and daily requirements. This Expedition Journal must be carried with the racers at all times and be presented at all Aid Stations. All mileage on this page is approximate but will be updated for exact distances at the time of the race. We have included links to Strava for each stage to illustrate approximate mileage and distance. These were recorded by the overall men’s champion and individual times will vary – considerably!
Total Mileage: at least 135.2 miles
Total Elevation Gain: 16,280’+
Download GPX files for the course – individual stages and full course.
Day 1: (19.8 miles – 2040’+ Gain)
From Loma to Rabbit Valley, this section is truly one of the most beautiful sections of the entire course. Amazing canyons and overlooks make this section a great way to start the race.
Day 2: (38.7 miles – 2520’+ Gain)
From Rabbit Valley to Fish Ford you will get your first taste of how remote this trail could make you feel. A climb to the top of the mesa will add a nice steep half mile challenge in the middle of the day.
Five aid stations and one water drop will be available:
5.0mi – Rabbit Valley Aid Station
13.1mi – Mesa Aid Station
17.5mi – Westwater Aid Station
21.4mi – Water Only
28.2mi – Cottonwood Wash Aid Station
34.2mi – Boat Landing Aid Station
38.7mi – Fish Ford (Stage 2 Finish)
Day 3: (9.3 miles – 761’+ Gain)
No aid stations will be available on the section between Fish Ford and Highway 128. As you enter the trail you will travel through remote rolling cow pastures and over slickrock, until you finally make the climb away from the river. Although there are many twists and turns, the footing is good and will make it a short, fast day and allow more time to anticipate the Expedition Stage to follow.
Day 4: Rest Day
Enjoy a day of recovery and fun at the Dewey Bridge Campground alongside the Colorado River. Swimming, hiking, napping, bridge jumping and more are all options.
Day 5: (41.4 miles – 7810’+ Gain)
This stage is what this race is all about. The day starts with a steep five mile climb away from the Colorado River. The Canyon aid station will be a welcome site after a five mile rolling climb. This aid station is the kick off point for the most remote section you will experience. After the second aid station, the trail widens and will be pleasant as the temperatures cool. A fast downhill paved section is the reward for all the climbing earlier. This is the only stage where racers will be allowed to travel in the dark therefore racers will have more required gear during this stage. Front runners will need to push the pace during this section because such a long stage could make or break a racers time. For those looking to just survive, the cut-off times will be lenient.
Four Aid Stations will be available:
5.5mi – Top of the World Aid Station
17.8mi – Onion Creek Aid Station
30.2mi – Beaver Mesa Aid Station
33.7mi – Gateway Aid Station
41.4mi – Rock Castle (Stage 4 Finish)
Day 6: (26.0 miles – 3150’+ Gain) A wonderful finish to such a challenging race is a full marathon finishing at the Slickrock parking lot in Moab. A staggered start will allow all the front and back of the pack to share the trails together for an exciting finish. Starting with the steep climb on pavement this section will allow beautiful views of the La Sal mountains and Fisher Valley to the east. A gradual downhill on jeep road brings you to the Slickrock trail parking lot and the finish line.
Three Aid Stations and one water drop will be available:
6.3mi – La Sal Aid Station
9.8mi – Water Only
15.0mi – Porcupine Rim #1 Aid Station
19.5mi – Porcupine Rim #2 Aid Station
26.0mi – Slickrock Trailhead (Stage 5 Finish)
4:00-6:00p – Registration/Gear Check
7:30p – Pre-Race Meeting
Mon: (breakfast will be on your own)
7:30a – Meet in front of the host hotel
8:00a – Bus Departs for start line (gear must be separated and you must be ready to run)
10:00a – RACE START!!!! (water and toilets will be available)
5:30p – Stage 1 Cut-Off
5:30p – Dinner
7:30p – Evening Announcements
6:00a – Breakfast
7:30a – First Wave Start of Stage 2
8:00a – Second Wave Start of Stage 2
1:45p – Westwater Cut-Off
3:30p – Cottonwood Wash Cut-Off
7:30p – Dinner
8:00p – Stage 2 Cut-Off
8:30a – Evening Announcements
6:30a – Breakfast
8:00a – First Wave Start of Stage 3
8:30a – Second Wave Start of Stage 3
12:00p – Stage 3 Cut-Off
12:00p – Lunch
5:00p – Dinner
7:00p – Evening Announcements
6:00a – Breakfast
7:00a – First Wave Start of Stage 4
8:00a – Second Wave Start of Stage 4
3:30p – Onion Creek Cut-Off
6:00p – Dinner available at Base Camp
9:00p – Gateway Cut-Off
Midnight – Stage 4 Cut-Off
(morning snacks available)
11:00a – Brunch
1:30p – Optional Beach/Hike/Activities
6:00p – Dinner
7:00p – Announcements
6:30a – Breakfast
8:00a – First Wave Start of Stage 5
8:30a – Second Wave Start of Stage 5
11:00a – La Sal Cut-Off
1:00p – Porcupine Rim #1 Cut-Off
2:30p – Porcupine Rim #2 Cut-Off
4:00p – Final Cut-Off
7:00p – Post Race Awards Party
The Desert RATS Kokopelli 150 stage race is a true adventure. To truly enjoy and get the most out of the experience runners must be both mentally and physically prepared for the challenges of remote trails, extreme weather, and distance between aid stations. With this in mind the Gemini Adventures team has decided to implement qualifying standards for the race. Our requirements are not especially strict but we feel that they’re necessary for racers to understand the potential risks of the event. Qualifications will need to be submitted during the registration process and will be reviewed before registration is complete. Email a brief list of your category 1 and/or category 2 experience to our Race Director, Reid Delman. He will respond and confirm your approval, once that’s received you will be all set to officially register and become a Desert RAT.
These qualifiers are not based on athletic performance as much as they are on experience and trail time. The important factors are the ability to follow trail signs and keep your head about you in extreme conditions.
Category 1- Automatic qualifiers:
- Having participated in a previous Desert RATS stage race.
- Have an official trail ultra finish, verified by a results link.
- Have an official stage race finish, verified by a results link.
Category 2- Qualifier pending approval:
- Have fastpacking/backpacking experience.
- Having an official trail marathon finish, verified by a results link.
- Have extensive experience working in extreme heat.
- Submit a proposal describing extensive experience in extreme conditions that demonstrates specific and unique qualifying criteria, as determined in the sole discretion of the race director and application committee.
Email submissions to email@example.com
Stage 1: Suzanna Bon (2011) 3:33, Ryan Guldan (2018) 2:33
Stage 2: Ashley Arnold (2013) 7:09, Allen Belshaw (2008) 5:08
Stage 3: Ashley Arnold (2013) 1:15, Ryan Guldan (2018) 1:05
Stage 4: Becky Kirschenmann (2015) 8:09, Ryan Guldan (2018) 7:30
*Becky Kirschenmann (2014) 10:11, *Shaun Martin (2009) 8:40
Stage 5: Becky Kirschenmann (2015) 3:55, Scott Jamie (2008) 3:23
Overall: Becky Kirschenmann (2015) 22:55, Ryan Guldan (2018) 21:02
*Suzanna Bon (2011) 25:45, *Shaun Martin (2009) 21:27