Doug McElhaney poses in front of one of 50 limited-edition 50th anniversary Easter Jeep Safari commemorative Red Rock Jeeps. [Photo courtesy of Doug McElhaney]

Anticipation is always high in Moab when Easter rolls around, bringing visitors and their recreational vehicles from around the world rolling in with it for the Easter Jeep Safari. This year is poised to take the iconic event to a whole new level of energy, as new and longtime participants join organizers to celebrate its 50th anniversary.

Starting this weekend, an estimated 1,000 to 1,800 vehicles will buzz around Moab over nine days to ride 38 trails across the region. Many of them are returning as part of a tradition that has brought friends new and old together for years, Red Rock 4-Wheelers Easter Jeep Safari Events Coordinator Doug McElhaney said.

“It’s almost more about meeting your friends again than four-wheeling,” McElhaney said. “We spend more time with our friends than we do on the trails.”

Visitors from as far away as Liechtenstein, Germany and Israel have made an annual tradition of the event, Red Rock 4-Wheelers Business Manager Rex Holman said. Not everyone who comes for the event is a four-wheeler, either, he said.

“They come to Moab because it’s going on,” Holman said. “Whether they have anything to do with it or not, they come just to be part of it.”

Fifty years ago, Moab’s first Jeep Safari brought 500 visitors who enjoyed a Bar-M Chuckwagon breakfast and toured a single trail in the “Behind the Rocks” country south and west of Moab.

Initially a Moab Chamber of Commerce event designed to encourage tourism in Moab, the safari became so popular by the early 1980s that the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) began requiring organizers to apply for permits and carry insurance. At that point, a small informal club made up of local four-wheeling enthusiasts who had honed their skills on backcountry ranches and rescue expeditions took over the event. Since then, the Red Rock 4-Wheelers have been stewards of what has become an internationally beloved recreation event.

Jeep Safari is so meaningful to four-wheeling enthusiasts that car manufacturer FCA USA – formerly known as the Chrysler Group – launches limited-edition Jeeps commemorating the nine-day extravaganza.

Since 2002, Jeep has collaborated on more than 50 unique concept vehicles for enthusiasts who attend the popular event.

This year, the company will produce 50 serialized Jeep Wrangler Red Rock special-edition models, influenced by the manufacturer’s Wrangler Red Rock Concept that made its debut at an industry trade show in Las Vegas. Inspired by the brand’s popular Rubicon model, the limited-edition Jeeps are designed for Moab’s terrain, and feature a serialized “Red Rock” grab handle plaque commemorating the 50th anniversary of Easter Jeep Safari.

“The annual Easter Jeep Safari remains one of the most significant events on any Jeep enthusiast’s calendar,” Jeep Brand President and CEO Mike Manley said. “We’re extremely grateful to the Red Rock 4-Wheelers for continuing this iconic Jeep event, and we present our Wrangler Red Rock Concept as a tribute to them and the enthusiasts who attend the annual Jeep Safari and support our brand.”

Easter Jeep Safari’s 50th anniversary to draw visitors from around the world

“It’s almost more about meeting your friends again than four-wheeling … We spend more time with our friends than we do on the trails.”

When: Saturday, March 19, through Sunday, March 27

Where: Thirty-eight trails in the Moab area; go to www.rr4w.com for more information. A vendors’ expo will be held at the Old Spanish Trail Arena, 3641 S. U.S. Highway 191, on Thursday, March 24, from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., and Friday, March 25, from 8 a.m. to 6:30 p.m.

Cost: Varies

For more information, go to: www.rr4w.com.