White Rim Trail

Trail General description

This trail follows the White Rim, on the edge of Island in the Sky Mesa in Canyonlands National Park

Overview of White Rim area
  • One hundred miles of spectacular southern Utah scenery. Wind your way down precipitous switchbacks, camp in remote desert locations, pass countless red rock formations - good luck keeping your eyes on the road.
  • Time: One or more days (preferably at least two)
  • Total distance: 100 miles
  • Vehicle requirements: Four wheel drive vehicle. Most bikers want a support vehicle close by. Four-wheel drive is a must, but most SUVs can navigate this route
  • Loop trip: Yes
  • General location: Canyonlands National Park, Island in the Sky District
  • USGS maps: La Sal, Hanksville, San Rafael Desert, Moab (1:100,000)
  • Special attractions: Arches, Indian ruins, towers, buttes, views of the Colorado and Green rivers
  • Best time of year: Spring through fall
  • Usage: Moderate
  • Current road information: Canyonlands National Park, Island in the Sky Ranger District, (435) 259-4712
  • Guidebooks: Moab, UT Backroads & 4-Wheel Drive Trails, by Charles A. Wells, Fun Treks, Inc.; 4WD Adventures: Utah, by Peter Massey and Jeanne Wilson, Swagman Publishing.

Route information

Strong bikers can complete this route in one very long, bouncy day. People in four-wheel drive vehicles can also complete it in a day. Both groups find the route more enjoyable if they complete it in two or more days, camping along the way.

The route starts down the Shafer Switchbacks, a former cattle trail that has been upgraded for vehicles, before it splits; the Shafer Trail goes left and the White Rim Trail continues on to the right. Throughout the journey, there are numerous spur trails and vistas, such as Musselman Arch, Washer Woman Arch and Monster Tower.

The trail follows the White Rim, a water-eroded shelf of light-colored sandstone, for most of the 100 miles. At about mile 66 you'll find the Fort Bottom Hiking Trail. This two-hour (round-trip) hike will take you to a lookout point with an Indian Ruin. After visiting the ruin, continue clockwise on the Rim.

Some of the favored camping spots are White Crack, Murphy Campsite and Potato Bottom Canyon. The entire route is well-marked. Follow signs to Mineral Bottom, go up the switchbacks and continue to Hwy. 313. After reaching Hwy. 313 and the pavement, turn left and head back to Hwy. 191 and Moab.

Finding the starting point

Follow Hwy. 191 north from Moab for nine miles; turn west on Hwy. 313, then follow signs to Canyonlands National Park. At .02 miles past the entrance booth, turn left on a large gravel road.

Tips and precautions

Summers are very hot - bring at least one gallon of water per person per day just for drinking. Campsites are very popular from April to October and camp spots must be booked in advance. There are no gas services anywhere in the park, so make sure you have a full tank of gas. The White Rim Trail is relatively easy for most sport utility vehicles unless there have been recent rains. Fees are required: $25 advance reservation fee, and $10 entrance fee. Group sizes are limited to 15 people and three vehicles.

Information courtesy of Utah Outdoors Magazine

For more information on the White Rim Trail, call Canyonlands National Park Permit Office- 435-259-4351.

Back to top Print this page E-mail this page