White Rim Trail
The White Rim Trail is Utah's ultimate multi-day party
trail. The trail is a 103-mile loop on jeep road through Canyonlands
National Park. Technically, this trail is fairly easy. But the length (and a few
stiff climbs) means you need to be in good condition to do the whole
Bob (left) and Brian look out over the
White Rim. Photo October 23, 2001 by Bruce Argyle.
| The major climbs add up to 4000 vertical feet, but an altimeter or
GPS unit that records every little up-and-down will give you about 6000
Most riders spend
3 or 4 days to ride
this trail, spending the night at campgrounds. (Two days = Monster. One day =
Lunatic.) You'll need a support vehicle for food, water, camping gear,
and bike parts. (Even though there's little dangerous stuff, the length of
this trail -- combined with sand -- means there's a good chance you'll
need some on-trail repair.)
Campgrounds are spaced every few miles. (Waiting time for some camp sites is around ONE YEAR. You must obtain a
permit from the National Park Service to ride this trail, and reserve your
campsites well in advance of your ride.) Bring cooking gear. Open fires
Brian cooks up a bit of breakfast.
Note the winter clothing. In fall and spring, nights are bitter cold in
|Bring clothing, shoes, and a hat for hanging out around
camp, and for those little side trips. Prepare for weather of both
extremes! At night, you'll need a thick coat.
In October, we went from full powder-ski clothing (34 degrees) to
sweating in a sleeveless mesh jersey within one hour! You'll want insect
repellant, sunblock, a tent, and warm sleeping gear.
Bruce stands on the White Rim
sandstone, looking out over spires of the Permian Period's Organ Rock
formation, a deep-red shale with layers of sandstone.
There are bathrooms at each campground. If you have an
"emergency" between toilets, you're expected to pack it with
you. Because this trail is in Canyonlands National Park,
biking off-trail is prohibited. This isn't a ride to test your
rock-hopping prowess. It's a buddy cruise with your pals.
Brian rides through the shales of the
Moenkopi formation (the layered chocolate brown in mid-photo), looking up
to the multicolored slopes of the Chinle, then the tall cliffs and spires
of the Wingate sandstone. These formations date from the Triassic Period.
You can ride the trail either direction. Most bikers ride
clockwise, from the Schafer Trail around to the Green River. This
direction tends to be a little nicer, because it puts most of the sand on
the downhill slopes. There are four big hills with over
1000 feet elevation gain, but you get to do one of them downhill as you
drop into the canyon on the first day. A three-day trip gives you one
major climb each day.
Bruce prepares to drop over a ledge in
a slot canyon. Photo by Brian.
|Fido note: Pets are prohibited in Canyonland's back
Some riders will tackle this loop in one day. Be prepared
for an insanely difficult ride. Unless you're an experienced endurance
rider, don't even think about one-day without a support vehicle.
weather, it's very difficult to carry enough water to
survive. (Some solo riders carry cash to buy water from campers, others
pre-stash water and food with touring companies. Heading into the loop
without a plan isn't smart.)
Brian cruises. The cliffs above the
trail are Wingate sandstone capped with Kayenta. The skirts are Chinle,
then Moenkopi formations. Most of the ride is on a table-top formed of the
White Rim sandstone, with the dark red-brown Organ Rock shale and
sandstone dropping down to the river.
|One-day White Rim,
self-supported; one rider's experience:
April 9, 2005. Riding clockwise through periodic storms, wind direction rotating so the entire
ride was against the wind, wind-speed up to 20 mph. Average riding speed 11.4
mph, riding time 9 hours, total on-trail time 10 hours with 1/2-hour break
at top of Murphy's Hogback, 2 brief sightseeing stops. Total hike-a-bike =
3 feet on the upside of the sandy wash along Green River -- had to
reposition the bike to restart. Fluids 120 oz (100 oz Gatorade in Camelbak,
20 oz H2O bottle), GU gel-packs 12, energy bars 2 (total calories consumed
on-trail 2000). Packing first-aid kit, spare tube, tool kit, cold-weather
clothing (used jacket twice -- rainstorm, snowstorm with temperature down
to 37 degrees). A great ride. -- Bruce
||To get a permit to stay overnight,
Canyonlands National Park
2282 Resource Blvd
Moab, UT 84532
Include: number of vehicles, number of people, dates and campsites
requested (list alternate dates and campsites if possible). In 2001, the
non-refundable fee was $30 for the reservation. Call 435-259-4351 for
information. You'll have to pay additional entry fees when you arrive.
Bob and Brian sit on the cliff-edge of
White Rim sandstone while taking in lunch.
Side trips and stop-and-gawk opportunities
abound. Some of the more famous include
the Colorado Overlook, Musselman Arch, Lathrop Canyon (bike 1 mile), White
Crack (bike 1 mile, hike 1/3 mile to canyons overlook), Murphy's Trail,
Whilehite Trail (and the slot canyon opposite it), and the Syncline Valley
Trail. Before entering any dirt road, check for a "no-bikes"
symbol. Most side trails prohibit bikes.
Brian and Bob (the tiny white dot near
the right edge of the tower) wait for sundown at the White Crack
campground, between the Green and Colorado Rivers.
||For alternate rides, you can connect to Moab through the
Colorado River valley by taking dirt roads that branch off the Shafer
trail below the switchbacks, or off the paved Dead Horse Point road.
Bruce poses with his bike on top of
Musselman Arch. Although carrying your bike out onto the arch for a photo
is OK, it's not legal (or smart) to ride across the arch.
Getting there: Eastbound on I-70, turn at the Moab
exit onto US-191. About 20 miles later, turn right on U-313 towards
Canyonlands. Pay the entry fee ($10 in 2005) at the gate and proceed a
couple of miles to the Island-in-the-Sky Visitor's Center. Register here.
Now backtrack to your point of departure. The parking area off U-313,
and at the top of the Horsethief Trail, are popular areas to leave a
vehicle. Most riders go clockwise, dropping down the Shafer Trail the
first day, then climbing up the Horsethief Trail on the last day.