Shafer Trail

Moab, Utah (Grand County)

Last Updated: 03/11/2022
5 / 5 ( 20 reviews )
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Typically Open: Year Round
Permit Information: Permit Required - Click Here
Difficulty: 2-2
( EASY )
Length: 5.32 miles
Highest Elevation: 5853 feet
Duration: About 45 minutes
Shape of Trail: Connector
Best Direction to Travel: N/A
Nearest Town: Moab
Nearest Town w/ Services: Moab
Official Road Name:
Management Agency: Canyonlands National Park
District: Island in the Sky District


Highlight: Shafer Trail
Easy and iconic, the Shafer Trail is a must do when visiting Moab or the Canyonlands. The road was originally a cattle trail built by John Sog Shafer in 1917. Later in the 1940s and 1950s, it was constructed into a useable road for trucks hauling uranium ore from the benches below. Long gone are the remnants of the old mining days but the incredible and imposing rim walls still stand to remind you of just how grand planet Earth really is.


Route Information

Advanced Rating System

Recommended Vehicle:
2WD Vehicle with High Clearance
Simple dirt road with tight switchbacks. Passing options are at the switchbacks so keep your eyes open ahead for oncoming vehicles. As with all roads in the area, this trail can be extremely slippery in wet conditions.

Technical Rating

Dirt and/or rocky road. Potential rocks and/or tree stumps less than 8" tall and/or vertical ledges less than 9" tall and/or near vertical ledges or waterfalls less than 12" inches. Good tire placement likely. Can be steep but with good traction.
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Community Consensus

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An entrance fee for Canyonlands National Park is required which you can pay at the visitors center or online. The guide described here is running the trail from top to bottom for the view, but it can be run in any direction. The dirt road is relatively smooth with steep switchbacks and narrow in spots that either descends or rises 1,300' in 5 miles. Almost all of the switchbacks have a small area to pull over if you need to let someone pass. There are no guardrails so be sure to watch the road. The road will close quickly if there is rain so be sure to check the current conditions. This road can be combined with the White Rim or Potash Road to make for a full day or multi-day trip. While this road is suitable for any SUV, if you plan to combine it with White Rim, a higher clearance vehicle will be required.
This road could be very dangerous when wet and will typically be temporarily closed by the National Park Service during wet weather.


1. Trailhead (0 mi)
Just after the entrance station of the park look to the left (east) for the trailhead. The road will begin very wide with a few places to pull over to soak in the views of the switchbacks ahead.
2. Scenic (1.2 mi)
One of the few spots to pull over to enjoy the scenery.
3. Scenic (1.7 mi)
The grand views of the road begin to become more visible.
4. View of Switchbacks (2.3 mi)
From this point, it is roughly another mile or so to the switchbacks where the road becomes much more narrow. Be sure to look for oncoming vehicles and if you see a spot to pull over and let them pass. During peak times, the Park Service will periodically have a ranger directing the up and down traffic, but you can't count on it, so keep in mind you may need to stop for a minute to let someone pass.
5. End of Switchbacks (4.4 mi)
The road has now flattened and widened out at the bottom.
6. End/White Rim and Potash Road Trailhead (5.3 mi)
Options here include: Turn back up, continue down Potash Road to Moab, or take the 100 plus mile White Rim Road and loop back up to Island in the Sky. There is a vault toilet here if required.

Directions to Trailhead

Starting Point: Moab, Utah

Drive 11 miles north on Highway 191 and turn left (west) onto Highway 313. Drive approximately 20 miles to the fee station of the Park. You will find the trailhead just past the fee station on the left (east) side of the road.


Not allowed
There is no camping along this road. There is, however, camping along White Rim, which requires a day use and camping permit since you are in the National Park. Other camping can be found nearby off a few spur roads that are directly off of the Island in Sky Road.
Camping: Shafer Trail

Trail Reviews (28)

Questions & Answers (1)

Q: I am planning a trip in late Sept and was planning to tow a 12' off road tear drop camper behind my 2014 Jeep JKUR. Any idea on how tight the switchbacks are doing to be with this set up? Is it possible? Thanks in advance. - Troy
–Troy Slaughter (09/05/2018)
A: I personally would not do that due to the 1st and 2nd major switchback. My question for you would be why? You can't camp down there unless you plan on running the White Rim Trail and if that is what you plan on doing, perhaps take Potash Road in . There is plenty of parking locations on Island of the Sky Road and 313 to leave your trailer if you just want to do the road. Remember Shafer Road can close quickly due to rain, it's steep and those switchbacks are not hard, but they are tight
–Todd (09/09/2018)

Writer Information



Todd is an avid wheeler who loves to explore new trails whenever and wherever he can. They say necessity is the mother of all invention and that holds true for Todd. His want and desire to find passable trails and new nooks and crannies of the Great American West to explore were his reasons behind starting On any given weekend you can find Todd on some obscure 4x4 trail or using his legs to hike to an alpine lake.
For individual use only, not to be shared.