Shafer Trail

Moab, Utah (Grand County)

Last Updated: 07/19/2019
5 / 5 ( 13 reviews )
Information
Nearby Trails
Status: Open
Typically Open: Year Round
Permit Information: Permit Required - Click Here
Difficulty: 2-2
( EASY )
Length: 5.3 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
Distance:
Showing 0 trails within 2 miles

Highlights

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.

Video

Weather

7 day forecast for Shafer Trail

Route Information

Advanced Rating System

Recommended Vehicle:
2WD Vehicle with High Clearance
Concerns:
Summary:
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: 2-2
( EASY )

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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Description

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.

Waypoints

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

Trailhead Coordinates: 38.471447, -109.811483

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.

Camping

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 (18)

Author:
Status: Open
Offroaded on:
Rating:
Views are world class! Road in great condition. We came down, which in my opinion provides the better views. There was a 20 minute wait at the park entrance. Beautiful views while waiting and it was a cool weather day, so no problem. Used four low to keep speed down to avoid over-using brakes. We exited the park via Potash Road, otherwise it would be a good up-down trail.

Author:
Status: Open
Offroaded on:
Rating:
This was an unexpected surprise. We drive it from the bottom to the top which makes for some interesting questions as the switchbacks blend in really well leaving you to question how you will get up the wall. Road is plenty wide especially for a shelf road. Had 2 plus inches of snow at the top and ended up airing up in the snow. Wild weather

Author:
Status: Open
Offroaded on:
Rating:
I had seen this trail from the top in Canyonlands on a previous visit with a buddy, and it looked scary. But, I didn't have a Jeep then and had never done any offroading. So, three years later and with my 2018 Jeep Wrangler on a solo trip I wanted to take it on. It turned out to be quite easy, with beautiful views, and pure joy being out on such a gorgeous day. Little to no traffic encountered. I went down first and turned around to go back to the top. After a packed lunch was eaten, I drove back down again and then continued all the way to Moab via the Potash road. There were many places to turn off and take in the views on the lowland sections and be completely alone. It's a nice leisurely trip. I loved it.

Author:
Status: Open
Offroaded on:
Rating:
My 5 star rating is based on being a real newbie and only this trail for a reference point. This was our first challenge in our stock 2020 Jeep Overland and loved it. We opted to start at the "top" and work down and east to Moab via Shafer Trail and Potash. I think the top to bottom route give you the best views and ability to see opposite direction traffic. There were plenty of spots to pull to the side when needed. Driving on the edge seemed intimidating but not so bad once we got on the route. The road from top to bottom is actually pretty good with the tighter "hair pin" turns a little rutted but not bad. The road after you reached the flatter area was actually more rough with sections of bumpy rock but nothing to really challenge our jeep for clearance. Running down the ledges was easy in 4 wheel low in 2nd or 3rd gear (About 9-15 MPH between turns). Even on the relative flats I used 2nd through 4th gears in 4 wheel low and was comfortable in speed and torque for the trail. I seldom exceeded 15 MPH through the course. (I'm certain experience folks with proper equipment could go faster. We took about 3 hours from the trail head to the end of Potash road. That included a lot of time for taking pictures.

Author:
Status: Open
Offroaded on:
When I went there I expected a harder trail but I got a nice cruise instead it might be good for Prerunner or some high-speed action as long as you are careful. there are some scenic views and almost at the end, there is some kind of farm.

Author:
Status: Open
Offroaded on:
Rating:
Classic!! The views are amazing as you come down from Island in the Sky. It's not for the faint of heart if you're afraid of heights. That said, it's an easy drive down and truly unique!

Author:
Status: Open
Offroaded on:
Rating:
Whst a Fun Trail, Very Scenic and the Switch Backs made it Awesome

Author:
Status: Open
Offroaded on:
Rating:
My wife and I rented a Jeep for the day, and wow, what a great first trip. It was a beautiful area and gave me my first experience driving roads like this. It was a little harrowing on those switchbacks, as we were headed up, and others were headed down. I would suggest keeping an eye out where you can to look for oncoming vehicles and find those pull-offs to wait for people to pass. We had one frustrating experience with a driver that wouldn't pull over enough to let us through (even though there was plenty of room and they were next to the safe side!). We had to back up quite a ways to the 180 turn that was wide enough to pass by. Overall a great ride and beautiful area.We started from Moab and ended in Canyonlands... would probably try the other way around next time.

Author:
Status: Open
Offroaded on:
Hi everyone - new poster from the UK here! I was invited by Trails Off Road to leave a review and post pictures of my "accidental" drive down the Shafer Trail after commenting on a video of it on YouTube. Sooo... and bear with me, the back story is fascinating (possibly not). My screensaver at work in London is of Dead Horse Point and I was obsessed with getting the exact same photo so after going to the official view point which was a lot higher than the view I needed to get the photo, we asked someone how "we can get down there", were given directions and off we went. It all started okay, we left the Visitor Centre and turned left onto the road down as we had been told...... What followed was the most terrifying thing I have ever done. Bear in mind that my other half is a truck driver so an accomplished driver who wasn't fazed at all but the rental car we were in (Kia Sportage... stop laughing!) was booked on my credit card and when I wasn't worrying about dying in a Thelma & Louise style dive over the edge, I was thinking how much a snapped axle would cost me. I will never forget doing this drive and while I genuinely thought I was about to die all the way down, I'm proud to say that we did it. Thank you for reading!

Author: Official Crew
Status: Open
Offroaded on:
Rating:
A must if you're in the Canyon Lands area. The trail is easy because it's a well groomed gravel road but you and your passengers better not be afraid of narrow shelf roads. We saw all types of vehicles on this route. Remember to downshift and not burn up your brakes.

Author:
Status: Open
Offroaded on:
Rating:
Nice easy Moab trail. Among the vehicles that I saw on this trail - A Subaru Outback and a Chevy longbed dually. Theres no way in hell I'd want to make 8 point turns in a longbed dually on that trail. Just seemed obnoxious. This trail provides great views of the Colorado River and the general Moab area. If you are squeamish about heights, this may not be the trail for you.

Author:
Status: Open
Offroaded on:
Rating:
Pretty rad driving down the switchbacks. Easily done in 1st and 2nd gear in 4 Low. There's a few pull offs at the top of the switchbacks that are well worth the stop.

Author: Official Crew
Status: Open
Offroaded on:
Our incredible weekend in Moab ended with Shafer Trail, and what a way to end the trip it was. The views from the top of, and on the switchbacks are absolutely phenomenal. I thought Moab was great, but this trail truly made me fall in love with the area and I can't wait to get back. Can be done in any 4x4 vehicle. If you are anywhere near Canyonlands, do yourself a favor and take a couple hours to check this out. You will not regret it.

Author:
Status: Open
Offroaded on:
Rating:
My first exposure to shelf roads. Needless to say, I was white knuckled the whole way down. Reality is, it's really not that bad. Absolutely stunning views. I would say that it's an absolute must do trail if you're in the area.

Author:
Status: Open
Offroaded on:
This is the way we normally access the white rim trail, or run down the white rim to access the river for a good break then head back out via potash road this makes a nice loop without doing the entire white rim. But this section is all about the switchbacks which are amazing

Author: Official Crew
Status: Open
Offroaded on:
An easy and scenic drive that consists of a winding and descending road with great views and imposing edges. A must see/do trail for all that visit Moab.

Author: Official Crew
Status: Open
Offroaded on:
Rating:
One of those trails you never get tired of. This was my 3rd time driving this road and it still always leaves me with a sense of wonder as I do. Today was a great day on the trail, even during an Easter Jeep Safari week we did not encounter any other vehicles on the trail as we descended. One tip I would give is that before drive the road, be sure to check out the overlooks off of the main paved road that gives you additional vantage points on a grander scale.

Author:
Status: Open
Offroaded on:
Rating:
A lot of twists and turns. The road is well maintained. It worked for my RAV4.

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 https://www.trailsoffroad.com/trails/1228-potash-road-ut . 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

Founder

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 Trailsoffroad.com. 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.