White Rim

5/5 (26 reviews)
Moab, Utah (San Juan County)
Last Updated: 11/13/2022
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Trail Information

Highlights

The White Rim Trail is the premier multi-day trail in Moab, Utah. The entire route encompasses over 90 miles of off-road driving. On the White Rim, you’ll get to experience the beautiful scenery of the Island in the Sky district of Canyonlands National Park first hand while tackling the challenging terrain. The trail gets its name from the layer of white sandstone on which it sits. White Rim sandstone is considerably harder than the red Moenkopi Formation sandstone above or the Organ Rock Shale below. The differential erosion creates some of the very unique geological features along the trail. The trail was first created during the 1950s with the intent of mining uranium needed for the production of nuclear weapons for the Cold War. Though uranium was present, the mines produced little compared to others in the region. Thus they were abandoned. But the road remains. White Rim has something for everyone. Besides enticing driving, the trail offers numerous hikes, an abundance of stunning views, and many campsites with absolute solitude. Traveling along White Rim gives a whole new appreciation of Canyonlands and a perspective of the park that can’t be attained anywhere else.

Trail Difficulty and Assessment

Trail Navigation

Important: Always check the Island in the Sky Visitor Center for current conditions before heading out. The route is mostly dirt and sand, with a few small rocky stretches scattered throughout. Notable obstacles include a steep and rocky climb at Murphy Hogback at Waypoint 33, the Hardscrabble switchbacks at Waypoint 49, and the water crossing of Upheaval Bottom at Waypoint 55. You will also come across several blind turns and ascents, as well as plenty of cliffside driving. Expect many climbs and descents, as White Rim’s elevation ranges from 3,941 feet to 5,278 feet, with an overall ascent of 3,036 feet and descent of 3,645 feet. This is a straight-through trail, and the only points of entry are Shafer Trail, Potash Road, and Mineral Bottom Road. For all reasons mentioned, White Rim should only be attempted by SUVs with high clearance, aggressive tires, low range, and either extended range fuel tanks or jerry cans. Locking differentials would also be highly recommended, but not required. Additional recovery gear should also be considered mandatory on this trail. Be sure to check in with the Ranger Station, as a permit is required both for day trips and overnight camping trips. For this reason, it is recommended that you enter via Shafer Trail after stopping by the Ranger Station.
White Rim is not an overly technical trail, but what it lacks in challenging obstacles it makes up for in long, strenuous driving. You will likely want to be in 4 wheel drive the whole time, and you will use low range several times throughout your trip. Bring plenty of fuel as even the shortest route, entering on Shafer Trail and exiting through Mineral Bottom Road, is over 90 miles of off-road driving, and you still need to make it to Moab for fuel. Completing the trail in one very long day is possible, but two days is much safer. Flash floods may occur under certain weather conditions, and snow may close the route during the winter months. The water crossing at Upheaval Bottom fluctuates throughout the year. It may be too deep to cross at certain times. Even if it looks shallow enough, be sure to check the river bottom, as it is mostly sediment and clay, and can have poor traction. Recoveries on the White Rim Trail START at $1000, and can quickly get much higher in cost. A radio or satellite communicator would be a great item to bring, or better yet, go in a group. Proper recovery gear, including traction aids, shovels, and tow ropes or winches, should also be brought along. Despite being in a National Park, do not forget that you are in the desert, and you may not see other travelers along the trail. Summer temperatures can easily reach 100°F during the day and fall to 50°F at night, and winter temperatures can be at freezing temperatures throughout the entire day and night. Bring enough food and water to make it through your trip; the park recommends drinking one gallon of water each day you are on the trail. During winter, all vehicles should carry chains. The White Rim has an abundance of wildlife, some of which can be dangerous to you and members of your group. Maintain a proper distance to keep yourself and the wildlife safe. Last, remember that White Rim is a part of the Canyonlands National Park. Be respectful of the environment and stay on the designated route. Leaving the trail in your vehicle or on foot can damage the ecosystem, and ruin the scenery for others. Do not remove anything from the park, including rocks, bones, and plant life. White Rim is a fantastic trail, and it is in a national park. But do not take this trail lightly. Have a great time, but be prepared for the worst-case scenario.

Trail Reviews

5/5 (26 reviews)
Official Crew
29500
Open
Rated 5/5
Visited: 11/13/2022
Difficulty Accuracy: Spot On

Drove in to access Lathrop Canyon and back out. Lots of traffic both motorized and MTN bikes. Saw a few desert Big Horn sheep and the side trip to Musselman Arch is really cool.
Trail Review: White Rim - Marcus Trusty
Trail Review: White Rim - Marcus Trusty
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Open
Rated 5/5
Visited: 10/25/2022
Difficulty Accuracy: Easier

Did the White Rim from 10/25-10/27. We did it backwards (starting from Mineral Bottom) and camped the first night at Murphy A. The first day was relatively easy; in fact, the whole trail was pretty tame for the most part. 4wd was not even totally necessary in my opinion, I used 4lo for the big hills (Hardscrabble and Murphy) but otherwise 4wd didn't seem super necessary. Aired down to 20 and that was perfect for a smooth ride. Back to the first day: there was a decent amount of mud but nothing even close to impenetrable. Hardscrabble was a decent descent but nothing too crazy. Murphy A/C are the best campgrounds on that side in my opinion. Second day we went to Gooseberry B (I think A is better) with a stop at White Crack. That day was also pretty chill. The last day we came out on Potash (Schafer was closed for maintenance) and I think this was the hardest day, only because there was more slick rock and it was a bumpier ride but nothing that a stock clearance car couldn't handle. Overall an awesome and pretty mild trail, I would definitely do it in at least 2 days, I was glad we did it in 3 overall. Weather was cold but nice except for one night when we had some inclement wind/rain.
Open
Visited: 10/14/2022
Difficulty Accuracy: Harder

Done after a major flooding and restoration of parts of the west end of the trail Hardscrabble ascent and descent were laden with large boulders and washouts making this part of the trail harder than the moderate rating. Lockers highly recommended.
Official Crew
104650
Open
Visited: 10/07/2022

The slide has been cleared and open all the way through now.
Official Crew
104650
Open
Visited: 10/07/2022

The slide has been cleared and open all the way through now.

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