White Rim

5/5 (30 reviews)
Moab, Utah (San Juan County)
Last Updated: 05/12/2023

Trail Information


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 (30)
Partially Open
Rated 5/5
Visited: 05/19/2023
Difficulty Accuracy: Spot On

Gorgeous trail that should be on everyone’s bucket list. Even planning a trip for May in November all the campsites were already booked so beware if that’s your intent. I was able to get a day pass so I came in via Shafer and drove about half of it, turning around before the hogback. Good thing I wasn’t planning to do the whole trail after all since the park service said it’s impassible at upheaval wash right now. Returned via Potash for an amazing day.
Official Crew
Visited: 05/12/2023

The Park is listing the trail as impassable due to deep mud at Upheaval Wash. This type of status typically lasts for only a few days.
Rated 5/5
Visited: 03/16/2023
Difficulty Accuracy: Spot On

Ran the White Rim clockwise, entering via Potash Road as Shafer Trail was closed due to snow/ice. There was a lot of rain the day before, but the weather was clear both days we were on the trail. As described, the road is not very technical, but there are a number of moderately frightening parts with dangerous drop offs within a few feet of the road. We were able to run the entire road in 2WD in our 2006 Toyota Sequoia (2" lift on 33" KO2s), even going up Murphy Hogback and Hardscrabble. Despite the recent rains, there was no water crossing at Upheaval Bottom; only one or two little puddles. We were expecting a lot more mud all along the trail, but it seems to dry up rapidly. Parts of the trail are very rocky; we aired down to ~25 PSI which helped smooth things out, but could have probably gone a tad lower for our own comfort. Views were incredible the whole trip. We camped at Whitecrack, and while it was cold and windy in the evening, the wind seemed to die down at night. If we do the trail again we'd probably spend two nights, and do more day hikes and exploring along the way. One night felt a little rushed.
Rated 5/5
Visited: 03/05/2023
Difficulty Accuracy: Easier

The road was in the best condition we have ever seen it. We also took time to do the two main side trails, spending a total of three days on the trail. This should be on every off-roader's/Overlander's bucket list. It really is one of the most breathtaking places that you will ever visit.
Official Crew
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.

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