White Rim

5/5 (18 reviews)
Moab, Utah (San Juan County)
Last Updated: 08/24/2022
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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 (18 reviews)
Status: Open
Rated 5/5
Visited: 09/18/2022
Difficulty Accuracy: Spot On

Truly an incredible trail! Epic views in every direction and the trail is technical and fun. The stars were indescribably beautiful. Spent two nights along the trail. Shafer trail to Gooseberry camp took 4 hours with multiple stops for vistas and short walks. This section of the trail is in very good condition and easy. Gooseberry to Hardscrabble camp took 6 hours with just a couple stops for vistas. Fairly straightforward and easy til the Murphy Hogback climb, then it gets more technical. The Murphy section is steep and rocky but nothing a stock vehicle in 4lo couldn’t easily do. Full size vehicles will feel a bit big. The potato bottoms were very muddy but not a problem. Recent rain would definitely change that status quickly. Now for Hardscrabble Hill. From the NPS website “Due to recent storms Hardscrabble hill is passable to modified 4wd vehicles with experienced drivers and spotters”. Here’s my take on it…..This section of the trail took some damage from a storm about a month ago. There are many deep washed out ruts requiring high clearance or stacking rocks if you don’t have the clearance. Expect steep, narrow and washed out shelf sections with loose rocks, deep ruts, and tight corners. The North side of the hill has the most damage. Vehicles with 4lo and high clearance only. I took the trail clockwise and definitely think that is the easier direction. Upheaval wash was muddy but not a problem. Rain would change that very quickly. The rest of the trail was mellow and easy. Hardscrabble camp to the top of mineral bottom took a little less than 2 hours. I don’t know if this trail was rated a 3 only if the wash is full but it is now a solid 3 or 3+ even when dry due to the trail damage. If you’re comfortable on 4’s and up, then this will be fun and no problem. If 3’s are your max, then this will be a challenge but still fun. I’m gonna say this trail rating is spot on but it is definitely harder than it was before the trail damage.
Status: Open
Rated 5/5
Visited: 08/27/2022
Difficulty Accuracy: Spot On

We had a permit to run White Rim Trail on August 27th and 28th, seven days after what is now called Moab's 100 year flood. The National Park Service was excellent at communicating both by phone and email. We were told to expect washouts, water crossings and impassable water conditions at Upheaval Wash. Even though I wheel a full size Chevy Silverado we decided to go for it fully prepared for it to be an out and back for us. I am so glad we did not waste our permit. The trail turned out to be everything I hoped it would be. The first 35 miles were as easy as they should be. Mostly graded road. It did not get interesting until Murphy Hogback. Even there it was not a big deal. Being in a full size rig we do spot each other a lot. There were a few narrow washouts but nothing we were not comfortable with. Ironically, at the top of Murphys I hit a cell signal and got an email from NPS saying Upheaval Canyon was passable for modified vehicles and experienced drivers. The day before our trip a NPS Ranger told us a lot of permit holders canceled because of the flood conditions. Therefore it was almost like having a National Park all to ourselves. We camped at Hardscrabble B Saturday night. It was awesome. The next morning started off with Hardscrabble Trail section. Now we were finally doing some 4wheeling. Classic Moab red rock trail with mind blowing scenery. Enough obstacles and narrow washouts to be careful with in a full size rig but no problems at all. The big surprise was upheaval wash, when we got there it was DRY! We barely got mud on the tires. We were able to complete the entire trail. This was a great trail run. It exemplifies why Moab, UT is the 4wd mecca of the United States. It is some of the most beautiful country I have ever seen and you can off road it at all levels. I would say the rating of 3 is spot on. We did it with washouts after a giant storm and still had no difficulty. But I am always hesitant to give ratings. I have wheeled Jeeps and trucks for many years, YMMV. But even after all the flood hype it was still a 3 for us. I highly recommend this trail. Kind Regards, Steve
Trail Review: White Rim - Steven Digges
Trail Review: White Rim - Steven Digges
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Jasmine & Jon Hughes
Official Crew
15350
Status: Partially Open
Visited: 08/24/2022

"Recent storms have caused heavy rain and flooding in the park. This may impact your trip, particularly if you plan to venture into the backcountry. Waypoint 55: The White Rim Road at Upheaval Wash (between Hardscrabble and Labyrinth) is impassable. Expect deep mud, soft sand and heavily eroded sections between Potato Bottom and Mineral Bottom. For those with backcountry reservations, please call the Backcountry Permit Office as recent washouts and road conditions may impact your trip. Call 435-259-4351 or email canyres@nps.gov Stay safe out there!" Photo: NPS/Angela Sowa
Trail Review: White Rim - Jasmine & Jon Hughes
Trail Review: White Rim - Jasmine & Jon Hughes
Status: Open
Rated 5/5
Visited: 06/24/2022
Difficulty Accuracy: Spot On

Just finished the trail over a period of 2 days and 1 night. Trail was a solid 3 with some sections that are slightly harder. We took a 3rd gen Tacoma with stock suspension and 32" tires. The truck handled it with no issue. We stayed at Murphy A and it offered great sunrise and sunset views. There was also enough of a breeze to stay comfortable. We didn't have any adverse weather, water crossings to deal with, and the sandy/muddy areas weren't too deep. So the time of year you go may affect the difficulty of the trail. Surprisingly there were not a lot of people on the trail. It felt like we were the only ones out there most of the time.
Status: Open
Rated 5/5
Visited: 06/23/2022
Difficulty Accuracy: Spot On

What a great trail, you experience a little bit of everything. The landscape and views were amazing. We ran it in a stock ‘21 Rubicon and didn’t have any issues. Murphy’s was daunting both up and down and the switchbacks were a thrill. We did it in 2 days and camped at Murphy’s site B. All in all couldn’t be more thrilled with the adventure.
Trail Review: White Rim - Dwight Becker

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