The White Rim Trail is one of those MUST DO rides while in Moab. It’s not technical but it is out there. While it’s listed as being 100 miles, it’s was actually 149 Miles from our campsite and back again. This would be my 2nd time, Ernie thinks it was his 4th and Tomm thinks it was his 5 or 6 and a 1/2.
Technically this might be found listed as The White Rim Road in some searches and maps. https://www.alltrails.com/trail/us/utah/white-rim-ohv-trail
You can do the route either clockwise or counterclockwise. We did it clockwise this time. More on that below.
I took over 4 hours of video, much of it boring and slow and boiled it all down to the 15 minutes you see here. I might have had more but my GoPro batteries ran out by the time we were 3/4 done.
Canyonlands National Park now requires a permit for the White Rim Trail. It wasn’t that way last time we were here (2015) but as we were sitting around the night before we looked online for info. You can get a day permit at the office in “Island in the Sky” but that was way out of the way. We found that you could also get it online at https://www.nps.gov/cany/planyourvisit/permitsandreservations.htm so we all did the one day pass.
We got a ‘regular’ start in the morning. I would have liked to start earlier but it was cold when the sun was down and nobody seemed to move quickly in the morning. That came back to bite us a bit as it was after sundown by the time we rolled back into camp.
Bikes full of gas and carrying water we headed north out from Moab on Hwy 191 and quickly turned off onto 279 which snakes along the Colorado River for a while. The paved road will give way to a gravel road then finally dirt/rock that’s been zambonied somewhat well. On some maps it’s labelled as Potash Rd.
You’ll do a little bit of climbing before you come alongside the Potash Ponds. The day for us was overcast with small sprinkles so the color of these fabled pools wasn’t what it usually is. I found this pic on unsplash which is how they usually look.
I have a similar pic from the last time we did the ride but my pic was with a dusty old Samsung Galaxy 1 or 2.
Continuing past the “Alien Incubation Pools” you’ll get to the “Thelma & Louise Point“. It’s a great place to stop, stretch the legs and take a few pics. Shortly after this you’ll come to Gooseneck Overlook. These pictures could be at Thelma or Gooseneck. I’m not 100% sure which one is which so I’ll just leave it at that.
Adalto took a fabulous picture here of myself and Tomm
and a great pano shot!
Back on the trail, you’ll make a left to stay on what now is the White Rim Rd. If you go right (north) you’ll go up to do the Shafer Trail. This could be a ride all in it’s own. We did just that the last time https://aufroad.com/day-6-shafer-trail/.
Shortly after Gooseneck, you’ll come to another stopping point called Muscleman Arch. (3:00 in the video) It’s a lot of stops in a few miles but don’t worry, we’ll make up time after this with long stretches of no stopping.
Muscleman Arch is a lot like Gemini Bridges. You approach it from the top and it’s top is the White Rim that you are on. I’ve heard that back in the day, you could ride your moto across it. The last time we were here in 2015 you could walk across it. This time there were signs to stay off of it. So guess what we did?
It might not be all that evident but if you look close you can see that there’s a considerable amount of “air” below these guys. The Arch itself isn’t that wide either.
Back on the bikes we started getting in some good miles. That’s about when Tomm saw he had a voicemail message on his phone. Cell coverage is very spotty out there but he got to a point where he could listen to it. It was the RV Campground calling to ask when he was leaving (as in today). We weren’t, Tomm had reserved a few more days but apparently they screwed that up and overbooked. So Tomm had to bail on the rest of the ride and possibly go move the RV. It turns out that he didn’t have to move after all so that ended well. He did get pulled over for speeding though.
So now we had myself, Landon, Adalto and Ernie in his Jeep. It’s an easy path and almost impossible to get lost so Landon usually was in the lead with me following Adalto and Ernie lagging far enough in the back so as to not choke on dust all day.
NOTE: Adalto rode so much better today. That training we did on Slickrock really helped! If you watch the video he even gives me a little roost as he passes! (6:00)
White Rim is kind of boring in that you are traveling along a super scenic view for literally hours and hours and hours. 😉 But it does get a little monotonous on the flat sections BUT you have to always keep your eyes open because it does have nice little edges sticking out here and there, ready to flat spot your front wheel.
Junction Butte, Murphy Point and Hardscrabble break up some of the flatland road with some light technical uphills and downhills. It’s here that you need to really control the speed and stay away from flat spotting.
There’s one section near the end that is usually a sand pit. It’s only for a mile or so but it’ll test your sand riding capabilities. I learned in talking to a bicyclist along the way (see video) that the rains the day or so before washed it all out and sure enough, when we got there it was minimal at best.
In 2015, the sand was so silty and deep we almost considered turning around. This time it was a cake walk!
The climb back up. There’s a great climb back out of the White Rim basin that’s similar to Shafer Trail. At this point my GoPros were dead and we were fatigued and in a little of a rush to get home before dark. The only video or pic I could find was this one of Landon and I. Score another one for Adalto!
This is always a great topic of discussion. Since the route is in theory a loop (starting and finishing back in camp) the mileage is the same. The debate comes down to
- FATIGUE: Do you want to do the sand section late in the day when you are tired after or so 70 miles? Or do it first thing in the morning? Logic would dictate the morning, so you would want to do the route counter clockwise.
- SUN: Do you want to ride into the sun or with it to your back? Technically the route is a large U shape so most of your riding south / west is done at or near the bottom of the U. Riding counterclockwise you’ll have the sun at your back later on in the day. I found an online sun calculator that shows the direction of the sun on a given point at a certain date. http://suncalc.net/#/38.3407,-109.8619,9/2020.11.05/11:08 The solar noon would be at 11:04 according to this.