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White Rim Trail- Solo, Unsupported Ride- Canyonlands National Park, Utah

Overview of the Ride

I road the White Rim Trail in Canyonlands National Park August 10-15, 2008. I chose to ride in August for a few reasons- every campsite was open, there was no one else on the trail, and I rather enjoy the hot weather and the challenge it provides. I made my reservations well in advance, although this may not really be necessary during the hot months of the year. I rode solo and self-supported, towing a B.O.B. trailer behind me with my water, food and gear. I rode clockwise to allow myself access to the Green River for water resupply towards the end of the ride.

When I arrived at the park headquarters to check in I found that the Shafer Trail, the main trail leading down to the White Rim Trail, had been washed out about a week prior and was still closed for repairs. The image below is looking down on the Shafer Trail from the overlook near park headquarters on the day I finished up my ride. The trail was still under repair at that time.
view down shafer trail from overlook in canyonlands national park, utah.
After staring at the map for a while and noting all the possibilities for still doing the ride I decided on riding down Longs Canyon to Potash Road, then up Potash Road to the Shafer Campsite for my first night. From there it was only about one kilometer to the White Rim Trail which was to be about mile 6 of my ride. With the detour this became approximately mile 26, with the normally 103 mile ride becoming nearly 125 miles. In my planning I had allowed myself a day of rest once I reached the Green River. I used that day to make up the extra mileage.

I averaged about 25 miles per day, riding between 3 1/2 and 4 1/2 hours each morning. I made it a point to be up with the sun each day and on the trail by about 0630 at the latest. This put me at my camp by about 1100 and got me out of the mid-day sun. It allowed for plenty of time to enjoy the views, rehydrate, and rest for the next day's ride.


There are plenty of campsites along the trail. Some of the sites have multiple camps, separated b y a decent amount of space. They are reserved as part of the permitting process. My fisrt campsite was Shafer, right at the bottom of the Shafer Trail. There is no shade here until late in the afternoon. My next camp was Airport D. There was one small bush there which provided a place to tie up a poncho to create some shade.

view from Murphy A campsite, white rim trail, canyonlands national park, utah
The next site was Murphy A. Murphy is at about the halfway point and was the best campsite on the entire ride. There was great shade both from a huge boulder and Juniper trees. The photo to the left is the view south from Murphy A. My final camp was Labyrinth B, again with absolutley no shade, no bushes for creating shade, and less-than-easy access to the river. Just before the Labyrinth sites are Potato Bottom and Hardscrabble campsites- both of these have great shade from cottonwoods. The Hardscrabble site has decent river access. Consider them instead of the Labyrinth sites.

I began my ride with about 6 1/2 gallons of water- 52 pounds of liquid, most of it in my trailer. I had originally plannned to be at the Green River mid-day on day three, but with the trail closure I ended up at the river mid-day on day four. I would have been out of water had it not been for the fact that there were plenty of potholes around left from the recent rains to allow me to pump an extra gallon. Plan to carry enough water with you- do not count on finding water on the trail. Water from the Green River must be settled for at least a number of hours, if not overnight, and then filtered.

Photo of the author on Potash road near the boder of Canyonlands National Park.  Photo courtesy of Antonio Chiumenti.
Gerald Trainor on Potash Road heading towards the White Rim Trail. Photo courtesy of Antonio Chiumenti. You can see more of his photos at his
Flickr website.

The permit for the White Rim ride cost 30 dollars as of the summer of 2008, with an additional 10 dollar park entry fee. Reservations can be made through the mail; download and print the PDF permit application. Be sure to call the park to confirm which campsites and dates are still open as you are filling out the forms. Visit the Canyonlands website for more information on the park and the ride.

Read more about the ride on the 15 August blog post.

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