The White Rim is one of the most spectacular desert routes you may visit. This rough road navigates through Utah’s Canyonlands National Park, below Island In the Sky. On the plateaus of the Colorado and Green Rivers, the route is popular amongst four wheel drive vehicles, dirt bikes, and cyclists.
What to know
For overnighters most start at Hogsback Campground (no water), just outside of the park limits and go counter clockwise. If you do go in this direction you will head south on to hwy 313 and then a left on Shafer Road. But who’s to say one way is better then the other.
If you plan on heading counter clockwise, you could always park near the top of Mineral Bottom Road switch backs. This way you could finish with the mind numbing 13 miles of Mineral Road. Any way you do it, you will have to do the relatively boring Mineral Road unless you shuttle.
The White Rim Trail itself is completely in Canyonlands National Park. The route would be considered moderately difficult for a bikepacking trip. Easy in terms of terrain, but more difficult because of water, exposure and logistics. The terrain is a mix of rough to smooth 4×4 road. You will encounter a handful of steep climbs, but nothing as long as Shafer or Mineral Roads.
The trail is easy to navigate with developed roads and plenty of tire tracks to follow. At times you will encounter large rocky sections as well as sand. Full suspension and fat bikes may be overkill, and you may struggle in the sand with a narrow rim/tire. wider rims are helpful, and a 29er plus model would likely be the bike of choice for many.
If you do intend on camping overnight, you MUST have a camping permit. Camping permits are $30 per night for your group with a maximum of 15 people per site.
Three of the nine campsite locations are most ideal for cyclists that are planning an overnighter, White Crack (39 miles from the visitors center), Murphy Hogback (45 miles in) and Candlestick (55 miles in.) Each campsite comes with a provided latrine. Campsites fill up quick, and are hard to get over popular weekends of the year. To make reservations head here, select your start date, then click on Island in the Sky.
Spring and fall are the best times to ride the route because it gets extremely hot in the summer. The Route is doable in the winter so long as the road is not closed for repairs. Please note, it gets cold and will snow, winter is typically not a good time to ride the route. In the spring, sections of the trail can flood. Make sure to be prepared and scout the forecast a few days in advance to get a good idea what to pack.
There are ZERO resupply spots on route, meaning you need to carry all of your food and water for the entire trail. Many people will cache water or bring along a support vehicle if a 2+ day trip is in order. Because of this reason, it’s easier logistically to plan an overnighter on the route, and carry everything you need. The Park Service recommends 1 gallon of water per day, per person. Be smart and carry enough.