Driving the long White Rim Road in Canyonlands NP

White Rim Road is a very scenic yet challenging unimproved road running through the White Rim bench lands, below the upper plateau of the Island in the Sky District between the Colorado and Green Rivers, in the US state of Utah. If you're afraid of heights, this road will turn your stomach inside out.

White Rim Road

Where is the White Rim Trail?

This classic desert dirt road is located near the town of Moab in Canyonlands National Park, in the southeastern part of Utah, in the western United States.

How long is the White Rim Trail?

The loop trail is about 160km (100 miles) long inside Utah’s majestic Canyonlands National Park. It loops around and below the Island in the Sky mesa top. The road is mostly unpaved (loose dirt, sandy dry washes, and sandstone rock formations) with 7 miles of pavement only.

When was the White Rim Trail built?

The classic Moab adventure was built in the 1950s by the Atomic Energy Commission in search of uranium to fuel the Cold War arms race.

How difficult is the White Rim Trail?

The loop drive is very challenging. A high-clearance vehicle with four-wheel drive is required. The drive features hairpin turns, steep grades, and cliffs with no guardrails. The steep, exposed sections of the Shafer Trail, Lathrop Canyon Road, Murphy's Hogback, Hardscrabble Hill, and the Mineral Bottom switchbacks make the White Rim loop a challenging ride and require extreme caution for both vehicles and bikes during periods of inclement weather. Be aware that road conditions can change due to heavy rains and/or river flooding. During high water conditions on the Green River, sections of road on the west side can flood, making a complete loop impossible. Under favorable weather conditions, the White Rim Road is considered moderately difficult for high-clearance, four-wheel-drive vehicles. Some spots along the road require serious navigation. Along the way, you might need a passenger to hop out and act as a spotter as you make your way around boulders and other impediments. It has long rocky stretches, deep sand, and little shade. Bring at least 1 gallon of water per person, per day - more if you'll be active.

Can you drive the White Rim Trail in one day?

To drive the road without stopping will take most people between 10-12 hours. However, if you stop on the way, 2 to 3 days is average. For the best experience, it is recommended to spend at least one night.

Is the White Rim Trail worth it?

The drive runs through the stunning southern Utah scenery. The entire length of the White Rim Road is breathtaking in a remote desert location providing sweeping views of the landscape. It is best attempted in spring and fall. Every inch of the way is surrounded by outstanding scenic beauty. The drive is ideal for adventurers in four-wheel vehicles or mountain bikes, with steep and exposed sections sitting alongside the mesa-like beauty. This multi-day backcountry epic is the perfect way to explore all that Canyonlands National Park has to offer. Highlights along the route include Musselman Arch, expansive overlooks of the Colorado River, Washer Woman Arch, Airport Butte, Soda Springs Basin, and views of the Green River.


• Distance: Approximately 100 miles.
• Average Time of Drive: 2-3 days.
• Difficulty: Moderate
• Trail Type: Point to Point
• Trailhead: Access from either Mineral Bottom Road or Island in the Sky Visitor Center.

Pic: J Calvert