RTWPaul: White Rim Trail, Moab, Utah

“…so, are you going to ride it?”

- “What’s it called again, and why are you so excited?”

“you said you are going to Moab, Utah…The White Rim Trail…dude, it’s on my bucket list, it’s on every dirt bike riders bucket list!”

Moab Utah is known as the ‘Adventure Capital of The West’, two National Parks are on the outskirts of town, and a great selection of adventure riding for all levels of riders seems to be down every road, from a few hours to all day long. 

The White Rim Trail is one of the better known rides, and almost a rite of passage, if you mention Moab to any off road motorcyclist in the US there is a good likelihood you’ll be asked if you rode it.

You now require a permit which you can get easily online, decide between a day use and overnight version, if you consider yourself a fast rider in the dirt and sand a day permit is all that’s required, but if you want to take your time and shoot a lot of photos maybe the overnight permit is the way to go, but remember to bring EVERYTHING you need as there are zero facilities on the trail. Load up with plenty of water, 3 liters or more is good and some food/ energy snacks to keep you going if it takes longer to ride than expected. Once you have that arranged and in hand it’s time to go ride.

The White Rim Trail is 100 mile loop and can be ridden in either direction, personally I prefer to ride in a clockwise direction. Keep in mind the loop is 100 miles but there is an additional 35 miles each way to Moab so a total of 170 miles/ 275km, so that needs to be your minimum fuel range.

For reference I’ve ridden it a few times with other riders and it’s taken anything from 2 ½ to 8 hours to do the 100-mile loop, the time was dependent on their riding level.

Best time to ride is in the spring or in the fall/ autumn, summer months are advised against as midday temperatures can exceed 100f/ 38c and there is NO SHADE AT ALL besides one big tree about ¾ way around!

As you leave Moab, you’ll pass the lines of cars headed into Arches National Park, most likely 99.9% of those people will never go where you are headed.

A few miles later take a left turn on to the 313/ Grand View Point Road, here is a link to show the turns so you don't miss them, there aren't many.

Stay on the paved road, there are sign for things to check out along the way, ignore them as you’ll be coming back this way, save all your time for the White Rim.

The 100 mile loop is measured from approximately Horsethief Campground, which is the BLM 340 road and back to this point. If you Zero your odometer here it will be a good reference for you to return 100 miles/ 160km. 

From here you’ll carry on until you reach a pay booth, this is where most visitors will carry straight on to ‘Islands In The Sky’, you will take a left turn 270 meters later, on to Shafer Canyon Road. The road will turn to dirt almost immediately and be dirt for most of the rest of the ride.

The views over Shafer Canyon are spectacular, make a point to stop and take photos as you won’t be coming back to this section. Only a short ride to the switchbacks but it might take a while as every corner offers a new amazing vista.

Once you reach the switchbacks you will have a great view down, it may look scary to some riders, but the track is usually in excellent condition as very easy to ride, remember to engine brake.

Take it slow on the way down checking each corner for motorcycles and vehicles coming up as they have the right of way.

Eventually the road will straighten out then flatten out, and it may seem like you are back at sea level, you’re not!

There will be a tiny building in the distance and a left turn, the building is a toilet, one the last ones until you return to Moab, and the left turn is Potash Road. If for some reason you want to bail out, this is your only option besides returning up Shafer Canyon.

Hopefully you decide to carry on straight, you are now on White Rim Road, the term road should taken loosely, from here the track will get rougher, maybe 2/5 at the worst sections, lots of riding over rocks and occasional sand that sometimes can be bulldust/ feshfesh…you’ve been warned.

Your first stop and major photo opportunity will be coming up, it’s called Muscleman Arch, a natural arch and it’ll be on your left. Most tourists that get onto the White Rim Trail make this their end point and turn back. 

You keep going…it soon becomes very obvious that you are a good amount above sea level as the trail shows you why it’s called the White Rim. The sun has bleached the very edge of the canyon white and it’s very easy to see where you’ll be headed a long way on to the distance.

The enormity of the landscape will make you feel very insignificant and small, seeing other people on the trail can be a rarity and some people find this intimidating while others relish the solitude.

At almost the hallway point (from Horseshoe) there is a significant steep climb, have plenty of momentum, it’s a longer climb than it first appears, but once you reach the top the views again are spectacular looking down to the next valley and the Green River in the far off distance.

Reaching the Green River or very close to it, there is a big tree, as a point of reference this is literally the only natural shade on the White Rim.

Continuing on you will get close to the river and occasionally it may have burst its banks, especially early in the season. This is a good reason for getting the permit, you will be informed about the conditions and someone will know you are out here. 

If you decide to go to the river to cool off be extremely cautious if you plan to swim, the Green River has a very strong undercurrent and can carry you down river at speed with few places to get back out.

If the ground farther on is wet, be cautious, it can be almost quicksand in some areas, but only for a very short time and eventually you will start to climb again. The last climb is a smaller easier version of Shafer and at the top you’ll reach and intersection with Mineral Canyon Road, from here it’s around 12 miles/ 20km to complete the loop riding flat fast tracks to the end.

You are now an undocumented member of the club of White Rim riders and when anyone asks when you were in Moab did you ride The White Rim Trail? 

You can reply with a smile, “yeah I rode that!” 

Now sit back and wait for the questions…

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