White Rim Trail Bike Trip | Canyonlands National Park
The White Rim Trail is THE classic Moab mountain bike tour. With jaw-droppingly gorgeous views, slot canyon hikes, and ancient ruins, this is a ride to get you off the grid and into the vast open spaces of Canyonlands National Park.
White Rim Sandstone is an extremely hard sedimentary rock sandwiched among the layers of the Colorado Plateau. Winding through the plateau, the Colorado and Green rivers have carved out a section of Canyonlands called the Island in the Sky. The White Rim Sandstone encircles the Island and is thought to have been the border of an inland sea. Mountain biking is a wonderful way to experience the unique beauty of Canyonlands. Our tour provides ample opportunities to explore the slot canyons and Ancestral Puebloan ruins along the way.
Mountain biking the White Rim is a great experience for all levels of riders. The technical sections are short and can be easily walked by the less experienced, while providing a fun challenge for the more experienced. This is an 4-day, introductory guided mountain biking trip.
We will shuttle from our shop in Moab to the Island in the Sky District of Canyonlands National Park where we begin our ride with a dramatic descent of the Shafer Trail switchbacks. This 1,200 foot downhill lasts for three miles and brings us down to the White Rim sandstone layer. Points of interest include: the Colorado River Overlook, Musselman Arch, Little Bridge Canyon (prime Bighorn Sheep habitat) and Lathrop Canyon. The route continues with a downhill trend and then rolls gently to camp. After Lathrop Canyon, we will ride to our camp at Airport Tower and enjoy views of the La Sal and Abajo mountains. TOTAL MILEAGE: 18 miles
Today, as we approach Monument Basin, we will continue riding around the beautifully eroded canyons of the Colorado Plateau. In this spectacular canyon stands the Totem Pole, a 300 foot tall sandstone pillar. A gentle climb takes us to the foot of Junction Butte, marking the confluence of the Green and Colorado rivers. A 1-1/2 mile side trip to White Crack offers fantastic views of both the Green and Colorado river canyons as well as the Needles District of Canyonlands. Giant free-standing pillars of rock dominate the landscape and exemplify the powerful forces of erosion at work. Continuing on past Junction Butte, we descend to the base of Murphy Hogback, where a steep 400 foot climb brings us to camp. The Hogback is the high point of the trip and from here one can look into the Maze and Needles districts of Canyonlands and beyond. TOTAL MILEAGE: 27 miles
We begin the day with a fun but technical descent off the Hogback down to the White Rim layer. Points of interest include Candlestick Tower and Holeman Canyon, where we may take a short hike. Hiking into this canyon is very tricky and requires some interesting moves. The hanging gardens, pools of water and narrow canyon walls make this hike one of our favorites on the White Rim. We will then continue along in a downhill mode along the rim of the sheer canyon to Potato Bottom where the White Rim sandstone layer disappears into the Green River. We’ll camp here under the cottonwoods on the bank of the Green River. TOTAL MILEAGE: 21 miles
A hearty breakfast will get us going for our first climb up Hardscrabble Hill. It’s a steep one, and it’s about a mile long with intermittent pitches. After topping out, we traverse the Chinle rock layer, where the miners of the 1950s searched for uranium, before dropping back down to river level. Following the course of the Green River, our final morning’s ride is an enjoyable cruise along the river bank to Horsethief Bottom. Views of Upheaval Dome, rising 1,500 feet from the trail bring to mind the geologic complexities of the area. There are different schools of thought regarding the processes which formed this interesting feature. Some think that a giant meteorite crashed into the earth here and distorted the impacted area. Others say that Upheaval Dome formed due to a slow collapse of the underlying Paradox Salt formation. Our journey ends with a major climb up the Mineral Canyon switchbacks. This strenuous climb is two miles long and gains 800 feet in elevation, bringing us back up to our beginning elevation. After lunch at the viewpoint our shuttle will take us back to Moab. TOTAL MILEAGE: 14 miles
Itineraries are subject to change due to weather, road conditions, rider safety and other factors which may affect the logistics of the adventure.
Riding Surface: Four wheel drive jeep roads: packed sediment, sand and slickrock.
Overall Rating: Introductory/Intermediate
Technical Difficulty: Moderate, some steep climbs and rocky sections.
Physical Difficulty: Moderate
Altitude: 4,000 - 6,000 feet
For travel logistics and a packing list, please download the complete trip itinerary. Please note that we run this loop trip in both directions. If you want to confirm which way you will ride, give us a call!