There are very few established mountain bike routes that are as well known as the White Rim. For good reason, this iconic ride has been in the hearts and minds of mountain bikers for decades. But why? What draws riders here season after season? Here is a quick history to put this biking legacy into context.
The National Park system has been one of the keystone aspects of land conservation in the United States. The White Rim is nestled within the heart of Canyonlands National Park and crosses a 190 square mile piece of conservation history. To be able to ride through this place is truly unique. Around each canyon bend, up and down every wash the rider will wonder, “Has anyone ever stepped foot here?” The remote nature of this place is at the forefront of each visitors mind.
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“Not only is the mere beauty of the landscape something to savor, but the geologic history is something to ponder”
Anyone who steps foot on the White Rim cannot help but wonder how the canyons have developed. Not only is the mere beauty of the landscape something to savor, but the geologic history is something to ponder. Layers and layers of rock have been carved and shaped by water and wind over the millennia. Bikers are given a front-row seat to this story because their tires are rolling across the most prominent piece of this history: the White Rim layer of sandstone. This layer of stone is much harder than other layers and therefore erosion of this rock happens at a much slower pace. Some moments can feel almost effortless and others are quite slow going, but every biker can appreciate the experience of riding across this unique surface.
Here is a VISUAL AID for the layers of sandstone found in the Canyonlands National Park
“The undeniably rugged nature of the trail holds years of history and travelers cannot help but tap into that history while passing through.”
Evidence of the humans that inhabited these canyons for centuries can be witnessed along the trail. Ancestral Puebloan rock art and dwellings are scattered among the cliffs and canyons. As Westerners came to the region this area was used for winter cattle grazing before it was designated a national park. Riders will notice that many of the names come from those early ranching days and bear the names of the families that grazed their cattle in the canyons and mesas of the region. However, the White Rim Trail wasn’t created by ranchers. It was blasted and carved out of the canyons by uranium miners during the 1950s when the nuclear arms race was in full swing. The undeniably rugged nature of the trail holds years of history and travelers cannot help but tap into that history while passing through.
“Outfitters like Western Spirit have been guiding people around the White Rim since the early days of mountain biking.”
Outfitters like Western Spirit have been guiding people around the White Rim since the early days of mountain biking. Year after year people continue to pursue this adventure. Endurance cyclists circumnavigate the 80-mile trail in as fast as 1 day, but most riders choose to ride in 4 days to allow for ample time to experience the awe and wonder of this place. Each campsite has something unique to offer such as side hikes, new vistas, and places to explore. The wildness and remote nature of this place quickly draws you out of everyday life and into something very new and different. Many of our guests who rode the White Rim back in the 1990s have returned with their children, spouses or friends to share the cherished adventure.
Every bike ride has the potential to be great, but by reaching out for new experiences and adventures we can re-inspire our lives. The White Rim offers this type of adventure and for this reason it will continue to inspire more and more bikers throughout history.