White Rim Trail
A trip to the White Rim Trail is sure to be an experience of a lifetime and one you will not soon forget. Planning a trip on the White Rim Trail can be intimidating, there is lots to know, and being prepared is the first step to having a successful trip. This is a remote back-country experience and one needs to be fully self-sufficient for the entire length of the trip, this includes food, water, emergency supplies, etc. There are no facilities along the trail. Do your homework, be prepared, and you are guaranteed to have an amazing experience. Let’s see if we can’t help take some of the mystery out of planning your White Rim trail trip.
The White Rim Trail is located in Canyonlands National Park within the Island in the Sky District. The Colorado and Green Rivers come together within the park dividing it into four districts: Island in the Sky, Maze, Needles, and the rivers themselves.
There are two preferred methods of transportation on the 72 mile White Rim Trail, 4 x 4 Jeeps and bikes. If you are planning to bike the White Rim Trail it is highly recommended that you have a 4×4 support vehicle accompany your group to carry gear, food and supplies. There are many Jeep rental outfits as well as bike tour companies in Moab.
For the most part the White Rim Trail is pretty tame in good weather and considered moderately difficult, but there are a couple of sections that can be challenging even in good weather. I strongly recommend a high clearance 4 x 4, your SUV or mini-van is just not going to cut it on this trail.
I recommend planning your trip 1 year in advance. There are limited backcountry sites and they fill quickly. You will need to obtain camping permits and make reservations, and the earlier you apply the better your chances of getting the campsites and dates you want. The earliest you may apply is the 2nd Monday in July for the following calendar year, more on this later.
First step in planning is determining when you want to go and trip length. I would plan on a minimum trip length of 3 days and 2 nights if driving and 4 days 3 nights if biking.
Next you will want to determine which end of the trail you would like to start at and what campsites you want to stay in. Have a second choice in mind as your first choice may not be available, especially in the spring and fall when demand is highest. All bicyclists and four-wheel drivers must stay in designated campsites, maximum stay is 3 consecutive nights per area. Campsites are primitive; basically flat open areas marked with 4 posts in each corner. There are no picnic tables or benches so bring chairs. There are no fire pits and wood fires are prohibited. Each area has a vault toilet, there is no potable water available on the trail. Each campsite will accommodate up to 15 people and 3 vehicles. In areas where there are more than one campsite they are generally positioned to be out of earshot, and as much as possible, out of sight of each other. Here are photos and a breakdown of campgrounds traveling clockwise along the White Rim Trail. Click on the small photo to see a larger version.
Shafer – 7 miles from Visitor Center and 1 campsite.
Airport – 19 miles from Visitor Center and 4 campsites.
Gooseberry – 30 miles from Visitor Center and 2 campsites.
White Crack – 39 miles from Visitor Center and 1 campsite. Offers incredible panoramic views of the Maze and Needles districts. This is the most sought after campsite along the White Rim Trail.
Murphy Hogback – 45 miles from Visitor Center and 3 campsites. This area also offers great views into Canyonlands basin.
Candlestick – 55 miles from Visitor Center and 1 campsites.
Potato Bottom – 66 miles from Visitor Center and 3 campsites.
Hardscrabble Bottom – 70 miles from Visitor Center and 3 campsites.
Labyrinth – 72 miles from Visitor Center and 2 campsites. These sites both have views of the Green River, Site B is closer to the river than A.
Taylor – 77 miles from Visitor Center and 1 campsite.
Now you are ready to make your reservations. Again, the earlier you do this the better, especially if you are looking for spring or fall dates. The earliest you may apply for a reservation is the 2nd Monday in July for the following calendar year and the latest you may apply for a reservation is two weeks in advance. If you do not want to make a reservation in advance you can always walk into any Districts Visitor Center and see what is available, any campsites or permits that were not reserved in advance are available on a first come first serve basis.
Reservations must be made in writing. You can find fees and application here: http://www.nps.gov/cany/planyourvisit/reservations.htm
Traveling with a pet? Pets are not allowed in the back-country, you will need to leave your furry friend at home or board them at one of several kennels in the Moab area.
Be sure and follow “Leave no Trace” practices. Pack out all your garbage. Not only is this the courteous thing to do it is a park rule.
Permits are required for all overnight trips.
Wood fires are prohibited. Charcoal fires are allowed at designated vehicle campsites provided you use a fire pan and you must remove unburned charcoal and fire debris.
Weapons are prohibited.
Disturbing, entering or camping within 300 feet of an archeological or historical site is not permitted.
Collecting artifacts is prohibited.
Camping outside the established campsite boundary at a designated campsite is prohibited.
Disturbing or collecting natural features is prohibited.
ATV’s are not permitted.
Possession or operation of a bicycle or motor vehicle off a designated road is prohibited
Some extra things you will want to pack to help make your trip more enjoyable:
- Water – lots of it. Because there is no potable water found along the trail you need to bring in enough water for everyone in your party for the entire length of the trip. Plan on a minimum of 1 gallon of water per person, per day; more if you will be active.
- Shelter – There is little to no shade along the trail so a tarp or some type of shelter might be nice.
- Spare Tire – Expect towing charges to run in excess of $1,000.00
- Checklist – Make a check list of all the gear and food you will need for your trip and double check it before leaving.
Here are more photos of Canyonlands National Park.