In the White Rim

Nothing like being able to see where you’re headed…

During my visit to Canyonlands in May, I got my first glimpse of the White Rim Trail, which I had long heard was a bike trip not to be missed. Inspired by the incredible views from Islands in the Sky, I decided to make that trip happen and luckily was able to pull it together. The tricky part was finding someone/someway to get a driver/support vehicle since I didn’t know enough folks to put a big trip together where everyone would take turns driving. Fortunately, my friend Antony who is not a mountain biker, agreed to come along and hike while Mike and I rode and then meet us at the end of the day at the campsites. Then the real challenge became reserving the campsites through the National Park Service. They’re are only 20 campsites spread throughout the 100 mile trail and between the outfitters who get first dibs and all the other folks who want to go, reserving the sites took several weeks of going online at 12:01 am till I finally found a combination that made sense for a 4 day 3 night trip.

First stop on the scenic tour

The ride starts with a huge descent from the top of Islands in the Sky down to the White Rim. From there you basically ride ride along the edge of canyons which overlook the Colorado River which half way around meets the Green River which you follow to the way out. Here’s a map that gives you a much better idea of what I’m talking about. But no matter where you are on the trail the views are amazing and the biggest challenge is resisting the urge to stop every hundred feet to take another picture.

This campsite was called “nothing special” on the various sites I researched…

but the view across the road sure was sweet…

and not a bad place to wake up in the morning

While the trail was spectacular and great easy riding, perhaps the best part was the campgrounds. We went in late October when the temperatures were more hospitable so the nights were cool but even without campfires which are not allowed it was a joy just to sit in camp and watch the colors change.

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On the road day two…

with in”spiring” views…

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around every corner…

While day one was mostly downhill, day two contained the only real serious climb of the trip (other than the climb out at the end) up to Murphy’s Hogback. But before we got to that climb there were miles and miles of fabulous scenery to ride through first.

Talk about jaw dropping views…

and canyons as far as the eye can see…

Our second night accommodations were at Murphy’ Hogback. There are three campsites at that location and all of them had spectacular vistas. We were in Murphy C which overlooked a huge canyon and next day’s ride.

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The clouds starting to roll in…

rainy hogback morning

which lead to a rainy night…

but ultimately another gorgeous day

Can you see why they call it the White Rim?

While preparing for this trip I read through numerous posts and all the National Park Service material. We had originally hoped we could do the trip with Antony’s Subaru Outback but the Park Service is adamant that you have a high clearance four wheel drive primarily for getting in and out of Murphy Hogback.  While that section of the road was slow going and ultimately not a major problem, the real challenge turned out to be mud and without our rented F-150 we would not have stood a chance.

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Our beast of burden and the fearless crew

Just another bend in the road…

which lead us to the Green River which sure looked brown on this day.

The start of the climb over Hardscrabble Hill…

which was progressing nicely till our sag wagon punctured a tire right about here…

then at the top of the climb…

and back down to the river to our campsite and one last fabulous dinner…

On day three we encountered our first real issues. After the tricky drive down Murphy Hogback things were progressing smoothly till we hit Hardscrabble Hill where on the way up the climb we discovered our vehicle by the side of the road. Originally thinking Antony had parked and gone for a hike we instead discovered that we had a flat and now had to figure out how to remove and replace a spare on an F-150. After an initial bout of cluelessness we figured it out and good thing as the nearest help was at least 40 miles away and we had not seen another vehicle on the trail all day. At this point we figured our excitement for the day was over but as we made our way along the river we discovered that the rain of the previous days had led to some serious mud ruts.

Sunset day 3

Mud day 4

While we only had to work around a short stretch of mud on day 3, on day 4 we encountered long stretches that had they been a little deeper would have been impassable. So rather than try and slog our way through we chose to throw our bikes in the truck and power our way out. While there was a nice stretch along the river that might have been nice if dry, the rest of the ride out was a long, steep and not particularly scenic grind up Mineral Road that I had no problem passing on.

A cool side trip on the way home

Did they meet aliens or what?

To cap off a fantastic trip we stopped by Sego Canyon on the way back where a number of different cultures left beautiful artwork on several rock faces. It was quite fitting that after passing through some other worldly terrain in Canyonlands that we saw what looked like pictures of aliens on the walls of the canyon. I can’t recommend doing the White Rim highly enough – it’s a relatively easy ride with scenery that can’t be beat and campgrounds that are beautiful and at least when we went delightfully empty. A big big thanks to my friend Antony for letting us bike leisurely through the landscape while he covered some very tough miles in the truck. If you should ever get the chance to ride the White Rim, do it!

 


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