One thing we really had a great time doing at Canyonlands in Utah was Jeeping on the White Rim Road. After hiking all morning on Sept 29, 2020 we were ready for an afternoon of driving our Jeep down into the canyon.
What is the White Rim Road?
The White Rim Road is a 4 x 4 road in Canyonlands. It runs 71 miles through the Island of the Sky District starting just before the visitor center on the top of the rim descends down into the canyon. (Different resources report the mileage as further). It is an unpaved packed dirt road. There are switchbacks and drop-offs so careful driving is a must!! We only drove 10 miles of the trail as it is advised to take 2-3 days to traverse the entire trail. There are camping areas at the bottom.
All Trails rates this as difficult and you can read the All Trails Review by clicking here. I know we have Jeeped harder areas, but again, we did not travel the entire trail. Also it was dry when we were there so the dirt road was well packed. Note also that you need to check into the visitor center and you will need a permit to travel this road. You can get your permit at the Visitor Center just before you go.
Located in the Island of the Sky area of Canyonlands. White Rim Road is right before the visitor center and about a quarter of a mile from the Canyonlands Entrance. Make sure you get a permit at the visitor center.
Shortly after the turnoff you will encounter a series of switchbacks descending into the canyon. These are fun but you must be very careful around the turns as other cars may be coming up and you do not want an accident. We took the front part of our Jeep top off and kept windows down so we could hear other vehicles. We also looked ahead to see if we saw a vehicle in the distance so we would be aware they were approaching. Also watch for bike riders as they use this trail too. There were definitely some nail biting moments, but Steve did a great job driving down the switchbacks! Once you reach the bottom of the switchbacks you have gone about 4.5 miles! Sure seemed longer!!
Turn Off to Moab
Our next milestone was the turn off to Moab. The sign said Moab was 32 miles away. I had not known you could get to Moab from here! We only planned on driving 10 miles on this road and then back. Traveling to Moab may be an idea for another trip! I would have to do some research on it first before attempting!
Every direction you looked there was a scenic view! Being in the canyon was so much different than looking down into it from above. We had a blast! There were a couple of trails to hike that we passed but after hiking all morning we decided to just enjoy Jeeping.
Walking Rocks and Musselman Arch
We stopped to walk to the Musselman Arch and view the Walking Rocks just off the road. At this point you are a little over 8 miles into the White Rim Trail. It had taken us about an hour to get to this point.
We continued to drive for just a couple more miles. This part of the road was flat, Although the road was pretty bumpy and there were a few more ruts. We kept enjoying the views but turned around at about 10 miles in.
Colorado River View
On our way back up, I was able to see the views of the Colorado River and snapped a couple of photos. The road was narrow and there were a couple of vehicles fairly close behind us with no good pull off. I snapped the photos from the window so they are not the best quality.
Back to the Top
We hit the switchbacks and up we went. We saw more vehicles this time so were extremely cautious. Some drives would ask as they were going down if we had vehicles behind us and would let us know if there were vehicles behind them. It was great that everyone was being cautious. All in all though, we probably encountered during our entire time less than 10 other vehicles, and about 5 bike riders. Our ride took about 3 hours from start to finish.
Jeeping the White Rim Road was a blast. I can’t begin to say how carefree we felt! Just a couple of free spirits with out a care in the world, plus we saw very few other people! Great social distancing!!!
We again used a Falcon Guide book for this trip. You can click this link if interested in the book, Hiking Canyonlands and Arches National Park. This book was good for us as it gave information not just on hiking but on 4 wheel drive roads in the area as well including the White Rim Road in Canyonlands.
We also found a map to be valuable on this trip, although we didn’t necessarily need it for hiking it was good to have for the 4 x 4 road. As usual, we like the National Geographic Maps and you can find that at the following link. Canyonlands National Parks Trails Illustrated Map. Maps are also available for each district in Canyonlands, although we found for what we were doing this map was perfect.