Updated: Jul 11
The White Rim Trail belongs on every overlander's bucket list. There's good reason why this is one of the most popular offroad trails in North America. With its red rock canyons and mesas, sculpted hoodoos, and incandescent night sky, Canyonlands National Park is an overlander's paradise.
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Adventure Rating: Epic
Trip Length: 124 miles, 2-3 days. The trip can be completed in a single day, but we recommend 2-3 days to take in the scenery and explore the surrounding area.
Season: Recommended spring or fall. While it is possible to run the trail in summer or winter, heat and unpredictable weather/trail conditions may put your plans at risk.
Technical Rating: Green with a few mild blue sections.
Typical Terrain: A mixture of wide dirt roads (some sandy), and a few jeep trails with some rocks and ruts. There is some exposure with steep drop offs along this route.
Recommended Vehicle: Stock truck or SUV with 4x4 and all terrain tires.
Adventure Vans: An experienced offroad driver with a 4x4 Sprinter should be able to drive the trail without issue. If you haven't taken your Sprinter on moderately technical terrain before, we recommend that you work up your skill level before attempting this route.
Alternative Routes: Yes! See bottom of route details.
Permits: You must obtain a single day or multi-day permit to drive the White Rim Trail. Information on permit regulations, camping reservations, and cost can be found HERE. Permits must be reserved at least 2 days in advance of your trip. You must have a printed and signed permit in your possession during your entire trip. Tip: In spring and fall, demand for permits frequently exceeds the number available. If you plan to visit Canyonlands National Park during these times of year, you should make reservations well in advance.
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Mecca, that's exactly what Moab is to many in the offroading and mountain biking communities. And for the overlanding crowd that makes the pilgrimage to Moab, completing the White Rim Trail is a sacred ritual that must be done at least once. While not as technical as many of the trails that surround Moab, the White Rim has earned its place in overlanding lore largely due to the abundant but no less incredible red rock scenery in this part of the Colorado plateau. The route can be easily completed with a stock SUV or truck with 4x4 and decent all terrain tires. Most begin the White Rim Trail from the town of Moab and traverse the trail in the clockwise direction. However, expect to come across travelers (vehicles and mountain bikers) who have chosen to run the route in the opposite direction. The beginning of the route cuts through BLM land, before the Shafer switchbacks make their mighty introduction to the White Rim Trail and what's to come. The trail makes its way down to a second, lower tier mesa overlooking the Colorado. Along the way you'll pass Musselman Arch and Airport Tower (a great campground if you plan to spend multiple nights along the trail).
As the trail works its way south, it eventually rounds Junction Butte and abruptly begins the march northward. Another river will soon come into view, and while many mistake it for the Colorado, it's actually the Green River, which feeds into the Colorado a few miles to the south. One of the more technical sections along the route (and it's still not that technical!) can be found near Murphy's Hogback, where the road turns into a narrow and steep jeep trail with some cliff exposure. By the time you reach Murphy's, you've got more than 50% of the trail under your belt. Driving above the eastern mesa above the Green River, you'll pass Candlestick camp (another great site). At this point, the secondary mesa begins to deteriorate as the trail descends down to the banks of the Green River. Not far from Labyrinth camp sits the northern boundary of Canyonlands National Park, and to its east is Taylor Canyon. Those looking for a bit of a side adventure may consider driving up Taylor Canyon where they'll be greated by Moses and Zeus rock scultpures. If you want to really take in the Island in the Sky district of Canyonlands, considering checking out the numerous dirt/jeep roads and hiking trails along the route and surrounding area, many of which are well worth exploring. Upon leaving Canyonlands, the trail ascends back up the mesa where your rate of travel is likely to increase as the road straightens. You can expect to be back in Moab within a couple of hours!
Alternative Routes If you want to get up close and intimate with the Colorado River, consider taking Potash River Road, which follows the banks of the river. This alternate route bypasses the Shafer switchbacks that descent from the top of the mesa. If you take the alternative, considering driving up (and then down) the Shafer switchbacks for some epic photo ops!
Once you enter Canyonlands National Park, you must camp in one of the designated campgrounds. Reservations are required for all camp sites (more info on permits and camp reservations HERE). Bathrooms are provided at each campground, but no potable water is available along the route. Camp fires and pets are not permitted within the National Park boundaries of the route. The northern portion of the route is on BLM land, where dispersed camping is permitted.
Murphy Hogback camp
White Crack camp
Maps + Navigation
>> Always check with local land managers for road closures and conditions.
Gaia GPS (Trails illustrated layer, NPS Visitor layer, NatGeo , Gaia base layer)
Paper map of Canyonlands National Park
Download GPX files
TIP: To expose alternative routes and points of interest in Google Maps, open the sidebar and select the desired layer.