Updated: Mar 3
The White Rim Trail is a bucket list item for many bikers and off road adventurers in Utah. To help you make your trip the most fun it can be, I've put together 7 tips from my experiences riding the White Rim.
1. Plan Your Ride In Advance - to ride the White Rim Trail by 4x4, motorcycle or bike you'll need a day permit, even if you plan to do it in a single day. An overnight permit is required for overnight backcountry camping. There are only 20 campsites along the trail and reservations go fast. To make sure you can get overnight permits you need to plan ahead, especially in Spring and Fall. Planning well in advance ensures you can get the best campsites and break up your daily mileage in equal increments. Otherwise you could end up with slim pickings for campsites and having to ride short distance one day and a very long distance the next. My favorite campsites along the trail are White Crack, Potato Bottoms and Hard Scrabble, but reserve them early, the go fast!
2. Go in Spring or Fall - unless you love riding in the desert in 100+ degree temperatures in the Summer, Spring and Fall are the best times to ride the White Rim. Temperatures are cooler, the sun isn't as strong and the landscape and vegetation are more green. March-April and September-October are my favorite months to ride the trail, but keep in mind Utah is known for its ever-changing weather. I once rode the White Rim in the middle of March and it was a punishing 91 degrees instead of its normal 60s range. In October it once got down to 22 degrees, instead of its usual low in the 40s. These are extremes and usually the temperature is pleasant this time of year, but make sure to check the forecast right before you go and pack accordingly in these months of higher weather volatility.
3. Take Your Time - for some riders, especially bikers, completing the White Rim trail in a single day has become a badge of achievement and people will begin very early and ride the almost 100 miles without getting off their bike or out of their car. There is so much to see on the White Rim that a day trip doesn't do it justice. One of my favorite things about the White Rim is camping in the desert. Since you are so far away from civilization the night sky and stars are brighter than almost anywhere. Watching the sun set and rise over the desert is something you won't soon forget. I recommend spending at minimum at least one night on the trail and probably two or three to truly get the full experience of the White Rim Trail. This also leaves ample time for side trips.
4. Take More than 1 Vehicle - The White Rim is very remote and with its permit system you really don't run into very much traffic along the way, so it is a good idea to travel with more than one vehicle. From a safety standpoint, this ensures if something goes wrong with one vehicle, you have another option to drive out and get help if needed. Also it is nice to have a comfortable camp and bed after a long day of biking, so having support vehicles that can carry everyones gear is a huge plus. In my experience the White Rim is also a lot more fun with more people, and since most campgrounds allow for 3 vehicles and 15 people you might as well invite your family and best friends to enjoy the experience.
While most of the off-road trail is easy to drive, there are a few spots like Schaefer trail, Murphy's Hogback, Hardscrabble and the Mineral Switchback where you will want someone familiar driving off-road. You definitely want high clearance 4x4 vehicles, but nothing extreme is needed. I've done it in a stock Tacoma and didn't have any problems.
5. Bring Plenty of Water and Food - this is especially true if you are camping and/or mountain biking. Water is not available along the trail, so you will need to haul all of your water for the trip including drinking, washing dishes etc. The National Park Service recommends at least one gallon of water per person per day at a minimum - and that's just for drinking, you'll want a lot more for a comfortable camping experience. This is another reason to have more than one vehicle on your trip. It's also nice to have plenty of good food and cold drinks when riding into camp after a long day.
6. Explore side trails and attractions - the White Rim Trail is filled with beautiful sights that are enjoyed from the trail, but there are also a lot of cool things to see by taking some short side trails. Moses and Zeus is an impressive rock formation located down a 5 mile road in Taylor Canyon - it is definitely worth the detour.
Hiking out to Fort Bottom Ruin from Potato Bottom or Hardscrabble camp is a great evening hike and includes some old building ruins. White Crack is a campsite about a mile and a half off the main loop that offers some great views of the lower basin area of Canyonlands. Taking the time to enjoy these and other side trips is another reason to take at least a couple days to travel the White Rim Trail.
7. To reduce your mileage cut out Mineral Road to Shafer Trail - biking the White Rim is truly an experience like no other, I recommend it even for people who aren't serious riders, as most of the trail is non-technical. For those who are a little intimidated by the almost 100 mile length of the trail, you can easily cut this down to 80 miles by skipping the section after the Mineral Bottom Switchbacks to the Shafer Trail (See Map). There really isn't a lot to see on this 20 mile stretch, almost 6 of which is paved road. So if your legs are tired after climbing the switchbacks and you can't peddle anymore, throw your bike on the rack and hop in the car for this final stretch (assuming you rode the loop clockwise). You can also stage extra vehicles that you aren't taking on the loop in a parking lot just above the switchbacks, allowing riders to shorten their trip to the main road.
I hope the above tips make your White Rim Trip a little more fun. If you found this article helpful and are planning other adventures in Utah consider signing up for our e-mail list (simply go to the top of page and click subscribe - it's free!) to get the latest adventure posts. You can also sign up to be a member here to share comments at the bottom of our posts and in our forums. Most importantly don't forget to get outside and find your adventure!