The White Rim Trail runs 103 miles around the ‘Island in the Sky’ district of Canyonlands National Park. Most popular with high clearance Jeeps and mountains bikers, this trail is rarely hiked in one swoop. A few months ago while in Moab, Dirtmonger was out running the trail (he had run nearly every section of it) and he described to me the vast openness of the canyons and the solitude that can be found in these lonely crevasses of the earth. His passion for the area was contagious. He discussed wanting to do a thru of the trail, to get the full experience, seeing it all in one go, and I was hooked. A month later, Dirtmonger had obtained a permit for four; DM, Bearclaaw, myself, and Handy Andy. Handy Andy is a young student who recently set the FKT on the John Muir Trail, hiking it in 3 days 11 hours.
We set a date for the first weekend in April, shooting to do the 103 miles in just three days. This would be a great warm up, as we all have long hiking trips planned for the upcoming season. I had never been to this part of Canyonlands, and I was amped up to get out there.
Thursday night we met in Moab, and planned our exact route over some beers before hitting the trail in the late evening. We hiked 12 or so miles starting at sunset and into the night. We started on the island, which is a large plateau above the Green and Colorado rivers. It was easy walking, and we found a nice secluded camp in the middle of nowhere.
In the morning we made our way to visitor center, showing our permit, with our intentions to hike the trail in three days. The young ranger looked at us as if we we’re crazy (we looked the part), before she let us through. Bearclaaw was having shin pain that had been lingering for a few days. Although it was tough, she made the right call not to push herself to the limits that we had planned, as it likely would have aggravated the injury.
The three of us guys repacked our bags, filled 6 liters of water each, and made some final adjustments at the visitor center before dropping into the canyon. The trail drops a few thousand feet to what is the ‘white rim’. Essentially, the white rim refers to the light colored rocks that line the wall of the canyon.
The next two days, Handy Andy, Dirtmonger and I would really push ourselves, getting 35 and 36 mile days in. These dudes are premier hikers; tall, long legs, in great shape. I kept up with them just fine, but I felt like I was in a bit more pain than they were. I’m still working off the inevitable softness of busy season. The three of us shared stories, talked life, our individual paths, the beauty of the area, and the history behind the places we were travelling through. We expected more water than what we found (we only found one source outside of the Green River on the third day, and we owe this hike to the kind folks that were driving the trail that offered us water. On three separate occasions, we got offered water and were able to top off to capacity, saving us from travelling back up to the island and foregoing the trip.
Overall, I would highly recommend the White Rim Trail to anyone looking to see a fair amount of the beauty that is Canyonlands National Park and the surrounding area. Many people were biking it with support vehicles filled with food, water, and camping gear. If you do set out on it, be sure to be prepared with sunscreen, water, and enough food for emergency situations. And lastly, a special shout out to Handy Andy’s mom, as I ate nearly half of Andy’s Easter basket goodies on the hike 😉
Here’s a look at some of the photo highlights from the rim.