Riding the White Rim in a Day
in Canyonlands National Park
I was invited by a dear friend to join her and two friends to ride the White Rim in a day (WRIAD). I was plenty intimidated – the White Rim Trail is a 103-mile loop on mostly jeep roads through Canyonlands National Park. Our plan was to do 85 miles by cutting off the boring pavement section that completes the loop and get a shuttle instead.
Per utahmountainbiking.com, most riders spend 3 or 4 days riding this trail and use a support vehicle to haul their gear to campsites. They categorize the ride in two days as “Monster” and one day as “Lunatic.”
We were going for Lunatic, but the support vehicle that we used for a shuttle met us for lunch and resupplied our water. Not completely lunatic – allowing for a little luxury and a safety net for water. It was September and the forecast called for temps in the 90’s. We were concerned about carrying enough water for the heat.
The route isn’t technical. Still, I had to train for it. So all summer, bit by bit, I increased my mileage and time in the saddle. Even after training I was still intimidated but I went for it because a very courageous and adventurous woman that I admire said to me, “you are only young once.” Crissy was a close friend of my mom’s and she was wheelchair-bound due to a horse accident in her 40’s but she had the most cheerful attitude of anyone I know. So you see….
But cheese and rice, I’d never ridden more than 50 miles on my mountain bike in day (and the 50-miler was when I was 22 years old)!
As for elevation gain, the bulk of the ride is pretty easy. The average grade is only 2%. Most of the climbing is tackled with three major climbs (Murphy’s Hogback, Hardscrabble Hill, and the Mineral Bottom Switchbacks). The killer is at the end with the Mineral Bottom Switchbacks netting 1,400 feet in elevation gain in the last mile and a half. The major climbs add up to 4,000 vertical feet, but if you count every little up-and-down it’s more like 6,000 feet total.
I love the desert and the country is so vast that it’s unfathomable. The area is by permit only so we only saw about a dozen people the entire day. And at the end of the day, I felt pretty darn good. We stayed hydrated in the heat and stopped often enough to slather on the butt butter that I came out only a little saddle sore. My triceps ached, maybe from hanging on to the brakes on the first crazy descent! I would do it again — but next time I’m riding my fatbike — Peace, Love, & Bikes.
For more details on riding the White Rim, see the Canyonlands National Park – White Rim Road website.