There are many different ways to ride the White Rim Trail in Utah's Canyonlands National Park. The most popular way to complete the 108-mile route is with vehicle support. A trailing support truck can do all of the heavy lifting of camping gear, food, water, and clothes, and if you don't want to struggle up the Murphy Hogback at the end of the day, just fake an injury or mechanical issue and within minutes you're relaxing in the passenger seat.
On the other end of the spectrum, some crank out the entire loop in a single day. The two main advantages of doing it in a day are: (1) you can travel relatively light and fast unburdened with large amounts of gear/food necessary for a multi-day ride, and (2) there's no need to fuss about camping permits (the NPS does, however, now require a day permit for the White Rim).
In my mind, there is one blaring disadvantage to the single-day ride. Unless you're the cream of the elite-racer crop, you'll pretty much be riding non-stop from dusk to dawn with little time for photography and no time to explore the area with some side-hikes.
I really didn't want to rush my White Rim experience. There were just too many things I wanted to see and hike to in the area. So I decided that if the weather cooperated, I'd take three days over President's Day weekend to crank out the 120-mile route around the rim. The extra mileage includes a reroute around the Shafer switchbacks (closed due to snow and ice) via Long Canyon and the Potash Road, as well as an out-and-back to Hell Roaring Canyon near Mineral Bottom.
The biggest problem to solve was how to carry three days worth of water along with me. There are no guaranteed water sources along the White Rim (well, there is the Colorado and Green Rivers but I don't like the taste of mud), and I decided early on I wasn't going to stash caches ahead of time. I ended up going with the following setup, which for the most part, worked quite well:
So at the start of my ride, I had 6 liters of water on my bike and 6 liters of fluids in my backpack for a total of 12 liters. This ended up being just the right amount with a little more than 1 gallon of fluid consumed each of the three days. In warmer weather, more water would be necessary.
I elected to start at the parking/camping area at the top of the Horsethief switchbacks and ride clockwise. After camping at the trailhead, I started up the Mineral Bottom Road at 5 am. About halfway to paved SR-313, a guy and a girl came flying down the road in the opposite direction. I'm pretty sure I saw them again toward the end of the day just before Gooseberry camp as they raced to finish the White Rim in a single day.
Here are a few highlights of the day:
|View Down Long Canyon with the snow-covered LaSal Mountains in the distance. Heavily jointed orange Navajo Sandstone in mid-distance represents the Behind the Rocks area south of Moab.|
|Rock fall near Pucker Pass in Long Canyon|
|Balanced rock near the potash ponds.|
The final scene of Thelma & Louise. I like this alternate-ending version because director Ridley Scott includes additional footage from a second camera on the Chicken Corner side of the River. The B.B. King soundtrack is better than the original also. The only problem is the ridiculous part at the very end when they drive off into the sunset.
|View to south along the Colorado River from the Gooseneck Overlook.|
|Gooseneck Overlook on the White Rim.|
|Musselman Canyon wasteland.|
|The spectacular Musselman Arch formed on White Rim sandstone. This one won't be around forever. Before this area was made a national park, people had driven Jeeps across this thing. That's nuts.|
This short video clip gives you an idea about how thin the bridge is.
|Contouring around Buck Canyon with Washer Woman Arch towering overhead.|