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Rider: Greg Heil

Mountain Bike the White Rim: 4 Days, 3 Nights, Clockwise

Experience the grandeur of Canyonlands National Park on the back of a mountain bike!

Mountain Biking Easy, Moderate

Rider: Greg Heil
Rider: Greg Heil Photo: Christine Henry


The White Rim Road, running through Canyonlands National Park, is one of Utah’s premier multi-day mountain bike rides. Granted, select badasses will choose to pedal the 102-mile distance (with 7,000 feet of climbing) in a single day, but most riders choose to divide the route into 2-4 days.

The entire White Rim route is actually a jeep road and not a singletrack trail. The road was originally built by uranium miners prospecting in this area back in the 40s and 50s before Canyonlands National Park was designated in 1964, and the land was protected from further resource extraction. At 337,597 acres, Canyonlands reigns as the largest national park in Utah—and there's no better way to explore the remote wilderness of Canyonlands than on a mountain bike!

On this four-day ride, you'll be able to take the time to immerse yourself in the mind-boggling scale and drama of this incredible landscape. Around every corner, a new rock formation emerges—deep canyons, massive rock walls, towering spires, natural arches, and narrow slot canyons. But perhaps most impressive is that these formations never seem to have an end. As the days roll on, you'll realize that while Airport Tower seemed so iconic on day 1, you'll soon pass multiple towers of equal grandeur, such as Monster Tower, Candlestick Tower, the Bishop's Prick, and many more. Equally impressive, the folds and inlets of the canyon and the thick White Rim rock layer upon which you're riding seem to vary endlessly. Just when you think the scenery might begin to get repetitive, it changes yet again.

As you might imagine, the goal of this trip isn't ripping rad singletrack, but rather the total immersion in the stunningly beautiful wilderness of the Utah desert. That said, most riders still choose a mountain bike as their weapon of choice. Between deep sandy sections, rough rock slabs, and several short but steep climbs and descents, the forgiveness and traction of a mountain bike are much more comfortable and confidence-inspiring than opting for a skinny-tired gravel bike. While a hardtail 29er might be the perfect tool for the job, there's no reason you can't ride a full suspension trail bike on this route. After four days of pounding over rocks and potholes, you may appreciate the extra forgiveness of the rear suspension!

Due to the lack of water resupply points on the route, the White Rim spawned the concept of vehicle-supported mountain bike rides back in the late 80s and early 90s. Most riders on the route utilize a support vehicle of some sort to carry water, food, and camping gear, freeing you up to ride with a light daypack instead of a heavily loaded bike.

However you choose to divide the trip up, make sure you plan ahead. All travel on the White Rim requires a permit—even if you do it as a century ride. There are campgrounds spread throughout the route, but you must secure specific permits/reservations for the sites you plan to use. Couple the difficulty of scoring permits with the almost non-existent access to water, and many people choose to book a paid tour instead of wrangling the support vehicle logistics on their own.

Paid tours will already have permits for camping, eliminating that challenge. They’re also fully equipped to haul your gear, food, and water from one campsite to the next in a rugged 4x4 vehicle, so you don't have to worry about those logistics and put unnecessary wear and tear on your own vehicle. Certain tour companies, like Western Spirit, will also prepare gourmet meals for you in the heart of the backcountry—which feels truly luxurious! Sometimes, the added convenience of a guided tour is worth paying a little extra for.

However you choose to experience the depths of Canyonlands National Park on the White Rim, one thing's certain: the memories from this incredible experience will last a lifetime!

Routes included

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