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Drive the White Rim Road

Drive the White Rim Road

Posted in: Outdoor adventures, Special Places on May 15, 2019.

A Wild Road

Canyonlands is the most remote, least developed, and least visited national park in Utah. Which is great! This makes it the perfect place to get a taste of real wilderness – to really explore the backcountry. And nowhere in Canyonlands is more rugged and wild than the famed White Rim Road.

A scenic overlook of the Green River on the White Rim Road

Photo via nps.gov

The What Now?

The White Rim Road is a 100-mile long dirt, gravel, and slickrock road that leads through the heart of Canyonlands National Park. It’s located in the Island in the Sky district of the park, which, frankly is the best and most scenic section of the park. (More about the Canyonlands districts here.) On the White Rim Road you’ll get to see lots, and lots, and LOTS of amazing stuff. Wanna see herons on the Green River? Check. Drive down (probably) the most iconic switch-backs in the state? Sure. Walk right up to a natural bridge? Yes! Drive right next to a 200-foot cliff? Of course! Wait… what?

A Jeep on the White Rim Road with towering sandstone cliffs in the background

Photo via nps.gov

Things To Know, Before You Go

Okay. So before you fall in love with the idea of driving the White Rim Road, there are a couple of caveat you should know about. First of all, there is an element of danger here. A portion of the road comes pretty close to some intense drop-offs. And other sections are difficult to navigate. (See the picture below.) So you will need a 4WD, high-clearance vehicle. Because, according to the official National Park Service site, towing a stuck or disabled vehicle out of the White Rim Road will cost well over $1000. So get a truck or a Jeep, or something that can handle the terrain.

Second, as we mentioned, the White Rim Road is over 100-miles long. So you will likely need to spend the night somewhere along the route, since you definitely won’t be going at freeway speeds. The park requires EVERYBODY who drives the trail to register with them first. You can get a single-day permit up to 24 hours in advance. But if you want to get an overnight permit (which, you really, really do) then you need to go here to reserve one. (It currently costs $30 for a permit, by the way.) Fair warning, there are only about a dozen spots per day, and they do fill up during the summer. Thankfully you can book these ones pretty far in advance, so go get yours now.

And lastly, be smart. If you aren’t comfortable driving in these conditions, then don’t. And bring lots of supplies with you, and at LEAST a gallon of water per day per person. This is the most remote road, in the most remote national park, located in a literal desert.

A Jeep navigates rough terrain on the White Rim Road

Photo via nps.gov

Drive On The Wild Side

If you’ve gotten all your food, water, shelter and everything else ready, you’ve booked your overnight campground, and your 4WD vehicle is in good repair, then it’s time to enjoy the greatest drive of your life. First thing to do is enter the park (and pay the $25 entrance fee) and stop by the visitor center. Show them your PRINTED overnight permit for the White Rim Road, since they will not accept anything from your smartphone. They’ll give you some last minute advice, and you can be off. While on this incredible drive, you’ll want to get out and hike a bunch too! There are a lot of incredible spots, so take a look at this map here.

And that’s it! Have a great, safe, and wild trip on the White Rim Road. You gonna love the views!

An arch seen in the distance in Canyonlands National Park

Photo via nps.gov

One Last Thought

If you don’t like the idea of driving on the White Rim Road, maybe you wanna bike it? Or use a ATV? There are options, and you can get more details here.

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