For our 15th wedding anniversary we decided to ride the White Rim Trail in Canyonlands National Park. The Doyles and Johnsons came with us for the 2-day, 85 mile trip on our mountain bikes. The views of the canyons were incredibly amazing. The White Rim Trail is a classic that follows the top of the Colorado River and crosses over to the Green River right before the confluence. As we looked down on the canyon, it seemed like an infinite number of layers, steps, and shapes.
The ride requires an intense descent into the first level of the canyon floor. This is only made possible by super steep hairpin switchbacks. On day one, we rode 53.4 miles along the rim of the most sheer cliffs carved by the ancient Colorado. In many spots, we stopped to peek over the precipice. On some of the overhangs, it felt like the rock would give way at any moment.
Between the six of us, we took one hour shifts driving the support vehicle while the other five rode their bikes. The biggest challenge of the trip was the piece of garbage Thule bike rack that kept breaking. On two separate occasions, bikes fell off the bike rack in motion. Unfortunately, the second time this happened we didn’t notice until we were only a few miles from camp and we were all exhausted. It was dark and we were hungry!
We set up camp at Candlestick Campground. We quickly unloaded the Pilot and then Jeremy and I took off to find the two bikes that had fallen off somewhere along the trail. In the meantime, the rest of the team prepared camp and dinner. The bikes were found ~5 miles back along the trail with minor damage.
Ryan made an incredible fajita dinner and we all agreed they were among the best we ever had (they were well-prepared, but it didn’t hurt that we had worked up an appetite).
We all slept about at as good as you can while sleeping on the ground. The morning brought temperatures in the upper thirties, but as soon as the sun crested the canyon walls, it warmed up quickly and made for a great day of riding.
The second day only required ~30 miles of awesome riding. At this point, we were in the bottom of the canyon and traveling along the Green River. There were more trees in full autumn glory. During an intense ascent, Melissa banged up her knee pretty badly. If we were around a hospital, we would have gone in for stitches for sure. Instead, we made the best of the situation with the first aid kit we had on hand. Amazingly, Melissa kept riding throughout most of the day–she’s amazingly tuff.
Another hiccup in the day came when I misread a sign resulting in a 3-mile diversion. In hind sight, it wasn’t that big of a deal and allowed us to view a beautiful part of the canyon.
The final ascent out of the canyon is pretty intense. It climbs over 1,000 feet in short order. The highest grade is 11% (it is a category 3 climb). At some point in the history of this legendary rode, a car went over the edge and crashed among the steep and rocky terrain. I’m sure there’s a harrowing story associated with the rusted out car hanging on the wall of the cliff.
We have participated in a lot of adventures and this is among the best. It was challenging, beautiful, and we were with awesome people the whole way. While we can check this off our bucket list, I think we will end up doing this ride again.
- A truck would be the best support vehicle. The road is too bumpy for bike racks and car toppers.
- We brought way too much food, but ate very little because we spent most of our time in the saddle.
- We should have hit the trail a little earlier because of the short days. It was dark by 6:00.