Cycling Shafer Trail, Canyonlands National Park
Ride 5.3 miles gaining 1,436’ to 5,823’ at 5.1% average grade.
First half of the climb is at 9%.
Also visit our PJAMM Canyonlands page
In our opinion, this is the most epic bike climb in Utah, and is one of the only US climbs resemble the great Death Road of Bolivia, although there are many significant distinctions between the two. What the two have in common are sheer cliffs bordering very narrow dirt roads.
I did this trail on my Roubaix with 28mm road tires without any difficulty . . .
That is, other than the 9% first 2.5 miles in 100+ degrees.
One of the most epic and unique bike climbs in the US.
I was fortunate to happen upon Shafer overlook during my ride through the Island in the Sky section of Canyonlands National Park. When I looked down at the amazing road I instantly knew that I had to do it. So, I finished the ride up to Grand View Point then hustled back to the Visitor Center and asked the ranger if Shafer Trail could be done on a road bike -- he thought I was crazy, but did concede it was likely doable. It turned out to be no problem in relation to equipment, but a BIG problem in relation to provisions. I did not pack enough water for a ride into that canyon in 100+ heat. Luckily some nice tourists filled my backpack bladder with water about two-thirds of the way up the climb -- phew . . .
Dangerous Roads writes of Shafer Trail:
This road has humbled many egos. It’s not for the sissies and shouldn’t be attempted by novice drivers. This is a great trail for someone who is looking for an off road experience, but doesn’t have access a highly modified rock crawler. Virtually any four-wheel drive vehicle will succeed in navigating this well maintained road. Highlights of this trip include well marked Indian petroglyphs and amazing natural stone arches. You’ll also have an opportunity to tackle the Shafer Switchbacks, a breathtaking climb with expansive views of the surrounding canyon-lands. (Read more here).
That is a very long drop . . . 😨
Photo taken from the road at mile 3.8.
Start at the junction of White Rim Road, Potash Road, and Shafer Trail
#1: 1.2 miles from the start (11% grade); #2: 1.8 miles (13%); #3: 2 miles (12%);
#4: 2.1 miles (12%); #5: 2.3 miles (8%); #6: 2.6 miles (9%); #7: 4 miles (1%).
On the final nearly flat last 2.5 miles.
Shafer Overlook is inside the park, about one mile from Island in the Sky Visitor Center.
That’s a wrap!!