Shafer Trail Bike Climb - PJAMM Cycling

Shafer Trail

UT, USA

The most epic bike climb in Utah.

Explore this Climb

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Climb Summary


Cycling Shafer Trail, Canyonlands National Park - bike sitting atop flat rock plateau overlooking  brown canyons and blue mountains far in the distance

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

Cycling Shafer Trail, Canyonlands National Park - photo collage, PJAMM Cycling logo in corner, bike parked at various locations on roadside overlooking steep and sudden drop down into canyon, bike parked on flat roadway before climb's beginning, bike parked against large NPS sign for Canyonlands National Park, aerial drone view looking down into the canyon with switchback roads carved into canyonside

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.

Cycling Shafer Trail, Canyonlands National Park - PJAMM Cycling logo in corner, bike parked along roadside overlooking sheer drop into canyon, switchback below with van traveling down an extremely narrow dirt roadway, bike laying down in center of red dirt roadway

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.

Cycling Shafer Trail, Canyonlands National Park - gorgeous views of canyons and red and brown striated carved canyon sides

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).

Cycling Shafer Trail, Canyonlands National Park - looking down directly off roadside to a sheer drop off down canyon

That is a very long drop . . . 😨

Photo taken from the road at mile 3.8.

Cycling Shafer Trail, Canyonlands National Park - photo collage, PJAMM Cycling logo in corner, climb start at junction of White Rim Road, Potash Road, and Shafer Trail, gorgeous views from within valley of rock outcropping and walls all around, bike parked against road sign at climb's start

Start at the junction of White Rim Road, Potash Road, and Shafer Trail

Shafer + Potash + Road 279 goes to Moab and it looks like a good ~40 mile gravel ride (YouTube).

Cycling Shafer Trail, Canyonlands National Park - photo collage, PJAMM Cycling logo in corner, progression of climb's gradient at various points along the way

#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%).

Cycling Shafer Trail, Canyonlands National Park - PJAMM Cycling logo in corner, bike parked along roadside overlooking sheer drop into canyons below, yellow PJAMM Cycling jersey draped over bike

Cycling Shafer Trail, Canyonlands National Park - photo collage, PJAMM Cycling logo in corner, aerial drone views of cyclist on narrow red dirt roadway along canyon's edge, cyclist John Johnson in yellow PJAMM Cycling jersey standing along roadway near canyonside with bike

On the final nearly flat last 2.5 miles.

Cycling Shafer Trail, Canyonlands National Park - Photo collage, PJAMM Cycling logo in corner, bike parked along roadway at climb's finish near roadsign for Shafer Trail Road and White Rim Trail, sign noting estimated driving times to various points, informational sign

Climb’s finish.

Cycling Shafer Trail, Canyonlands National Park - aerial drone views of very narrow, dirt road, climbing along side of canyon, road sign for Shafer Trail Viewpoint, view from Shafer Trail viewpoint at sunset, PJAMM Cycling logo in corner

Shafer Overlook is inside the park, about one mile from Island in the Sky Visitor Center.

That’s a wrap!!