Biking Utah’s White Rim Trail

Enjoying the scenery along Utah's White Rim Trail—Caroline Helbig

Enjoying the scenery along Utah’s White Rim Trail—Caroline Helbig

How often have you been blown away by truly exceptional service? My family had the rare pleasure of experiencing this in Moab, Utah while on a mountain bike trip on the White Rim Trail with Magpie Cycling.

Maggie and Mike, a wonderful husband and wife team, run Magpie Cycling. Their tours range from insanely difficult to those suitable for the fit novice rider. We opted for the latter, selecting the White Rim Trail in Canyonland National Park – a 4-day riding and camping adventure. The 100-mile loop on a four wheel drive road travels through impossibly dramatic landscape – think the Bugs Bunny and Road Runner Show. Flat top mesas, giant spires, sheer drop-offs and gravity defying arches dazzle the senses.

What to expect along the White Rim Trail

Although beginner mountain bikers can enjoy the trail, it’s not without some challenges. I’m a wimp on the down hills, and barely one mile into the journey I had to face my fear. Mike gave our little group (5 of us) a briefing on braking techniques before we descended 1500 ft. down the Shafer Road switchbacks. Negotiating the perilous zig zags while taking in the panoramic view is no small feat. “What took you so long?” my son Alex joked as I finally got to the bottom, miraculously unscathed.

I was secretly pleased that I still had Alex beat on the up hills, and there are three killers along the way. My personal nemesis was the aptly named “Hardscrabble”. Even our support truck struggled on the final pitch of this steep, rocky monster. When we finally pushed our bikes to the top, we squeezed together in the tiny bit of shade cast by the truck, waiting like vultures to chow down on a delicious lunch prepared by Sam—chef extraordinaire.


The dreaded Black Crack along Utah’s White Rim Trail—Caroline Helbig

For the most part, the road undulates gently over hard packed dirt and grippy slick rock with a few sandy sections. The rhythmic peddling through the wondrous desert scenery instilled a zen-like calm. Our group spread out across the miles as Sam and Mike took turns riding between the pack, providing helpful biking lessons, encouragement, and enjoyable conversation.

If stunning scenery isn’t enough, the White Rim trail has no shortage of adrenalin producing thrills. Walking across the 120-foot span of Musselman Arch I couldn’t bear to look down at the canyon 1000 feet below us. What if the damn thing decided to collapse right now! Back on structurally safe ground, Mike told us about some idiotic thrill-seeker who repeatedly drove his car across the arch before the area was made into a national park.

Another inner-child pleaser was jumping across the intimidating “Black Crack” — a natural fissure in the rock a few feet wide and deep enough to kill you. Equally fun was our walk through Holeman Slot Canyon. The fabulous curves and rounded chambers of the canyon have been carved by years of ferocious flash floods.

Amidst the extreme desert environment we were astonished by the adaptation of living organisms. We saw 800 year old Juniper trees that can “kill off” select sections so that others will survive. We witnessed a dormant moss – black and dead looking –miraculously turn green with just a trickle of precious water.

Camping and Eating with Magpie Cycling

At the end of each day we rolled into sublime campsites. Magpie prides itself on reserving the best sites –secured many months before the trips. We especially loved the White Crack campsite, nestled at the very tip of the Island in the Sky with the Colorado River on the one side and the Green River on the other.


Great campsite along Utah’s White Rim Trail—Caroline Helbig

Not only could Mike’s truck schlep all our gear and numerous bikes, it doubled as a gourmet kitchen. The food quality was superb and Magpie is extremely carefully about selecting organic and locally grown produce. We never imagined we’d be dining on scrumptious grilled salmon and bison short ribs. No dinner was complete without dutch oven baked cake or brownies. In the morning, we were greeted with freshly brewed coffee and breakfast delights like French toast and fruit salad.

We knew we’d eventually have to climb out of the canyon . 1000 Lactic acid producing feet up Mineral Bottom Road, I was grunting and groaning but not wanting the trip to end. Everything from Maggie’s exceptional pre-trip organization to Mike and Sam’s competent guiding, affable style and superb cooking was five star. Combine this service with one of the most impressive outdoor experiences in the United States… WOW doesn’t even come close to describing it!

Categories: Biking, United States | 3 Comments

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3 thoughts on “Biking Utah’s White Rim Trail

  1. It was a truly incredible experience and the tour company was top-notch. I love the scenery in this part of the United States.


  2. Pingback: 100th Post: Ten Places that have “Stuck with Me” | Writes of Passage

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