Sunday, 4 May 2014

Canyonlands White Rim Trail: Planning

This is the boring logistics post, which is probably only useful if you are planning on doing the White Rim yourself.  If you want to read about the ride experience and look at pretty pictures, see here.

We did our tour with Escape Adventures, which contracts with the Moab Cyclery in Moab.  We had 12 people on a private tour (i.e. we all knew each other) for 4 days, 3 nights.  Our guide Merrick was an awesome everything: chef, trail guide, driver, bike mechanic, drinking buddy, and riding coach.  He had a mean wookie call instead of a dinner bell.


We chose to fly SFO->SLC->CNY, these were the options we considered:

  • SFO->SLC, drive 3h 40min to Moab.
  • SFO->SLC->CNY with Delta.  This is as close as you can get on a plane, 22min drive to Moab.  A Variety of shuttles can get you into town (with a bike too if you have it). We took the moab taxi, but they were not so good. They double-booked and only had a single car available. Pretty inconvenient when it is at least a 45min round trip.
  • SFO->PHX or SLC->GJC.  It’s a 1h 40 drive from Grand Junction to Moab.  There’s more flight options, but price is about the same, and a one-way shuttle is going to cost you about $90.

Our SFO leg got delayed on the way out, and since there are only a couple of flights a day into Moab from SLC we were going to be in trouble if we missed the SLC->CNY connection. Turns out we just made it, but had we needed to drive that leg instead, it was possible to do a one-way rental from SLC to Moab for about $145 with Enterprise, who seemed to be the only company with an office in Moab.


I investigated, but it was going to take 3 days each way, and cost $150 with me doing the disassembly/assembly to get it from the Bay Area to Moab.  Cheaper, less hassle, and less bike-unavailable-time to just rent from the shop for $190.  

The Moab Cyclery rental was waaay better than my bike anyway. A full suspension Santa Cruz 29-er with hydraulic brakes. It was a pleasure to ride, and I had no issues. They supplied a basic patch kit (pump and tube), but according to our guide punctures are rare if you stay on the trail (which you need to do since the desert soil is actually really fragile). And as promised, we didn't have any punctures amongst our group, and the support truck is never particularly far away anyway. The support truck also had a bike stand, floor pump, and other bike maintenance gear.

Meals and Booze

Food provided and cooked by Moab Cyclery was amazing. I've never eaten so well on an outdoors trip. There is something amazingly decadent about having french toast and coffee waiting when you crawl out of your tent, having 3 course dinners, and never having to wash up. Always more food than I could eat, and heaps of high quality snacks to stuff in your camelback for the day. They also provided everything else we needed for meals: plates, cups, cutlery, napkins, chairs etc.

If you do need food, we shopped at City Market, which has long opening hours.

You provide all your own booze. Beware crazy Utah liquor laws. We arrived on a Sunday and the only place selling alcohol was the Moab Brewery. The tour provided a gigantic cooler just for booze, so our beer was kept ice cold the whole trip :)


We went at the start of May, and our guide said this was the best time of year. Temperature was not too hot during the day, and a few degrees above freezing at night. However, we had unusually strong winds which made everything quite a bit colder when you were out in it. I definitely needed my down jacket, thermals, beanie, and skiing mittens while eating dinner for the first two nights.


On the Bike

Here's what I carried in (or attached to) my Camelback each day:
  • Warm clothes for stops: beanie, long thermal shirt, rain and windproof riding jacket
  • Sunscreen, Lip balm, Ibuprofen
  • Whistle
  • 3L of water
  • Snacks and packed lunch
  • Phone

Packing List


  • Sunglasses (and spare)
  • Camp towel: the tour provided a solar shower! There are some opportunities to swim in the Colorado and Green rivers, but it wasn't that hot when we were there and the river access was not well suited to swimming.
  • Shorts
  • Sandals (Tevas or similar): Great for the slot canyon, where there are pools of water. Depending on the amount of rain and your ability to jump across pools you can probably stay dry with some work. Bike shoes are no good (bare feet is probably better).
  • Trail runners: around camp
  • Down jacket
  • Hiking pants
  • Hat
  • Beanie
  • Mittens
  • Waterproof pants: I brought these, but I really couldn't see myself riding in them, I'd probably skip taking them.
  • top thermals x2 and bottom x2
  • Socks x4


Basic bike repair kit included in rental (pump, tube etc.)

  • Riding shirts x2
  • Knicks x2
  • Bike shoes
  • Bike gloves (light and heavy)
  • Riding jacket
  • Multi tool


  • Toothbrush, toothpaste
  • Toilet paper: there's heaps in the toilets
  • Antibacterial wipes
  • Tissues
  • Sunscreen
  • Lip balm
  • Moisturiser: wish I'd had this. I got a bit sunburnt and it would have helped.


  • Camera, memorycard, charging cable
  • 1st aid kit (band aids, ear plugs, water purification tabs): this is stuff I take everywhere.
  • Emergency whistle
  • Insect repellent: didn't need it, no bugs to be seen. Even when camping by the river.
  • Tent, groundsheet, hammer: tour company had a hammer. I ended up using the groundsheet *inside* the tent to keep my stuff from being covered in dust due to the wind.
  • Backup battery for phone and head torch
  • Long length of cord: this was really handy for tying down my tent to rocks since pegs were tough to get in and the wind was insane.
  • Kindle: all my electronics got dust in them to some extent, beware...
  • Head torch
  • Thermarest: I considered bringing a foam mat as well for extra insulation, but the air temp wasn't that cold, and this was fine.
  • Sleeping bag, liner: I brought my heavyweight down sleeping bag and was too hot in it. Once you were out of the wind the overnight temp was quite mild.
  • Pillow
  • PLB
  • Phone (music and strava)
  • Bluetooth headphones
  • Portable foam roller

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