The area around Moab is a mecca for Jeep enthusiasts. You can find a trail nearby that will fit any level of vehicle and driver. Some of them even have names that reflect their difficulty, like Metal Masher Road or Hell’s Revenge. Our Jeep is “trail rated” but we have not added any of the enhancements enabling us to drive those real challenging tracks, and we have neither the driving ability nor the desire to do them anyway. We bought this vehicle so we can get back to remote areas and it does a great job at it.
One of the rides we really enjoy in this area is the Shafer Trail Road (also called the Shafer Canyon Road), an eighteen mile dirt road that takes you across a mesa directly under Dead Horse Point State Park and above the Colorado River. The road enters Canyonlands National Park not far from the White Rim Road and ascends the canyon rim in a series of long, stunning switchbacks. These switchbacks provide scenic views of the Colorado River basin and the La Sal Mountains.
To reach the road from Moab, go north on U.S. 191 to its junction with Utah Highway 279. Turn left on Highway 279 and go all the way to its end at the potash plant. The route turns to dirt road and starts climbing up terraces along the Colorado River.
The road soon passes the evaporation ponds of the potash plant.
We stopped at a terrace with great views of the Colorado River.
In the distance we could see Potash Road as it meandered into the canyon toward the intersection with Shafer Trail Road.
At the “T” where Potash Road meets Shafer Road and White Rim Road we turned left on to White Rim Road for a four mile drive to an arch. The road was a bit narrow and right on the edge of a cliff.
Soon we came to the Musselman Arch.
We then drove the four miles back to the intersection and continued up Shafer Trail for five miles. This is where things get interesting as the road goes up the canyon wall in a series of switchbacks. At the top we spotted a young hiker sitting along the canyon rim overlooking the road below her.
Once up on the mesa the Shafer Road intersect with paved road in Canyonlands National Park. We turned left onto the paved road and stopped at an overlook just past the Island in the Sky Visitor Center. The overlook allows you to look back down the canyon at the Shafer Trail Road as it comes up the canyon wall.
Continuing into Canyonlands NP, we stopped to check out the view from Mesa Arch.
We continued to Grand View Point where the road terminates. A paved path goes along the rim with great views to the east.
We had planned to come back down Long Canyon Road but the hour was late and the winds were steadily increasing as predicted. So we took the paved road back to US 191 and returned to Moab, leaving the Long Canyon Road for another day.