Motorcycling Trip: Moab Canyonlands National Park


Moab’s Canyonlands National Park was my second bucket list motorcycling trip destination early this summer. It’s also my second trip around the famed White Rim Trail, about 100 miles of the purest motorcycling scenery the Southwest has to offer.

Did you miss the first destination?

The entire Canyonlands area is full of incredible scenery and some seriously challenging terrain of all types- whatever’s your pleasure. Here’s a shot from (I’m guessing here) 1994 or so near Moki Dugway and Muley Point. The bike’s my beloved and, BMW’s renowned and iconic, 1987 K75S. Helluva bike. Sold it when I got married. Thrilled I got married, wish I still had the bike.

Last trip, my friend Chris grabbed this image of me in 2012 (where’s Waldo?) riding around one of the many breathtaking cliffs and hazards that abound on the White Rim Trail.

I’d always declared I’d return.

White Rim Trail


The White Rim Trail is about 100 miles through Canyonlands below Islands In the Sky mesa top. It is possibly the single most spectacular riding venue I’ve experienced – with the possible exception of Colorado’s Alpine Loop. One can experience the trail in a number of ways – motorcycling, jeeps and other street-licensed vehicles (4wd a must), mountain bikes and hiking.

This terrain is not for the unprepared. Temperatures soar in the summer and plummet in the winter. Water is scarce, so one needs to carry a full supply – enough to drown a whale. Camping is tightly regulated and reservations are required. Even for day use one must have a day-use permit – easy enough to secure online here.

The National Park Service issues 50 day-use vehicle permits and 50 bicycle permits per day. For camping you’ll need a different permit that is specific to the campsites.

Moab itself is an off-road Mecca – if you’re into off-roading, you probably know about it. But if you’re not, there’s plenty to do.

Jesse and I visited briefly in 2012 and took a Hell’s Revenge Sunset Hummer Tour with the Moab Tour Company. I’m an experienced off-road kind of guy, so a tour where someone else is driving is way, way beneath a man of my estimable experience and elevated taste. And it was a blast. They also offer rentals of many types of vehicles, side-by-side, UTV and RZR tours. Jesse and I stayed at a nice place, the Red Cliffs Lodge – loved it.

Moab, Utah

Slickrock on Hell’s Revenge, Moab.

For this trip, I opted for the Holiday Inn Express, which was fine – maybe a little pricey, but that’s the area’s going rate.

Riding solo trips in places like Canyonlands is something to be thoughtfully and carefully considered. It’s all fun and games until something goes wrong – a mechanical failure or an injury will seriously complicate one’s day. I carry two satellite communications devices and use my brain – there’s almost no mobile coverage for the entire route. The White Rim Trail is remote, but reasonably well-traveled with essentially one road to follow. If something were to happen, it wouldn’t be too long before another traveler would come along. But I carry tools, spare parts, plenty of fuel and LOTS of water. Most sources will suggest a gallon of water per day per person, especially when it’s hot.

I LOVE beginning rides at dawn. The light is beautiful, temperatures cool, wind calm and practically zero traffic.

I trucked to the corner of Highway 313 and Mineral Road in the dark, parked the truck, unloaded the bike and geared up as the sun was just getting bright enough to ride. Here’s a map! White Rim is a circuitous trip and there’s plenty of discussion about which direction to ride – I chose anti-clockwise to keep the sun out of my eyes at the beginning of the trip. The early start and direction also means I hit the Green River sandy spots early – many suggest it’s the most difficult part of the ride. On this trip, the sand was pretty well packed and on the 500 was not even memorable. Technically, the riding is easy as long as it’s dry. In the rain on a bigger bike, the White Rim can become a serious handful of snotty mud that’s best avoided.

My riding is always a compromise between enjoying the sights and enjoying the riding. Fast enough to keep it interesting (and legal) but slow enough to appreciate the scenery.

The speed limit on the White Rim Trail is 15 MPH and is enforced.




For those interested in bikes and rides like this, here’s a list of some of my favorite resources- they’re not sponsors, but I like ’em. for training- a great dirt-first program. Motoventures will start you as if you’ve never seen a motorcycle before. Great for beginners, but also for those who likely have developed bad habits in the past. Very friendly environment for women and kids, too. makers of the finest motorcycles ever created by nonspecifichigherpower. PLENTY of inventory, shipping is fast and reliable. OEM parts, too. Revzilla is an amazing retailer. They’re in-house video procession is incredible for any type of products. Very comprehensive video demos for many products. well done, a great resource. I carry a SPOT satellite tracker wherever I ride- peace of mind for me and my family. Although possible redundant with the SPOT, I also carry an InReach device with allows two-way, satellite based communications. LOVE our Tundra. Ride with protective gear. Always. Have a $10 head? Buy a $10 helmet. They don’t sell those at Arai. Chaparral Motorsports is a big retailer of motorcycles and associated gear, and my Sidi Crossfire boots came from there. Sure, one can fine lighter boots that one can hike or walk in a museum, and I think that’s great. I have sneakers for that. If I’m on a bike, I’m in these boots- they’ve saves my feet, shins and ankles more times than I can count. Every bike I have has an XM player on it. My buddies think I’m crazy. for the Mojavi saddlebags that are always on my bikes, full of tools, tubes, first aid and various bits and bobs.