For some, gazing down at the rivers and sandstone cliffs of Canyonlands National Park from the Island in the Sky viewpoints, steps from their car, is enough. For others—those who aren’t afraid of sore muscles and getting dirty—those viewpoints only scratch the surface. If you fall into the second category and are eager to explore this incredible park more deeply (and get a good workout in), book a mountain bike or mountain bike raft trip with Holiday River Expeditions.
Bike the White Rim Trail in Canyonlands
The White Rim Trail is one of the Moab area’s most famous routes. This double-track, four-wheel-drive road and mountain bike trail covers 77 miles of Canyonlands’ incredible scenery. Choose from a three or four-day trip with Holiday River Expeditions, and you’ll ride the entire sandstone and gravel trail with a small group and knowledgeable guides. The trip is supported by a four-wheel-drive-van that carries water, camping supplies and food so that you can focus on an incredible ride.
The trail can be ridden either counter-clockwise or clockwise depending on permits. Either way, the trip will start with a fun downhill section (often the famous switchbacks of Shafer Trail) and end with a steep climb that will get your heart pumping. The route in between is often very gentle, with a few more technical climbs and descents thrown in. All technical sections can be walked if you’re not confident in riding them.
There is no shortage of incredible views along the ride from sandstone arches and towers to biking along the stunning Green River. There’s plenty of opportunities for side hikes and exploration on this trip, depending on how much gas you have left in your metaphorical tank. At the end of each day, you’ll have a gourmet dinner prepared for you and will get to relax while taking in gorgeous sunsets and seeing a carpet of stars unfold above you as night descends. Canyonlands is an International Dark Sky Park, so the views of the Milky Way are hard to beat. Campgrounds have outhouse-style toilets, and your guides will provide a solar shower for washing up if you get really dirty. In the mornings, a hearty breakfast and coffee is served.
The trip begins at Holiday River Expeditions’ headquarters in Green River, Utah. You can bring your own mountain bike or rental, or choose to rent a full-suspension Specialized Stumpjumper from Holiday for the trip. Your guides will inspect your bike and go through logistics and packing before setting off for the park the next morning.
While the ride itself isn’t too technical, it’s quite a physical feat. It’s important that you’re physically fit and have experience riding long distances off-road. The support vans can’t carry passengers unless it’s an emergency so once you start, you have to be able to complete the whole ride. The minimum age for this trip is 12. Trips run in April through May and September through October.
Add Rafting in Cataract Canyon to Your Bike Trip
While you’ll get an incredible and in-depth Canyonlands experience on the White Rim ride alone, Holiday River Expeditions lets you go even deeper into the park with a combination mountain bike and raft trip. Instead of heading back to Green River on day three of your mountain bike ride, if you sign up for the White Rim Trail and Cataract Canyon combination trip, your group will be met with rafts at the Green River after biking 65 miles where you’ll embark on a 95-mile raft trip through some of the country’s biggest whitewater.
Spend two days rafting down the placid waters of the Green River before hitting the confluence with the mighty Colorado River. From here, you’ll experience Class II-V rapids, including the infamous Big Drops where the river drops more than 30 feet in less than a mile. During high- water season, the biggest waves in North America can be found in Cataract Canyon. You’ll raft the same waters as John Wesley Powell, falling asleep to the sound of the river at night and exploring side hikes along the way.
Your guide will bring several stand-up paddleboards and inflatable kayaks so you’ll have the option to navigate the calmer waters in your own craft. Your guides will control the oars on the rafts, so all you’ll have to do is either sit back and enjoy the calm waters or hold on for dear life as you bounce through the rapids. Holiday River Expeditions’ trips are usually entirely motor-less. During high waters, the very last section across Lake Powell may require the use of a small motor to get to the takeout point but the rest of the journey is totally supported by the river current and your guides’ strong shoulders.
These combination trips run in May and September. May trips often experience high-water conditions, thanks to spring snowmelt coming down from the mountains. You might ford 30-foot waves where your guides will lash together three rafts to create a more stable “triple rig.” The fast-moving currents mean you’ll get more time for hiking and will get to camp in spots that aren’t accessible when the water is lower. The minimum age for high-water trips is 16. In September, the water is usually running slower and the weather is more stable. You’ll camp on big sandy beaches and still experience heart-dropping rapids, just at a bit slower of a pace. The minimum age for this trip is 12.
Holiday River Expeditions has been guiding customers through eastern Utah since 1966. Many of Holiday River Expeditions’ guides have been with the company for more than a decade and all bring incredible knowledge of the sport and the terrain you’re covering. You’ll be in excellent hands.
For more information:
Holiday River Expeditions
544 East 3900 South
Salt Lake City, UT 84107