White Rim Trail - Canyonlands National Park - 2005 Outback Trip Report - Subaru Outback - Subaru Outback Forums
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post #1 of 27 (permalink) Old 12-30-2016, 11:23 PM Thread Starter
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White Rim Trail - Canyonlands National Park - 2005 Outback Trip Report

I just got back from two months living out of my 2005 Outback and bumming around out west. One of the highlights of my trip was traveling the White Rim Trail in Canyonlands National Park. Below is a description, some pictures, and link to a hastily put together video from the WRT.

First, the car. It's a 2005 Outback 2.5 non-turbo, 5 speed manual, with approximately 180,000 miles at the time. All stock with the exception of King Springs all around which gave me about an inch of lift and 2004 KYB shocks all around. Tires were Pirelli Cinturato P7 All Season Plus with slightly more than 1/2 tread. Additional equipment included one full size spare, tire plug kit, air compressor, shovel, 30' 10,000lb tow strap, four quarts of oil, 2 gallons of extra fuel, duct tape, enough tools to fix almost anything on the car, and $200 worth of non-Utah beer purchased in Idaho (If you thought 4.2% Bud Light sucked, try 3.9% Bud Light...).

The White Rim Trail (or White Rim Road as the National Park Service refers to it), is requires more than 100 miles of off road driving to complete. Some quotes from the NPS about the trail include:

- "Under favorable weather conditions, the White Rim Road is considered moderately difficult for high-clearance, four-wheel-drive vehicles. The steep, exposed sections of the Shafer Trail, Lathrop Canyon Road, Murphy's Hogback, Hardscrabble Hill, and the Mineral Bottom switchbacks make the White Rim loop a challenge..."

- "A high-clearance, four-wheel-drive vehicle (low range) is required for the White Rim Road. Towing charges are very expensive. Visitors caught in the backcountry with disabled vehicles can expect towing fees in excess of $1,000."

Permits are required for the WRT, and the NPS recommends 2-3 days to complete the WRT by car. Overnight permits are typically sold out many months in advance. However, you can get a day use permit the day before, or day of, your trip for free! So, with my typical lack of planning, I crossed my fingers, gave the Subie a pat on the hood, got a day use permit, and decided to go for it.

I decided to do the WRT counter-clockwise for two reasons. One, it put the more challenging spots (Potato Bottom and Murphy) earlier in the trip so that if I decided to back out, the return trip wouldn't be so long. Second, it allowed me to travel the approximately 25 mile long Mineral Road the night before, reducing my off road travel the next day. I drove the Mineral Road in the dark and found a spot to camp off the one lane road about a mile from the park border.

The next morning, I made it through Potato Bottom with no issues. It was heavily rutted, but I didn't bottom out. It it was wet, my all-season tires would have had problems with the clayey soil. From there, it was relatively easy driving with some soft sandy spots and some rocky spots, but nothing really worth mentioning. The next challenge was Murphy, which due to my CCW direction, I needed to go up. It was steep and heavily rutted. Previous travelers had taken the liberty of attempting to fill the ruts with 10-30lb rocks. The issue for me was my manual transmission. In order to make it to the top, I knew I would need a running start and would need to carry as much speed as possible. There would be no crawling up. If I stalled it, I would be a hair raising ride back down in reverse with a rock wall on the right and cliff on the left. It was a rough ride, but I made it on the first go.

Other than Murphy, there were a few downhill sections that required some good wheel placement. Otherwise, it was fairly smooth sailing. I didn't ever bottom out, but did drag my hitch a half dozen times entering/exiting some dry creek beds. I was able to go 40mph on some sections on the second part of the trip. I started at 6:30AM and was back at the visitors center at 3:30PM for a total of 9 hours. I used just over a 1/2 tank of gas coming from Moab, doing the trail, and getting back to Moab. This (obviously) included quite a bit of time taking pictures and video. Keep in mind that I also spent a fair amount of time driving well over the 15 MPH speed limit and have a fairly high tolerance for vehicle abuse. That said, I didn't do any damage to the car, although I did just have to replace a rear wheel bearing and get an alignment.

I also had a run-in with a back country park ranger on a mountain bike who was not impressed with my vehicle choice. I believe her exact words were "That is an illegal vehicle out here". She took a picture of my license plate and told me should would give it to the front country rangers who would write me a ticket. At this point I was about 15 miles from being done, but I wasn't about to get in an argument with an early 20's girl on a mountain bike out in the middle of nowhere. I went up to the visitor center and talked to a "real" ranger who assured me I was all set. They typically only issue tickets to people who have "inappropriate" vehicles and run into trouble.

I would say the White Rim Trail is within the capabilities of a Subaru if you have the ground clearance (aka, don't expect to make it in a stock Impreza), a good awareness of your surroundings, know where your wheels are, and have a high tolerance for abusing your vehicle. I wouldn't recommend it in a Subie if there has been any rain or there is rain forecasted during your planned trip. My manual tranny did great except for the super steep parts. An automatic would likely have been a better choice. Not sure how a CVT would do on the super steep stuff as I haven't driven one. Obviously, you'd be better off with something with true 4wd and a low range, but hey, I don't have one of those, so the Outback it is!!

Youtube Video -


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post #2 of 27 (permalink) Old 12-30-2016, 11:48 PM
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Ha! Now this is cool! You may be the first one to do it in MT (without imported low range)...the general wisdom, as expounded by myself, among others, is that an MT may not be able to do it...you proved otherwise.

I posted a couple things about the WRR on another thread: Anyone ever drive White Rim near Moab UT? .

I am very glad you enjoyed it so much! It is my favorite trail. The only rival in my mind is the Corkscrew-Hurricane-California route in the San Juans but the two are so different that there is no reason to choose a winner, lol. How was the Hardscrabble towards Murphy descent in an MT??? The first switchback going down is maybe the most attention-grabbing segment on the whole trail.

I also preferred my W-E drive to my E-W drive as the more scenic and more challenging sections then fall within the first 50 miles.

Personally, I think that there are 3 really steep spots going West and 1 going your way, this one being the final segment of the Murphy climb, which is shown at 5:55. Backing out of there would have been a nightmare!

I am very disappointed by the reaction of the ranger on bike. If I were you, I would complain formally. When they instituted the permit system, they STATED that they would not restrict vehicle type (though they do strongly discourage AWDs).

Did they give you hard time when getting the permit?

Again, driving the WRR in an MT without LR is quite the feat and it proved the conventional wisdom wrong. As for CVT a ranger told me he had seen a cvt Forester fail to climb the hills there. Maybe it was an entry model without paddle shifters?


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post #3 of 27 (permalink) Old 12-30-2016, 11:57 PM
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VERY COOL, and great pictures!!!! Thanks for sharing the experience.....
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post #4 of 27 (permalink) Old 12-31-2016, 12:00 PM
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Thanks for sharing. Great pictures.

The Moab area is just fantastic. I would love to try the White Rim Trail also, but I'd probably have to leave the wife home. She would have a panic attack.
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post #5 of 27 (permalink) Old 12-31-2016, 01:25 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BHopkins View Post
Thanks for sharing. Great pictures.

The Moab area is just fantastic. I would love to try the White Rim Trail also, but I'd probably have to leave the wife home. She would have a panic attack.
LOL! Mine won't even get in the car if I even say the word mountain! There is no way she would ride with me on that trail. Actually looks pretty nerve racking in places to me! 30 or 40 years ago and I would be planning at trip!
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post #6 of 27 (permalink) Old 12-31-2016, 03:35 PM
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I was in Moab briefly over the summer but didn't get a chance to do any trails. Next time maybe?

Definitely jealous of the views and the lifestyle. Pretty impressive to be able to do all that in a manual, too.

Keep up the good work!
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post #7 of 27 (permalink) Old 12-31-2016, 06:32 PM
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Oh to be young and adventurous again. ...Thanks for posting
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post #8 of 27 (permalink) Old 01-02-2017, 12:52 AM
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Wow ! thanks for sharing
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post #9 of 27 (permalink) Old 01-02-2017, 02:11 PM Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MiddleAgeSubie View Post
Ha! Now this is cool! You may be the first one to do it in MT (without imported low range)...the general wisdom, as expounded by myself, among others, is that an MT may not be able to do it...you proved otherwise.

I posted a couple things about the WRR on another thread: Anyone ever drive White Rim near Moab UT? .

I am very glad you enjoyed it so much! It is my favorite trail. The only rival in my mind is the Corkscrew-Hurricane-California route in the San Juans but the two are so different that there is no reason to choose a winner, lol. How was the Hardscrabble towards Murphy descent in an MT??? The first switchback going down is maybe the most attention-grabbing segment on the whole trail.

I also preferred my W-E drive to my E-W drive as the more scenic and more challenging sections then fall within the first 50 miles.

Personally, I think that there are 3 really steep spots going West and 1 going your way, this one being the final segment of the Murphy climb, which is shown at 5:55. Backing out of there would have been a nightmare!

I am very disappointed by the reaction of the ranger on bike. If I were you, I would complain formally. When they instituted the permit system, they STATED that they would not restrict vehicle type (though they do strongly discourage AWDs).

Did they give you hard time when getting the permit?

Again, driving the WRR in an MT without LR is quite the feat and it proved the conventional wisdom wrong. As for CVT a ranger told me he had seen a cvt Forester fail to climb the hills there. Maybe it was an entry model without paddle shifters?
I didn't have any problems with any of the descents. Just put here in neutral and worked my way down. There wasn't going to be any backing down Murphy - If I didn't make it, it was going to be one **** of a slide back down, its just too **** steep, as you can see when I fall on my butt trying to walk down!

I figured talking to a "real" ranger about it was complaining enough. She was friendly enough, she just didn't have a clue. I'm sure she wasn't going to give the Jeep Compass I blew by any trouble, even though it has a few inches less ground clearance. I didn't have a problem getting the permit. They asked if I had a high clearance vehicle, and I enthusiastically said "Yes!".

I'll probably end up doing it again in the future. It would be fun to take at least two days and spend a night down there. Now if I could only get better at planning 3 months in advance...
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post #10 of 27 (permalink) Old 01-02-2017, 02:38 PM
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"I figured talking to a "real" ranger about it was complaining enough. She was friendly enough, she just didn't have a clue. I'm sure she wasn't going to give the Jeep Compass I blew by any trouble, even though it has a few inches less ground clearance"

On White Rim, low range may be marginally more important then clearance. I've known 2 folks who've driven it, one in a Toyata pickup with 4WD and low range, another in an old FJ40 . I've also known a few who've biked it (3 days).

Not sure why you felt the female ranger on the mt. bike you encountered wasn't "real". Seems anybody cycling this trail knows the conditions pretty well and knows pretty well how Ma' Nature can dish out surprises.

Personally I think she should have hit you with the ticket. On one hand I'm happy you were able to accomplish the trip, on the other I can understand how the rangers get fed up with folks who try to push the capabilities if the vehicles and then they have to help get you out of there. I'm certian they have better things to do with their time.


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