I’ve never seen as many Jeeps as in the small touristy town of Moab, Utah which serves both Arches and Canyonlands National Parks. They are all seriously built up, making mine look more like a Honda Civic than a capable off road machine. In hindsight I should not have been surprised to learn that serious 4x4ing is encouraged inside Canyonlands.
I’m not much of a 4×4 enthusiast; I bought the Jeep as a vehicle to get me where I want to be, not so much to tear up the countryside driving it back and forward. That being said, I did some great hiking in Arches and it only seems fair to let Jeep have a run as well. I’m told to take the Shafer trail down 400 vertical meters (1,400 ft.) to the White Rim mesa, explore around for a while and follow the Potash Road out to Moab.
I first head to the overlook to get a good idea of what I’m in for. No doubt about it, the trail goes down
The canyon is mighty big and impressive too.
The trail is a mix of red dirt, loose rock and occasionally flat rock slabs. Never was it an actual test for my Jeep, only how much bouncing and jarring could I tolerate. I slowly drive around the rim and begin the decent into the switchbacks. In first gear the Jeep rolls much too fast and after a little experimenting I find low range second gear to be the perfect gear. A pathfinder passes in the opposite direction, the only other people I would see all trail.
Once on the canyon floor I make my way around the White Rim Road a little way to checkout the Colorado River. The short walk out to the lookout is well worth the effort, the mighty river another 200 meters (700 ft.) below.
I slowly back-track along the rim and head out the Potash Road. I might have underestimated how long it was all going to take and find the light fading quickly. Before long I’m driving along in the pitch black, bouncing and jarring over unseen obstacles. I guess my way at every intersection and find my way to civilization on the first attempt.
It was an awesome afternoon, and Jeep and I sleep soundly.